Gordon’s Story

Gordon was a small, brown, stuffed gorilla. He lived on the bathroom shelf with a lion named Lion and duck named Duck.

Gordon’s home was in the middle of a very large city where the traffic roared all day and all night. He couldn’t remember ever living anywhere else. But one day, most unexpectedly, Gordon was kidnapped from his home by a roly-poly woman.

As soon as he could, Gordon sent a message to his owner. This is what he said:


I have been kidnapped!

The roly-poly woman who was staying with us took me away in her suitcase. For a long time, I was in a dark place. It was bumpy and noisy, and I was scared. When all the moving stopped, the woman took me out of the suitcase and put me in a jumbly room with lots of books.

I miss you very much, but I am trying to be brave. Say hello to Duck and Lion for me. Tell them not to worry.

I will write again when I can.

Your boy, Gordon

Two days passed. Gordon was feeling sad. Once again, he wrote home.

Dear Thomas,

I am lonely here. The house is very quiet during the day. If it is quiet again tomorrow I will go exploring. Perhaps there are other animal toys here. The roly-poly woman shuts the big door to the jumbly bookroom, but there is smaller door that stays open. I will try the small door and see where it goes.

I am still your boy, Gordon

The next day Gordon was brave enough to go exploring. This is what he wrote about his discoveries.

Dear Thomas,

I have wonderful news! I went exploring through the small door and there are other animal toys here! They are much bigger than me. There are some very large teddy bears who keep to themselves. But there is also an elephant called Flynn and another gorilla called Jackson. I like Flynn and Jackson very much. They are friendly and kind. I feel much better now.

 Flynn and Jackson say there are even more animal toys in other rooms and they will take me to meet them.

 I will send you more news soon. Your boy, Gordon

It was many days before Gordon wrote again. His life had become quite busy in the house of the roly-poly woman. He visited friends in other rooms and roamed along the passageways and then scurried back to the jumbly bookroom when he heard the woman’s footsteps. During one of his expeditions, Gordon found a room he had not been in before and inside that room he found an animal toy he had never met before.

Gordon and Kim introduced themselves. They liked each other straight away. In fact, they became instant friends. From that day on, Gordon and Kim were never apart. They played together on the stairs, they slid down the banister, they climbed on the shelves in the jumbly bookroom. They were very happy.

When Gordon finally wrote to Thomas, this is what he said:

Dear Thomas,

I am so excited. I have met a gorilla called Kim. We are spending lots of time together and are having a great deal of fun. Of course, I do still miss you and Duck and Lion, but if I hadn’t been kidnapped I would never have met Kim. Isn’t life surprising?

Thomas, I think I must be in love.


Only one more letter was sent by Gordon to his owner in the large city. He was quite nervous about writing it and it took him some days to gather the courage to pick up his crayon. As he wrote, Kim sat quietly by his side.

Dear Thomas,

there’s something I haven’t been telling you about Kim, but I’m going to tell you now and I hope you won’t be cross. I think it’s best that you hear it from me.

He’s purple.

There, I’ve said it. I know it seems a big difference and some people will think a purple gorilla is a little strange and they might not accept us. But I think he’s wonderful and we really love each other, and it doesn’t matter to us that we’re different colours.

Will you tell Duck and Lion for me? I hope you will all keep loving me and that I can bring Kim home one day to meet you. I think you would like him.

Your Gordon

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

‘Gordon’s Story’ was first published in Four W 15 (2004): 89-91. It is re-published here, in a slightly revised form, to celebrate the successful passage of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017. The text of the bill and transcripts of speeches are available on the Parliament of Australia website.

Photo credits: Gorilla, soft toy: http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/ (Creative Commons Zero – CC0). Other photos are free to use and share, but please attribute and link back to the blog.

Teddy bears_4

Nevermoor – Morality and Values in an Imagined World

Cover image courtesy of Hachette Australia. Design by Beatriz Castro, illustration by Jim Madsen.

‘I know everything about this world’, declares Jessica Townsend in an interview with Publisher’s Weekly. Which world is she talking about? The world of Wintersea and the Free State; the world inhabited by Morrigan Crow, chief protagonist in Townsend’s new fantasy series, Nevermoor.

Writers of fantasy fiction create not just characters and plots for their novels, they imagine whole new worlds. Worlds with unique geographies and climates; technologies and customs; and even, on occasion, languages. (Think of J R R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.)

In addition to these tangible elements, fantasy authors need to envision the moral framework that governs their created world and the values that underpin it. What principles will determine issues of right and wrong, of justice, of the exercise of power? Will their world operate within the boundaries of a belief system? Will myths and stories from the imagined world’s past (or from other, known worlds) influence the present?

The Story So Far…

In Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, Jessica Townsend begins to reveal the world she has created for her debut series. Very briefly, Morrigan Crow, an eleven-year-old, cursed child, is facing imminent death—a fate that awaits all children born on Eventide. Her family is resigned to her demise, perhaps even welcoming the shedding of an awkward burden. But Morrigan is offered an alternative, albeit uncertain, future.

She departs Wintersea under the care of her newly emerged patron, Jupiter North. Jupiter, a member of the Wundrous Society, runs Nevermoor’s Deucalion Hotel in the Free State. But entry into this realm is by invitation only. To remain there, Morrigan must compete with other children for admission to the exclusive Wundrous Society. Meanwhile, waiting in the wings, is the nebulous figure of Ezra Squall, who (like Jupiter) vies for the role of Morrigan’s patron.

What clues does Townsend offer her readers to help them understand the moral shape of her imagined world? There are hints in the names of people and places, in the values that are affirmed, and in the exercise of power.

Names: more than meets the eye?

Authors often give clues to the true nature of their created worlds through the names they select for characters and locations. Here are three of Townsend’s choices:

Morrigan Crow: Morrigan is the story’s main character. She shares her forename with an Irish goddess (who often appeared in the form a crow) whose name means ‘Great Queen’ or ‘Phantom Queen’. In Irish mythology, Morrigan is associated with power and sovereignty. Townsend seems to be offering her readers an insight into Morrigan Crow’s true nature and prospects.

Marble head from a statue of Jupiter. British Museum.

Jupiter North: Jupiter is Morrigan’s patron. His name suggests two associations: Jupiter, the supreme Roman god, who provides protection and upholds society’s laws, and ‘north’, the direction sometimes used to indicate the moral compass-point that guides us. When Morrigan’s new patron suddenly appears in Wintersea to take her away to Nevermoor, she asks: ‘Where are we going?’ Jupiter North responds: ‘We’re going home, Morrigan Crow.’

Deucalion: Jupiter’s hotel shares its name with that of the Greek god Deucalion—the Greek equivalent of the Judeo-Christian ark-builder, Noah. In Greek mythology, Deucalion survives a great flood and is offered a second chance at life. Does the Deucalion Hotel represent a hopeful future, in a kinder world, for Morrigan? On the roof of the hotel, soon after her arrival in Nevermoor, Morrigan feels ‘expansive, bursting with a new joy’:

‘It’s a New Age … and I’m alive … This was her second chance; the beginning of a new life she never dreamed she’d have.’

Character and place names help build a picture of the world Townsend is creating, a world where power is wielded, protection offered, and futures re-made.


The Free State is renowned for ‘innovation, industry and thirst for knowledge’. Those who seek to qualify for membership of its highly selective Wundrous Society must manifest those characteristics via a series of trials that test them ‘physically and mentally’.

In the Book Trial, candidates’ honesty is tested. Morrigan proves herself worthy through her ‘sincerity, reasoning and quick thinking’. The Chase Trial requires ‘daring, tenacity and an instinct for strategy’. The Fright Trial distinguishes ‘the bold from the meek’, exposing candidates’ courage and resourcefulness. Finally, the Show Trial reveals candidates’ talents or ‘knacks’. Interestingly, Morrigan learns that knacks are not regarded as candidates’ most significant quality. Jupiter explains that children with ‘fascinating knacks’ might be knocked out in the first three trials.

‘The point is … if you are not honest, and determined, and brave, then it doesn’t matter how talented you are.’

The Wundrous Society Elders need to establish ‘what sort of person you are’ first.

Honesty, tenacity, boldness and talent are the Wundrous Society’s entry hurdles. But, as Jupiter tells Morrigan, once admitted, members must earn that privilege, ‘over and over again, for the rest of your life’. The flip side of this commitment is that the Society will ‘have your back until the day you die’. This is especially good news for Morrigan who was viewed as an encumbrance and a liability in Wintersea. In Nevermoor, membership of the Wundrous Society could afford her: ‘Family. Belonging. Friendships to last a lifetime.’


Readers of Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow are not fully apprised of Jupiter North’s motives for bringing Morrigan into Nevermoor. (There are some clues and, no doubt, more will be revealed in the second book in the series.) In any case, Jupiter North is not the only one vying for control of Morrigan’s future and her latent power. There is also Ezra Squall to consider.

Almost all fantasy worlds are underpinned by a battle between good and evil. Townsend’s world is no exception.

When Morrigan is given the chance to choose Ezra Squall as her patron, the offer is couched in these terms: if she accepts Ezra’s invitation, she will eventually become heir to the Squall Empire:

‘Every citizen, every household in the country will owe you a debt of thanks. You will be their lifeline – the provider of their warmth, power, food, entertainment.’

Morrigan is asked to envision what it would be like to be ‘so beloved. So respected and needed.’

For those acquainted with the New Testament, this offer will have a familiar ring. In accounts of the temptation of Jesus, the devil shows Jesus ‘the kingdoms of the world’, saying: ‘All this I will give you if you bow down and worship me’ (Matthew 4:8). If Morrigan aligns herself with Ezra, there is evidently much to be gained.

Ezra’s offer also echoes the power afforded by the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings. When Frodo offers the ring to elf queen Galadriel, she sees clearly what acceptance would mean: ‘All shall love me and despair!’ She, like the wizard Gandalf, refuses the offer.  As Gandalf puts it: ‘With that power I should have power too great and terrible … Do not tempt me!’

Which side will Morrigan (and Townsend) choose? Remember Morrigan’s name means ‘Great Queen’—there will be power at her disposal, but how, and with whom, will she wield it?

Want More?

This post only scratches the surface of Nevermoor’s moral framework. The narrative mix also incorporates anxieties over border control and ‘illegals’, litigious propensities, class distinctions, and Hallowmas and Christmas celebrations. To see how these factors influence Morrigan’s world, you’ll just have to read the book yourself! (In case you’re wondering, my own Nevermoor reading experience was entirely delightful. I’m ready and eager to ‘Step Boldly’ into book two. )

Links and Sources

Design by Beatriz Castro