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Literature: Many Waters

Many Waters is the last of Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quartet books to be published and the only one to focus on the Murry twins, Sandy and Dennys. After an accident in their parents' lab, they are transported back to ancient times, where 4-foot-tall humans coexist with mammoths and seraphim. They are saved from certain death in the desert by a young man named Japheth and his family, headed by stern patriarch Noah (yes, that Noah). Stuck in the ancient desert for now, Sandy and Dennys adapt to their harsh environment.

For the inhabitants of the oasis, the twins' arrival is just the beginning of many changes. Noah receives messages from the being "El" that troubled times lie ahead, including a great flood. Sandy and Dennys have to find a way back to the present before "many waters" flood the desert.


Tropes contained in this work:

  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Actually played straight. Although the twins' virginity turns out to be a good thing, many times, the oasis' inhabitants comment on how it (as evidenced by their ability to be near unicorns) is proof of how young they are; Elisheba saying that they are little more than babies.
  • Animorphism: The seraphim and nephilim.
  • Artistic License Religion: Many of the names used for the wives and women are actually in the Bible... as male names.
    • In addition, if you add up the Bible chronologies, it becomes clear that, at the time of the Flood, Methuselah was still alive, and Lamech had died five years previously. Given the father-son conflict, this could be justified by Rule of Drama.
  • Asshole Victim: Given how the people in the oasis act (especially Tiglah's family), it's quite clear we're not meant to feel sorry for them.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The twins command the computer to take them somewhere warm and sparsely populated, thinking of a beach.
  • The Bible: Of course, the main source of the Flood narrative, but the author uses plenty of quotes from elsewhere in the Bible (such as the Song of Songs quote for the title throughout the story.
  • Bible Times
  • Call Back: To the time Charles Wallace almost died of mitochondritis.
  • Cassandra Truth: Noah warns the people of the oasis of the impending apocalypse, and he is mocked for it.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The manticore. At first, it seems to be a nuisance, until it unwittingly saves Japheth's life.
  • Circle Of Extinction: The nephilim have an attack that's actually called this.
  • Coming-of-Age Story
  • Continuity Nod: In the first chapter, we find that Meg did not outgrow her one-sided intellect: being able to discuss advanced scientific material, but seemingly unable to spell very basic words.
  • A Day in the Limelight: For Sandy and Dennys, who are minor characters in the other three novels.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Neither Sandy nor Dennys end up with Yalith.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Downplayed with Oholibamah. She's almost certainly the daughter of one of the evil nephilim, and she has black eyes and hair, but she's also extremely kind, gentle, and understanding, perhaps the least ambiguously "Good" of Noah's daughters-in-law.
  • Empathy Pet: Higgaion. Mammoths in general are very intelligent, kinda like the Bible Times equivalent of Lassie.
    • Actually, higayyon is the Hebrew word meaning "reason" (modern) and "cogitation" (ancient).
  • The End of the World as We Know It: For the oasis people.
  • Evil Redheads: Tiglah and her family, with the exception of Anah
  • Fallen Angel: The nephilim. They aren't necessarily completely evil, but the ones in the novel are still very selfish and willing to be cruel to get what they want.
  • Foregone Conclusion: If you are familiar at all with The Bible, you already know how this goes. The only characters whose fates are left in doubt are Sandy, Dennys, and Yalith.
  • Foreshadowing: Noah and Lamech have a conversation describing how Enoch was bodily assumed into Heaven. This is Yalith's ultimate fate.
  • The Giant: Sandy and Dennys, compared to people in Bible Times
  • God: "El". He doesn't appear personally, but Noah regularly converses with Him.
  • Go Seduce My Archnemesis: Rofocale tells Tiglah to seduce the twins. She fails.
  • Going Native
  • Good Old Ways vs. Good Is Old-Fashioned
  • Good Wings, Evil Wings: The seraphim (good) and the nephilim (evil) all have feathered wings, but the seraphim's wings are all in warm shades ranging from red to gold, whereas the nephilim's wings are colored in cool, dark shades of blue and purple.
  • The Great Flood
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Oholibamah is half-nephilim.
  • Here There Were Dragons: Angels, tiny mammoths, manticores, and unicorns.
  • Hidden Depths: Sandy and Dennys get more characterization than simply being the Black Sheep of the Murry family. They're shown to be fairly intelligent themselves, choosing to hide it to fit in.
  • Horny Devils: The nephilim.
  • The Ingenue: Yalith
  • Kick the Dog: Or rather, Kick the Mammoth: Tiglah's father and brother.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Noah.
  • Literal Genie: The computer-ish-thing that sends the twins to the desert in the first place. They type in, "Take us someplace warm and sparsely populated."
  • Love Makes You Evil: Especially if you fall in love with the nephilim. On the other hand...
  • Love Redeems: Anah is redeemed by marrying Ham; Yalith, who is tempted by Eblis, is saved by her love of the twins and the (platonic) love of Aariel; and Sandy, tempted by Tiglah, is saved, amongst other things, by love of Yalith.
  • Love Triangle: Sandy/Yalith/Dennys, sort of. The twins both love Yalith, but they don't fight over her and, in the end, neither of them gets her.
    • Two non-romantic (on one side), but still competitive examples: Ugiel/Mahlah/Alarid and Aariel/Yalith/Eblis.
  • Magic Versus Science: Amusingly averted. Despite coming from a time of magical beasts and miracles, when the twins come back to the present with the aid of the seraphim, one of them seems to be quite completely at home in a modern technological setting, even looking through Dr. Murry's microscope and commenting on how close he is to a scientific breakthrough. Of course angels likely exist outside of time, or in many times concurrently, so moving between the times of magic and science (and their mindsets) is likely not hard for them at all.
  • Mayfly-December Romance
  • Methuselah Syndrome
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Manticores and griffins.
  • My Girl Is a Slut: Rofocale wants Tiglah to be experienced in the ways of lust.
  • Nature Adores a Virgin
  • Nephilim: Fallen angels and dark counterparts to the Seraphim. While not completely evil, they aren't good people either.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted
  • Not So Different: After being kidnapped by Tiglah's family, Sandy reflects upon the similarity of the people of the oasis to people in modern times, including terrorists who hijack planes and take hostages.
  • Older Than They Look: People in this era age really slowly. They reach adulthood around 100.
  • Our Angels Are Different: In contrast to Progo, the seraphim and nephilim are more like what a contemporary audience would think of as angels. The seraphim are basically servants of God on earth and usually have eyes and wings coloured in warm shades of gold or silver, or sky blue. The nephilim, which are implied to be fallen angels, have eyes and wings of darker colors like vivid reds and violets. They are all immortal, and not outright antagonistic with each other, but the nephilim are trapped on earth whereas the seraphim can return to heaven. Also, each one has an animal form he can change into — the seraphim are usually mammals or birds while nephilim take the shapes of worms, snakes, dragons, and other ugly things. Though one seraphim turns into a dung beetle.
  • The Patriarch: Noah
  • The Quiet One: Shem, the strong, silent type.
  • Red Light District: Where Yalith and Oholibamah go to get the salves for Dennys.
  • Take Me to Your Leader: Said by Sandy, in jest.
  • Temporal Paradox
  • Theme Naming: Each of the seraphim's names start with the letter "A"
  • Time Travel
  • Title Drop: "Many waters cannot quench love; neither can the floods drown it."
  • Unicorns: "Virtual" unicorns.
  • The Vamp: Tiglah
  • Virgin Power / Virginity Flag: Only virgins can touch a unicorn
  • World Half Full: Yes, Humans Are Bastards and always will be, but just as there will always be bad people there will always be a handful of truly good people.
  • Wretched Hive: The oasis town

The Man Who Brought The Dodgers Back To BrooklynLiterature of the 1980sMarcus Didius Falco
A Swiftly Tilting PlanetYoung Adult LiteratureAn Acceptable Time
A Swiftly Tilting PlanetFantasy LiteratureAn Acceptable Time

alternative title(s): Many Waters
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