The story of the shadow
by Bonnie Pockley
Many years ago, I began, but never finished, a story. As it goes, a young wizard in training, full of potential and competence, performs a spell that extends beyond his capability and is made lame by it. He is struck down, weakened and emerges badly scarred, behind those he was ahead of and having unleashed a great evil into the world that is bound to him – a shadow of a thing that hunts him down. At 14 I put the book down. I’m not sure why. In the years since I have thought about it often, haunted by it to an extent because I thought, perhaps, it reflected some of my own unravelling – all of the lost potential of the very bright girl I once was. Where did I go wrong? I often wondered. And while there was no great spell that made me undone, there was a desperate wanting to prove myself and an emotional crisis of some kind in my teens that instigated my descent.
This week the book turned up and I finished the story. And so it happens, the young wizard eventually turns and chases this shadow. He stops running and the hunted, if you will, becomes the hunter – the roles are reversed. In a world where the greatest power of something is its name, the wizard finds this shadow – his shadow – and names it. The great lesson he learns, and what he doesn’t realise until the moment he is face to face with it, is that this shadow is him and bears (of course) his name. The young wizard is this act becomes whole, his power restored, and goes on to become a great mage. The start of the story that once seemed everything becomes a much smaller part of a greater story – an almost necessary rite-of-passage on the road to wisdom.
And thus, relief. There are parallels, of course. I bear the permanence of my own scars, my own tattoos. But there is relief and understanding in the illumination of a difficult truth. And renewal.