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“The pattern is not set. It is fluid, and constantly changing. But it will be worked out in beauty in the end,” the seraphim. –Many Waters
Time Quintet #4
by Madeleine L’Engle
AR Test, Diverse Characters, Teaches About Culture
When identical twins Dennis and Sandy accidentally mess with their father’s scientific experiment on faster-than-light travel, they are transported to a desert wasteland. Stranded and confused, the two boys meet the locals—dark-skinned people who are only four feet tall. Between the strange people, the miniature mammoths, unicorns, and manticores, Sandy and Dennis are convinced they’re on a strange planet on the other side of the universe. After nearly dying from heatstroke, they are taken in by Grandfather Lameck. When they meet Grandfather Lameck’s son, Noah, the twins realize they have been thrown back in time and are on Earth in the time right before the Great Flood. But the flood is coming—will the twins find a way home before the rain starts to fall?
To make matters more complicated, humans are not the only intelligent beings to deal with. There are seraphim, a tall and beautiful winged people who know many things—maybe even how to get the twins home—but the seraphim do not like to interfere with the lives of men. Then, there are the nephilim, just as tall and beautiful as the seraphim, but they spend their time seducing women with worldly pleasures and extravagant treasures. The nephilim are suspicious of the twins’ sudden appearance, and they will do anything to find out what they are up to.
Once again, L’Engle spins a magical tale that centers on the battle between good and evil. Yalith and Jephath, two of Noah’s children, are kind people that do all they can to help the twins. But most people who live in the oasis are corrupt and evil, abandoning tradition to pursue pleasure and to get ahead in life. The twins and Yalith are all tempted to give in to worldly pleasures. While conflicted, all three reject temptation in exchange for kindness, unicorns, and listening to the stars.
While there are good and bad characters, several members of Noah’s family and Noah himself are more ambiguous, showing that even godly people are not perfect. While God is mentioned several times as “El,” the story centers more around the twins as they adapt to the time period and try to find a way home. The seraphim and the nephilim are revealed to be angels and fallen angels, respectively. They add intrigue and excitement to the story. Overall, Many Waters is a fun tale with a unique twist on the story of Noah’s Ark that will leave readers satisfied.
- In Noah’s time, bothmen and women only wore loincloths. Therefore, Sandy and Dennis see several women’s breasts, but none are described graphically. When meeting Yalith, Sandy notes “the girl, who wore only a loincloth . . . was gently curved, with small rosy breasts.”
- Yalith kisses Aariel, a seraph, much as a child kisses a parent. “Like a child, she held her face up for a kiss, and Aariel leaned down and pressed his lips gently against hers.”
- Yalith sees her sister with a nephilim. Her sister was “gazing up at him adoringly, leaning against him so that her rosy breasts touched his pale flesh.”
- Japheth kisses his wife several times. Once, “Japheth leaned to her and kissed her on the lips. Dennis . . . thought that it was a nice kiss. It was the kind of kiss he had seen his father give his mother. A real kiss. If he lived through this, he would like to kiss someone like that.” Another time, Japheth’s wife “bent toward him to kiss him.”
- A girl from the oasis flirts with Sandy. She “bent closer and brushed her lips against his.” Later, she tries to seduce him. “He was not prepared to have the light suddenly darkened by Tiglah’s face as she pressed her lips against his . . . he knew what she wanted, and he wanted it, too; he was ready, but not, despite her gorgeousness, with Tiglah . . . her breathing mingled with his. He knew if he did not break this off, he would not be able to. With a deep inward sigh, he pulled away.”
- Sandy thinks about taking Yalith to the future with him. Sandy “looked at Yalith’s small and perfect body, barely covered by the loincloth, her breasts delicate and rosy, and had a moment’s absurd vision of her in one of the classrooms at the regional high school.”
- When saying goodbye, “Yalith nodded, then reached up to Sandy and kissed him on the lips. Then Dennis. Full, long kisses.”
- Sandy is kidnapped. “He tried to wriggle out of the clutch of whoever was carrying him, and a fish crashed into his belly, winding him, and something sharp pricked his arm.”
- When Japheth tries to rescue Sandy, “the older man swooped on him with the spear, and despite Japheth’s quick reflex, the spear cut across his ribs, and a trickle of blood slid down his side.”
- Japheth comes home with “an ugly bruise on his cheek where an angrily thrown stone had hit him.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Noah has the “largest and best vineyards on the oasis . . . the fame of his wine had spread to many other oases round about.”
- A man is sick from drinking too much. Afterward, “the smell of Ham’s sickness mingled with the smell of wine, of meat form the stewpot, of the skins of the tent.”
- Yalith remembers how her sister had a wedding with “far too much wine, inferior, at that.”
- When Noah reconciles with his father, he “handed his father a small wineskin. . . The old man held the wineskin to his lips, then smacked them in appreciation.” Sandy also takes a small sip.
- When a woman’s family kidnaps him, Sandy thinks, “you slut.”
- An angry man says, “Auk’s nuts to you.”
- Sandy and Dennis accidentally mess up their father’s scientific experiment and are sent back in time. “Dennis groped through a pervasive mist, his hands touching nothing. Came a great sonic boom. Then absolute silence.”
- In the past, there were miniature mammoths. “From behind the outcropping of rock came something grey and sinuous which the twins at first thought was a snake. But it was followed by a head with small, bright, black eyes, and great fans of ears, and a chunky body covered with shaggy grey hair.”
- There are manticores in the past, which try to eat the mammoths several times. The manticore had a “man’s face with filthy hair. . . From the mat of hair came two horns, curved downward, with sharp points like boar’s teeth. . . The rest of the creature pushed into the tent. The head did not belong to a man’s body but to a lion’s . . . the lion did not have a lion’s tail but a scorpion’s.” The manticores can only say the word “hungry!”
- There are unicorns that flicker in and out of existence. They can flicker out of existence in one place, then be called into existence miles away instantaneously. “On the horizon to the far left, moving toward them, appeared a creature which shimmered in and out of their vision, silvery in color, as large as a goat or a pony, with light flickering out from its forehead.”
- There are seraphim (angels) and nephilim (fallen angels). Both have “Great wings. Much long hair. . . The seraphim are golden and the nephilim are white, whiter than sand.”
- Both the seraphim and the nephilim can turn into animals; each has their own animal they transform into. One of the seraphim is a scarab beetle. “Grandfather Lameck took it on his palm, a scarab beetle, glinting bronze in the lamplight. The old man stroked it gently with a trembling forefinger, and closed his palm. Then came a vivid flash of light, similar to that of the unicorn’s horn, and a tall presence stood in the tent, smiling at the old man…Hair the color of wheat with the sun on it, brightly gold, long, and tied back, falling so that it almost concealed tightly furled wings.” One of the nephilim is a giant desert lizard. “As the lizard neared her, it rose straight upward to a height of at least six feet, and suddenly [its] arms were outstretched above the head; the tail forked into two legs, and a man came running toward her, a man of extraordinary beauty, with alabaster-white skin and wings of brilliant purple.”
- Yalith shows Dennis how to listen to the stars. “He listened, listened, focusing on one bright pattern of stars. Closed his eyes. Listened. Seemed to hear a delicate, crystal chiming. Words. Hush. Heal. Rest. Make peace. Fear not. He laughed in excitement. Opened his eyes to twinkling diamonds.”
- A woman tells the twins, “We don’t have any men on the oasis who are as tall and like gods as you are.”
- The twins discover that Grandfather Lameck’s son is Noah, from the biblical story of Noah and the Arc.
- Yalith recounts her family lineage, which includes the biblical figures Methuselah and Enoch. “Methuselah, my great-grandfather, lived for nine hundred and sixty-nine years. And his father was Enoch, who walked with El, and lived three hundred and sixty and five years, and then El took him.”
- The people in Noah’s time call God “El” and El sometimes speaks to them, though his words are never shared directly in the story. Noah says, “Yesterday, when I was working in the vineyard, the Voice spoke to me. El told me that I must find wives for you.”
- Japheth mentions a curse on the land. “When our forebears had to leave the Garden, they were told, Accursed shall the ground be on your account. It will grow thorns and thistles for you. You shall gain your bread by the sweat of your brow.”
- The seraphim mention the pattern. They say the twins “are part of the pattern,” but “the pattern is not set. . . It is fluid, and constantly changing.” They always maintain that the pattern “will be worked out in beauty in the end.”
by Morgan Lynn