March Magics: Believing is Seeing

Believing is Seeing: Seven Stories, by Diana Wynne Jones

Since the first story in this collection is "The Sage of Theare," I'm really only going to talk about six.  By the way, this collection is nearly identical to the earlier Minor Arcana, except Minor Arcana does not have "Enna Hittims" and does contain the very rare "The True State of Affairs," which I'll cover later.  Even the introduction is re-used for this volume!

"The Master" is one freaky terrifying story.  DWJ said it was a nightmare that she had to write out, and yeah, if I kept having that dream I'd have to write it out too!  The narrator is a vet, called out to an urgent case.  There's a forest, a murdered woman, and wolves right outside a very strange house. 

"Enna Hittims" starts off as fun but becomes frightening in its own way.  Anne has been ill and, to pass the time, tells stories to herself about tiny adventurers in the hills made by her blanket.  The adventurers come alive; they are not at all easy to deal with, and they have every intention of killing all the giants in this castle they've found.

"The Girl Who Loved the Sun" is almost a story from Ovid.  Phega is in love with the Sun, and she is determined to become the thing the Sun seems to love best -- a tree.  This is a tragic story that I really like.

Of course, "Dragon Reserve, Home Eight" is a real favorite of mine; I think it is for a lot of people.  DWJ said she wrote it while trying to work out the layers of worlds in Christopher Chant, but I tend to connect it with Hexwood -- I think because she uses a couple of names (Yurov, for example) that also show up in Hexwood, and really I think that the story would fit well in the Hexwood universe.  Siglin is arrested for being heg (having witch-like powers), but it turns out that heg abilities are the only thing that can save civilization.

I'm not a huge fan of cat stories, so "What the Cat Told Me" does not automatically endear itself to me, but it is a very interesting story.  The cat narrates a fairy tale from her own perspective; she was once a familiar to a wicked wizard who kept a servant boy.  Boy plans to escape with the cat, but he gets distracted by food and a pretty girl...

"Nad and Dan adn Quaffy" is a funny story in which DWJ pokes a bit of fun at herself (or possibly Anne McCaffrey!)  as a writer.  F. C. Stone, science-fiction writer, lives on coffee and writes a lot of scenes in which spaceship pilots hunch over controls and deal with complex space politics -- all fueled by alien coffee, of course.  Until the word processor talks back and calls her Captain.

Most of these are stories often seen in DWJ collections, and they're all pretty good.  But to my mind, "Dragon Reserve, Home Eight" is the best one!


  1. I just bought this! My library has been culling surplus copies of YA and kids' books lately (sob), so I got a copy of Believing Is Seeing for twenty-five cents. It's been ages since I read these stories!

  2. I'm reading my first Diana Wynne Jones now -- Howl's Moving Castle -- and enjoying it!

  3. Woohoo, another DWJ convert!

  4. Hexwood is my one saved, unread DWJ so I can't make the Dragon Reserve comparison. I do love the story so much though!
    And The Master is creepy and horrid and I get the shivers just thinking about it again.


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