The Drew Children

Written by: Jacob Baggett

The Drew children, Simon, Jane, and Barney, fill the role of heroes in three books of Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Sequence. They first appear in Over Sea, Under Stone[1]. The children accidentally find a map to an ancient grail. This discovery involves them in the quest for the grail. Unbeknownst to them the grail is one of the four Things of Power of the Light[2]. The Light is a group of people, mainly Old Ones[3], who seek to expel the Dark from the world. The four Things of Power are lost to the light and must be found, and because the Drew children found the map to the grail they must be the ones to find the grail itself.

The Drew children’s quest has very little impact on the state of the world itself. They simply locate an artifact of the Light, but this artifact will eventually lead the Light to find the more powerful golden harp which is needed to awaken The Sleepers.[4] Their quest is an example of the Child Hero whose quest does not change the fate of the world, but influences the fate of another related quest. Will Stanton would not have been able to locate the golden harp in The Grey King without the help of the Drew Children because the grail contains a coded message that will guide him to the harp.

The Drew children largely succeed because of their ability to work together. The children discover that the map is a combination of a picture and code phrases designed to cleverly hide the grail. They discover from the picture that the sun lines up with the dots on the map and these represent standing stones. The children find the tallest stone and follow the shadow it makes in the son, but this leads to no stone in particular, they believe the stone to be buried under a rock. They also figure out that a “blodge” on the map is actually a full and perfect circle, and they discover that this circle is actually the moon from a cryptic clue on the map and that they need to measure the shadows of the moon and the sun to find the point where the two shadows converge.[5] They work through the problem together and are able to figure out the solution to finding the grail by working together.

The Drew Children are also assisted by their Great Uncle Merriman Leon.[6] Merriman helps the children. He serves as their guide and their protector. As an Old One, the agents of the Dark cannot directly contest his strength, as the power of the Light and the Dark is essentially equal. However, the children are vulnerable to the persuasive powers of the Dark and so they need to be protected. Despite his assertions that he is merely their protector[7], he helps the children by repeating the cryptic hint from the map. This reveals that he knows what they must do, but he knows that he must let them figure the clues out for themselves since it is their quest. This is seen when Cooper writes, “Great-Uncle Merry was still sitting silent and statuesque on the edge of the bed. He said again lovingly to himself. ‘The signs that wax and wane but do not die…’”[8] He hints at what they must do, but he does not outright tell them. The role of the mentor is to guide and instruct rather than to supply the answers. The children also need to be protected from the knowledge of the Light and the Dark. He only tells them that some men are after the grail for nefarious purposes while he seeks it for a museum. The Drew Children are eventually informed of the Light and the Dark, but for this quest all they need know is that the grail needs to be recovered.

The Drew Children’s involvement with the Light does not end with the recovery of the grail. During the events of Over Sea, Under Stone, the ancient text that will allow the Light to decode the cipher on the grail is lost. The Drew children are needed once again in Greenwitch[9] in order to recover the lost text. The Greenwitch, a creation of wild magic[10], has found the lost manuscript in the ocean and both the forces of the Light and the Dark seek to retrieve the manuscript from her to decipher the markings on the grail. The Light seeks to decipher the markings in order to find the golden harp, while the Dark seeks to find the manuscript in order to hide the location of the harp from the Light. Simon, Jane, and Barney are once again called upon to help aid the Light and recover the manuscript.

Artist rendition of the events in “Over Sea, Under Stone” courtesy of https://epicheroism.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/fbf75-over2bsea2bunder2bstone.jpg

Jane and Barney have special abilities that are a small part of the reason they were chosen. Both seem to have a form of prophetic ability. Neither of them are aware of what they can do, but these abilities help them in their quest, or help them to discover important information. Barney senses in the cave a voice that tries to convince Barney to flee, and he also has a vision of the knight who fled with the grail to protect it from the Dark. This is seen when Cooper writes, “His ears sang, even in the great empty space of the cave he felt that something was pressing him down, calling him insistently to turn away…he suddenly had a vivid picture of the knight Bedwin who had begun it all when he came fleeing to Cornwall from the east.”[11] Jane’s powers are less obvious than her brother’s. She simply develops a connection with both the Greenwitch and the Lady[12]. This connection allows her to communicate with the two of them. Her connection with the Greenwitch allows her to recover the lost manuscript. Her connection with the Greenwitch spawns from her choice to use her wish to grant it happiness.[13] Her choice to give away her wish intrigues the Greenwitch causing her to seek Jane out. She wants to know why Jane wished for her happiness instead of using her wish for herself like the other girls.

While Jane recovers the lost manuscript, Simon and Barney recover the stolen grail. The Dark used its powers to steal the grail in an attempt to keep the Light from finding the harp. However, Simon and Barney manage to recover the grail with the protection of Merriman and two more Old Ones, Will Stanton and Captain Toms.

Finally, the three children return for the final battle against the Dark in Silver on the Tree. They are finally informed of both the Light and the Dark, and the children choose to help though the task is dangerous. Despite the danger, the Drew children are perfectly safe. The quest in Silver on the Tree involves six warriors of the light, Simon, Jane, Barney, Will Stanton, Bran Davies, and Merriman, setting out to recover the crystal sword and using the power of the sword to cut a branch of mistletoe from an ancient tree. The mistletoe is bound by High Magic, and whoever manages to cut the branch from the tree using the crystal sword will banish its counterpart from the Earth forever. If the Light succeeds then the Dark is banished, and vice-versa if the Dark succeeds. The crystal sword was created for the Light, but it is a weapon that can be wielded by both the Dark and the Light, and because it is bound to the ancient tree both sides want the weapon for their own purposes.

Depiction of a scene from “Greenwitch” courtesy of https://epicheroism.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/f18ee-greenwitch.jpg

The Drew children server two functions in this quest. Jane has to connect with the Lady who has a message for Will Stanton and Bran Davies that is essential to their recovery of the crystal sword. Jane is the only one who can receive this message because of her strange connection with the Lady. The other role the children serve is bearers of the six signs[14]. At the final battle each of the six signs, must be held by one of the six warriors in order to repel the dark so Bran Davies can cut the mistletoe from the tree for the Light. Each of the children must hold one of the signs and stand against the Dark to protect Bran as he ends the battle once and for all.

The Drew children play very small roles in the quest to drive the Dark from the world, but the roles they play serve as essential pieces of the greater quest. If it were not for the Drew children much of the Light’s success in turning back the Dark could not have been achieved. The children never directly save the world, but they help protect the world from the Dark in smaller ways.


[1] Susan Cooper, Over Sea, Under Stone (New York: McElderry Books, 2013)

[2] The four Things of Power are: the signs (a collection six circles quartered by crosses. Each circle is made of a different material, including: wood, bronze, iron, fire, water, and stone. When all six signs are gathered together they have the power to repel the dark.), the grail (the grail is inscribed with an ancient code that leads the Light to the harp), the golden harp (the harp has the power to awaken ancient warriors of the light who can help to fight the Dark, but its music also has the power to negate any magic because it is created through High Magic), and the crystal sword (the crystal sword can cut portals through magical barriers and burns with blue fire in the presence of the Dark).

[3] Old Ones are human-like creatures with the ability to step in and out of time. They also seem to possess some control over the minds of humans and over the elements.

[4] Ancient knights from the time of King Arthur. They need to be awakened in order to ride against the Dark in the final battle.

[5] Cooper 131-132

[6] Merriman is an alias. He is actually the first Old One and his name is Merlin.

[7] “‘This is your quest,’ he [Gummery] said. ‘You must find the way every time by yourselves. I am the guardian, no more. I can take no part and give you no help, beyond guarding you all the way.’” (Cooper 133)

[8] Cooper 132

[9] Susan Cooper, Greenwitch (New York: McElderry Books, 2013)

[10] In Cooper’s universe there are three magics: High Magic, which rules over all magic; Old Magic, which includes the powers of the Light and the Dark both of which are equal; and Wild Magic, which is equal in power to Old Magic but Wild Magic cannot be influenced or controlled by the powers of either the Light or the Dark.

[11] Cooper 246

[12] The Lady is a force of the light.

[13] The town’s tradition during the making of the Greenwitch is make a wish after its completion. The people believe that the Greenwitch can make these wishes come true.

[14] The signs, six circled crosses made of wood, bronze, iron, fire, water, and stone, were originally recovered by Will Stanton in The Dark is Rising, and have the power to turn back the Dark.

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