The Mythopoeic Awards for literature and literary studies are given annually for outstanding works in the fields of myth, fantasy, and the scholarly study of these areas. Established by the Mythopoeic Society in 1971, the Award is given for “fiction in the spirit of the Inklings”. The Inklings, of course, was an informal literary group formed inthe 1930s and 40s at the University of Oxford. The most celebrated members were J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and C. S. Lewis.
The 2023 winner for fiction are Sacha Lamb for When the Angels Left the Old Country and Kelly Barnhill for The Ogress and the Orphans, which is ostensibly written for kids but was one of my favorite books from last year. Scholarly awards were given to Paul S. Fiddes and Brian Attebery.
Fantasy Award for Adult Literature
When the Angels Left the Old Country by Sacha Lamb
Uriel the angel and Little Ash (short for Ashmedai) are the only two supernatural creatures in their shtetl (which is so tiny, it doesn’t have a name other than Shtetl). The angel and the demon have been studying together for centuries, but pogroms and the search for a new life have drawn all the young people from their village to America. When one of those young emigrants goes missing, Uriel and Little Ash set off to find her.
Along the way the angel and demon encounter humans in need of their help, including Rose Cohen, whose best friend (and the love of her life) has abandoned her to marry a man, and Malke Shulman, whose father died mysteriously on his way to America. But there are obstacles ahead of them as difficult as what they’ve left behind. Medical exams (and demons) at Ellis Island. Corrupt officials, cruel mob bosses, murderers, poverty. The streets are far from paved with gold.
Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature
The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill
Stone-in-the-Glen, once a lovely town, has fallen on hard times. Fires, floods, and other calamities have caused the people to lose their library, their school, their park, and even their neighborliness. The people put their faith in the Mayor, a dazzling fellow who promises he alone can help. After all, he is a famous dragon slayer. (At least, no one has seen a dragon in his presence.) Only the clever children of the Orphan House and the kindly Ogress at the edge of town can see how dire the town’s problems are.
Then one day a child goes missing from the Orphan House. At the Mayor’s suggestion, all eyes turn to the Ogress. The Orphans know this can’t be: the Ogress, along with a flock of excellent crows, secretly delivers gifts to the people of Stone-in-the-Glen.
But how can the Orphans tell the story of the Ogress’s goodness to people who refuse to listen? And how can they make their deluded neighbors see the real villain in their midst?