08 February, 2007

Favourite fictional endings

Susan Higginbotham recently (well, fairly recently) posted on her favourite novel endings. I’ve been a bit slow to get round to posting mine, but here are ten that I especially like, in no particular order. These are the ones that (a) came to mind immediately and (b) that I’d remembered correctly when I checked them, which indicates that it was the words that formed the lasting impression rather than the mental image.

Feel free to join in!

It seemed to Hazel that he would not be needing his body any more, so he left it lying on the edge of the ditch, but stopped for a moment to watch his rabbits and to try to get used to the extraordinary feeling that strength and speed were flowing inexhaustibly out of him into their sleek young bodies and healthy senses.
‘You needn’t worry about them,’ said his companion. ‘They’ll be all right – and thousands like them. If you’ll come along, I’ll show you what I mean.’
He reached the top of the bank in a single, powerful leap. Hazel followed; and together they slipped away, running easily down through the wood, where the first primroses were beginning to bloom.
--Watership Down, by Richard Adams

I sought, and soon discovered, the three headstones on the slope next the moor; the middle one grey, and half-buried in heath; Edgar Linton’s only harmonised by the turf and moss creeping up its foot; Heathcliff’s still bare.
I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in
that quiet earth.
--Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

The ripples spread, and faded: Saltash came to a stop, tugging gently.
‘Got her cable, sir!’ Allingham called out to the bridge.
Ericson drew a deep breath, stretching a little under his duffle-coat. That was all..... Over his shoulder he said:
‘Ring off main engines.’
--The Cruel Sea, by Nicholas Monsarrat.
(This is a cheat on my part, because the actual end of the novel is a couple of pages further on. But I always think of this scene as the end. I think it’s something to do with the crispness of a military command; four words that convey such a sweep of hidden meaning.)

‘Because I want to; because I must; because now and for evermore this is where I long to be,’ said Mary.
He laughed then, and took her hand, and gave her the reins; and she did not look back over her shoulder again, but set her face towards the Tamar.
--Jamaica Inn, by Daphne du Maurier

For that time it was Lancelot’s fate and Guenever’s to take the tonsure and the veil, while Mordred must be slain. The fate of this man or that man was less than a drop, although it was a sparkling one, in the great blue motion of the sunlit sea.
The cannons of his adversary were thundering in the tattered morning when the Majesty of England drew himself up to meet the future with a peaceful heart.
--The Once and Future King, by TH White

The light grew stronger as they waited.
Quite suddenly, he said, ‘Oh, damn!’ and began to cry – in an awkward, unpractised way at first, and then more easily. So she held him, crouched at her knees, against her breast, huddling his head in her arms that he might not hear eight o’clock strike.
--Busman’s Honeymoon, by Dorothy L Sayers.

So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.
--The House at Pooh Corner, by AA Milne

The black-on-black eyes stared imploringly at Brutha, who reached out automatically, without thinking. . . and then hesitated.
‘Yes. I know. He’s Vorbis,’ said Brutha. Vorbis changed people. Sometimes he changed them into dead people. But he always changed them. That was his triumph.
He sighed.
‘But I’m me,’ he said.
Vorbis stood up, uncertainly, and followed Brutha across the desert.
Death watched them walk away.
--Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett.

‘The division seems rather unfair,’ I remarked. ‘You have done all the work in this business. I get a wife out of it, Jones gets the credit; pray what remains for you?’
‘For me,’ said Sherlock Holmes, ‘there still remains the cocaine-bottle.’ And he stretched his long, white hand up for it.
--The Sign of Four, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This was the manner of the mourning of the men of the Geats,
sharers in the feast, at the fall of their lord;
they said that he was of all the world’s kings
the gentlest of men, and the most gracious,
the kindest to his people, the keenest for fame.
--Beowulf, translated by Michael Alexander


elena maria vidal said...

I'm in tears. Especially at the ending of The House at Pooh Corner!

Susan Higginbotham said...

Nice list! (Only ones I've read are Wuthering Heights and Beowulf. Now I'm interested in reading some of the others.)

Carla said...

Elena - it's sweet, isn't it? I wonder if I'm the only person in the world who likes both AA Milne and his arch-enemy Dorothy Parker (of "Tonstant Weader Fwowed Up" fame)?

Susan - your list had the same effect on me. Which of the endings interest you, out of curiosity?

Susan Higginbotham said...

Mainly the Sayers and the T. H. White.

elena maria vidal said...

Oh, I am not too familiar with Dorothy Parker's works but A.A. Milne brings me right back to my childhood. My parents read his children's stories to us every night.

Carla said...

Both well worth reading, Susan. The TH White is still one of my favourite treatments of the Arthur story, and I fell for Lord Peter Wimsey on first reading.

Elena - I don't think I met Pooh as a child, I came across a dog-eared copy of House at Pooh Corner among my partner's books when we set up house and succumbed to its charm then - 20 years after one is supposed to, but better late than never! I nearly put one of Dorothy Parker's short stories on the list (Big Blonde and The Lovely Leave were the contenders), partly for the amusement of having her share a list with Milne, but decided against it.

Bernita said...

I remember the Sayers ending.
Another I liked is Mary Stewart's The Hollow Hills.
"So they raised to be king Arthur the Young...I still remember how my body ached, and how at length, when I knelt again, my sight blurred and darkened as if still blind with vision, or with tears.
The tears showed me the altar now, bare of the nine-fold light that had pleasured the old, small gods; bare of the soldier's sword and the name of the soldier's god. All it held now was the hilt of the carved sword standing in the stone like a cross, and the letters still deep and distinct above it" TO HIM UNCONQUERED."

Magpie said...

Never forgotten this one by Ian Fleming in You Only Live Twice.
An ending that contains so little but suggests so much... sadness for things that cannot last, the weight of inevitability, and the grandeur of ordinary things...

"Kissy smiled into his eyes and the sun shone on his back and, so far as James Bond was concerned, it was a beautiful day just like all the other days had been - without a cloud in the sky.
But then, of course, he didn't know that his name was James Bond. And, compared with the blazing significance to him of that single Russian word on the scrap of paper, his life on Kuro, his love for Kissy Suzuki, were, in Tiger's phrase, of as little account as sparrows' tears."

Carla said...

Bernita and Hazel-rah - thank you for those. Both powerful in their different ways.