A Glass Darkly: Questions to Discuss

  1. What elements of traditional fairy tale and folklore can you identify in Sobat’s narrative?

  2. Goodfellow Robyn is based on the folk character Robin Goodfellow who bears a close relationship to Puck and Robin Hood. He is also closely aligned with the green man figure of folklore. Part mischievous spirit trickster, part helper, Robin Goodfellow was purportedly the child of a human girl and a he-fairy who early ran away from home and in a dream was instructed to punish the mean and love the good. Robin could transform himself into any animal. As Robin Hood, he was the notorious outlaw who stole from the rich to give to the poor. As the green man, he was a fertility symbol of the green world, the returning spring and oncoming summer.

    How does Sobat incorporate this lore in her character Goodfellow Robyn?

  3. Although this is a fantasy, several of the characters and the conflicts echo those in our current and past centuries. Identify the parallels between the various mistreatments of the children in the novel and contemporary or historical mistreatment of children.

  4. In A Winter’s Tale the Bookewoman instructs Ingamald to “Look through the glass. Remember the twelve.” The witch interprets this riddle to mean that she is to bring along Yda, the twelve-fingered girl with mind-bending prowess, when she passes through the mirror device from Hinterlünd to Gyldden. Why? What is Yda's purpose in the other world?

  5. Bonny Blackehart and Aynd Cutthroat are based on two real pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Read,who sailed the Caribbean from 1719-1720.
    a. In what ways do the women pirates represent real pirate life?
    b. In what ways are the women pirates representative of romantic notions of pirates and piracy?

  6. In the end, does the circle of justice work in either Gyldden or Hinterlünd? Why or why not?

  7. In A Glass Darkly Ingamald graduates from witch to sorceress. Which of her actions or feats do you feel best represents her new title?

  8. Ingamald chooses not to resort solely to magic to halt Gyldden’s abuses of children or to deliver her own Hinterlünd from the ice-grip of Morton Winter. What does this novel say about collective responsibility and culpability?

  9. Which of the final fates described in the epilogue do you think is most fitting for the sorceress Ingamald?

School Appeal

Topics and Themes English:

… Mythology and folklore
… The heroine’s quest
… Coming of age narrative
… Literature of the fantastic (speculative fiction)
… Power and corruption
… Human rights/ social justice
… Archaic or forgotten English

Topics and Themes Social Studies:

… Oppression and absolute rulers
… Medieval life and torture methods
… Power and corruption
… Human rights/ social justice
… Genocide (especially of North American Native Peoples)
… Piracy and pirates, medieval sailing ships and navigation
… Children’s rights and abuses of children in our current century and history (including workhouses, child labour, child slavery, children as drug mules, Rio de Janeiro death squads, child soldiers, children in the sex trade)
… Children’s advocacy groups (i.e. Craig Kielburger’s Free the Children)

The book is suitable for grades 9 through 12, and there are applications for the study of either English or Social Studies/ History.