In response to Bluebookbelle’s Bookish Photo A Day Challenge – February 2015 #AWORphotoaday
My favorite book would have to be Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell.
This is my prized 1960, second impression hard back.
First published in 1960 Maxwell’s book describes how he brought a smooth-coated otter back from Iraq and raised it at “Camusfeàrna” (the name he used for his house at Sandaig near Glenelg), on the west coast of Scotland. He took the otter, called Mijbil, to the London Zoological Society, where it was decided that this was a previously unknown subspecies, and it was named after him: Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli. The book and film title was taken from a poem by Kathleen Raine, who claimed in her autobiography that Maxwell had been the love of her life. However, Kathleen Raine’s relationship with Maxwell deteriorated after 1956 when she indirectly caused the death of Mijbil. Raine held herself responsible not only for losing Mijbil but for a curse she had uttered shortly beforehand, frustrated by their relationship: “Let Gavin suffer in this place as I am suffering now.” Raine blamed herself thereafter for all Maxwell’s misfortunes, beginning with Mijbil’s death and ending with the cancer that took his life in 1969.
I’ve been to Sandaig and visited the site where Maxwell lived with Mij, then later his other two otters Edal and Teko. (My dog is named after Teko) It is a truly peaceful and magical place – remote but beautiful.
The film, starring Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers was released in 1969 and was an adaptation of Maxwell’s adventures. It takes some of the more sentimental details from the book, rather than the sometimes harsh realities of keeping Otters in a remote place.
Mij is a cute, cuddly pet shop otter who captures the heart of Graham Merill (Bill Travers). It doesn’t take Graham long to realize that London is no place to raise a slippery otter. So he takes Mij to live in a ramshackle cottage on the coast of Scotland. Together they set out to explore the curious and magnificent natural wonders that surround their seaside home–from orphaned geese to tooth-less sharks. While Mij spends his days frolicking in the icy cold sea, Graham finds himself beachcombing as a way of life and falling in love with the beautiful town doctor, Mary (Virginia McKenna). Before long, the three become inseparable friends.
It was one of those films I saw as a child and was awestruck by the story and it’s rather sad end. It never left me and later in life I chanced upon the book and discovered it was all kind of real, which was inspiring to me all over again – and always will be.
The book has been described as having “inspired a generation of naturalists” and referred to it as a “classic account of man and wildlife” and credits it as being “one of the most popular wildlife books ever written” as over two million copies had been sold worldwide by 1999
There were two sequels, The Rocks Remain and Raven Seek Thy Brother. These were more adventures and accounts of Maxwell’s life at Sandaig.
I recommend it. 🙂