Short Story Review: "The Far Lands" by John Buchan
Colin Raden’s family traces its lineage back to the time of Bran the Blessed. According to the story, when Bran followed the white bird on the Last Questing, he gave his gifts to his followers. To Colin, the youngest and dearest, he had nothing, but he whispered a word into his ear and laid a finger on his eyelids. Colin was satisfied. Alone of all Bran’s followers, he stayed on the coast of rock and heather. Eventually, the family took the surname Raden.
Colin Raden spent his summers playing by the beach, his winters in London. His mother died young and his father left him in the care of a French governess. At times while he was on the beach, he thought he saw a road across the western sea, with only the island of Cuna blocking the way.
This story follows Colin through school, where he becomes a member—then captain—of the crew team. He’s popular both with students and instructors. In dreams and daydreams, he still sees the pathway across the western sea, but now he has a boat. Often there’s a mist. When a friend tells him them the Scottish equivalent of Avalon is the Isle of the Apple Trees, he tries to remember if he’s smelled apples in his dreams. He believes he has.
The same friend tells him to come around to the club and check the telegrams about the war. Colin really ought to care about the war.
This is a surprisingly poignant and beautiful little story. While the end isn’t a complete surprise, author John Buchan leaves the reader with a nice ambiguity. The language and culture of the story is very, very British. Colin “fags” for an upperclassman when he first arrives at the university. This is not used as an insult to gay people, but refers to an old custom of freshmen serving senior students. Some of the terms used to describe the crew positions were lost on me.
This was an enjoyable, if not happy story.
John Buchan, First Baron Tweedsmuir, was a Scottish novelist, historian and politician. He wrote propaganda for the British during the First World War. In 1935 he was appointed Governor General of Canada by King George V. He is perhaps best remembered for his adventure story The Thirty-Nine Steps .
Title: “The Far Lands” written in 1899 first published 1902
Author: John Buchan (1875-1940)
Last review: "The Green-and-Gold Bug" by J. M. Alvey
Last weird review: “Ghouls of the Sea” by J. B. S. Fullilove
Also by John Buchan: "The King of Ypres"
© 2015 Denise Longrie
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