Over Sea, Under Stone
|Over Sea, Under Stone|
First edition cover
|Cover artist||Margery Gill|
|Series||The Dark Is Rising Sequence|
|Genre(s)||Children's Fantasy Mystery novel|
|Publication date||May 1965|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Pages||252 pp (first edition, hardback)|
|Followed by||The Dark Is Rising|
Over Sea, Under Stone is a contemporary fantasy novel written for children by the English author Susan Cooper, first published in London by Jonathan Cape in 1965. Cooper wrote four sequels about ten years later, making it the first volume in a series usually called The Dark is Rising (1965 to 1977). In contrast to the rest of the series, it is more a mystery, with traditional fantasy elements mainly the subject of hints later in the narrative. Thus it may ease readers into the fantasy genre.
Over Sea, Under Stone features the Drew children Simon, Jane, and Barney on holiday with their parents and their great uncle Merriman Lyon, in the fictional fishing village of Trewissick on the southern coast of Cornwall. In the attic of the big Grey House they are renting, owned by Merriman's friend Uncle Toms, the children find an old manuscript. They recognize a drawing of the local coastline that may be a kind of map, with almost illegible text, but Barney realises the map refers to King Arthur and his knights. The children decide to keep the discovery to themselves.
The family are visited at the Grey House by a very friendly Mr. Withers and his sister Polly, who invite them to go fishing on their yacht. The boys are thrilled, but Jane feels suspicious and declines to join them. While Jane is alone in the Grey House, she finds a guidebook to Trewissick in an old trunk, written by the local vicar. She realises that the map in the guidebook is similar to the secret map, but also different somehow, so she decides to visit the vicar. The man at the vicarage is not the writer of the guidebook, but he offers to help Jane. He asks some probing questions which arouse Jane's suspicions again, and she decides to return home.
Soon the house is robbed with attention only to the bookshelves and wall hangings, and the children guess someone else knows of and seeks the manuscript. The children decide it is time to confide in Great-Uncle Merry. Up on the headland they show him the map and he tells them that it is a copy of an even older map which shows the way to a hidden treasure and that the children are now in great danger. He explains that some British artifact may have been stashed here long ago, and to confirm that they will have dangerous grown-up rivals in its pursuit. And so begins their quest for the Grail on behalf of the Light, which they have to achieve while being harried by Mr Withers and his sister, who are agents of the Dark, desperate to stop them at any cost.
Mother usually paints outdoors, and father goes boating, or both travel out of town. Meanwhile the children investigate the meaning of the "map", encouraged, yet warned and sometimes "guarded" by Great Uncle Merry. They learn to read the diagram, and work out the clues on the map but they must work out of doors, where each child has a nasty encounter with the Dark, and their progress is easy to observe. While looking for the first clue Simon is chased by Mr. Hastings and Bill Hoover Jr.. After the second clue leads them to the headland at night, Simon, Jane, and Great Uncle Merry are ambushed and almost caught by Dark followers. Merriman is misdirected out of town, but the children anxiously follow their ancient guide "over sea and under stone" without him. Barney is kidnapped by Mr. Withers and his sister Polly, and must be rescued. The children eventually follow the clues to a cave off the headland and discover the grail. Unfortunately they lose an important metal case that was lodged inside the Grail, which contained a coded manuscript that is the key to deciphering the markings on the outside of the grail.
The children present the grail to the British Museum and are given a check for it. The grail is an object of hot debate among the scholars there because of the unknown markings.
- Simon Drew
- Eldest of three Drew children.
- Jane Drew
- The middle Drew sibling.
- Barnabas Drew (Barney)
- The youngest of the siblings.
- Merriman Lyon (Great-Uncle Merry; Gumerry)
- The Drew children's great uncle and mentor in everything.
- Captain Toms
- Friend of Merriman, owner of The Grey House which the Drews rent, has a very smart red setter Rufus that helps the Drew children avoid danger and find the Grail.
- Mr. Withers and his sister Polly
- Over friendly tourists who invite the Drews on their boat; they are agents of the Dark.
- Mr. Hastings
- Agent of The Dark, lets Jane believe he is the town Vicar. He leads the Dark members battling Merriman and the Drew children in the search for the Grail.
- Bill Hoover Jr.
- Nephew to the housekeeper, he is a young, very unpleasant local, working for the Withers.
Beside the Matter of Britain, the novel is rooted in Susan Cooper's childhood. Trewissick is based directly on the actual village of Mevagissey, which she frequented on her own holidays. The (former) vicarage, where Jane Drew has the first nasty encounter with Mr. Hastings, is based on the (former) vicarage Mevagissey House.
Literary significance and criticism 
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Successful soon after publication, the novel was well received by the literary world.
Among narratives intended for children it features fairly sophisticated use of English, with an extensive vocabulary and complex sentence structures.
Publication history 
- 1965, UK, Jonathan Cape (ISBN NA), pub date ? May 1965, hardback (first edition)
- 1966, USA, Harcourt, Brace & World (ISBN NA), pub date ? ? 1966, hardback (first US edition)
- 1968, UK, Puffin (ISBN 0-14-03-0362-6), pub date ? ? 1968, paperback
- 1989, USA, Simon Pulse (ISBN 0020427859), pub date 30 April 1989, paperback
- 1989, USA, First Scholastic, pub date November 1989, paperback
Radio Adaptation 
In 1995 Armada Productions adapted Over Sea, Under Stone for BBC Radio 4 as part of its Children's Radio 4 strand, and followed in 1997 with an adaptation of its sequel The Dark Is Rising (both under their original titles). Each comprised four half-hour episodes with few changes from the book. Ronald Pickup (familiar to many as the voice of Aslan in the BBC Narnia TV adaptations) voiced Merriman Lyon while Struan Roger portrayed Mr. Hastings, Mr. Mitothin, and The Rider.
"Over Sea, Under Stone" was repeated once in 1997 a few months before "The Dark Is Rising". Neither has been repeated since, nor has it been made commercially available.
See also 
|This section is empty. You can help by adding to it. (March 2013)|
- The Dark is Rising series listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved 2012-03-03. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
- Over Sea, Under Stone fieldguide, section on "Basic Book Information"
- Over Sea, Under Stone fieldguide, section on "Notable features"
- Cooper, Susan (1965). Over Sea, Under Stone (1st ed.). London: Jonathan Cape.
- "Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper (1965)". Book Review. ReadingMatters. Retrieved 2007-09-12.
- "Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper" (PDF). Heinemann Field Guides. Retrieved 2007-09-12.
- "Over Sea, Under Stone". Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Reviews. Retrieved 2007-09-12.
- Thompson, Raymond (2 July 1989). "Interview with Susan Cooper". Interviews with Authors of Modern Arthurian Literature. Retrieved 2011-01-13.