Robin: The Touchstone Trilogy concerns hidden tribes of ‘little people’ (the Various) living in a seemingly impenetrable hill-top forest in rural Somerset. As their history emerges through the three books it seems they were originally travellers from the mysterious Elysse who retreated to the forest as the Gorji, or humans, became increasingly numerous. Ages ago there was a quarrel among the first hill-dwellers, and they divided: the winged tribe—the Ickri—going north in search of greater safety, and the rest staying behind. When the water tribes of the Naiad and the Wisp later sought refuge in the forest, the ones who had stayed behind made a further retreat into the caves, coming to call themselves Troggles and Tinklers, and occupying themselves with mining and smithing. The Naiad then started farming the Great Clearing, while the Wisp continued to venture out at night to fish. When the Ickri came back—generations later—they were intent on returning to the homeland Elysse but, frustrated in that quest, they joined the community as hunters. They also established themselves as leaders over the Naiad and the Wisp, though the cave-dwellers stayed aloof.

It is obvious that changes have occurred over time; memories of Elysse have faded, and whatever magical skills they may once have possessed have become merely old tales, hardly to be believed. The Touchstone, held by the leader of the Ickri, is regarded as a mere symbol, but it is revealed to have power in the right hands, and joined with another artefact, the Orbis, could open the path to Elysse. However, at the time when The Various opens the Orbis has been missing for a long time and is hardly even thought of any more. It is rediscovered in the third book, partly through the agency of a magical creature, the winged horse Pegs, whose birth into the Naiad herd spells the beginning of change for the Various.

The human children who encounter the Various wonder if they are fairies but consider it is too confusing a thought, as they are so unlike story-book fairies, even though some of them are winged. They are just like people, in fact, despite being only “knee-height”. Strange, fascinating, sometimes dangerous, but complex and serious, and completely real. The old country dialect in which the Various speak is very distinctive, and helps to emphasize their separation from the modern world.

The three novels of the trilogy are: The Various, Celandine and Winter Wood.

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