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A Swiftly Tilting Planet
First edition cover
Author Madeleine L'Engle
Cover artist Diane Dillon (first ed.)
Country United States
Language English
Series Time Quintet
Genre Young adult, Science fiction
Publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date
July 1, 1978
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 304 pp
ISBN 0-374-37362-0
OCLC 167766231
Preceded by A Wind in the Door 
Followed by Many Waters 

A Swiftly Tilting Planet is a science fiction novel by Madeleine L'Engle, the third book in the Time Quintet. It was first published in 1978 with cover art by Diane Dillon.

The book's title is an allusion to the poem "Morning Song of Senlin" by Conrad Aiken.

Plot summary

The book opens on Thanksgiving evening, 10 years after the events of A Wind in the Door. Meg is now married to Calvin and is expecting their first child. Calvin has become a scientist and is in Britain at a conference; Calvin's mother Branwen Maddox O’Keefe joins Meg's family for Thanksgiving dinner. When they receive the news of impending nuclear war caused by the dictator "Mad Dog Branzillo", Mrs. O'Keefe lays a charge on Charles of Patrick's Rune, a rhyming prayer of protection inherited from her Irish grandmother.

Charles Wallace goes to the star-watching rock, a family haunt, where his recitation summons a winged unicorn named Gaudior, who explains to Charles Wallace that he must prevent nuclear war by traveling through time and telepathically merging with people who lived near the star-watching rock at points in the past.

They are threatened along the way by the Echthroi, the antagonists introduced in A Wind in the Door, who now seek to alter history in their favor. Gaudior and Charles Wallace's travels bring them to Harcels, a Native American boy at least 1,000 years in the past; Madoc of Wales, a pre-Columbian trans-oceanic traveler; Brandon Llawcae, a Welsh settler in puritan times; Mrs. O'Keefe's brother Chuck Maddox, during their childhood; and Matthew Maddox, a writer during the American Civil War.

Throughout their journey, Meg connects with Charles Wallace from home through "kything", the telepathic communication she learned in A Wind in the Door. Gradually, it is revealed that Branzillo is a descendant of Madoc through all Charles' other alter-egos, and of Madoc's treacherous brother Gwydyr; and ultimately, Charles' manipulation of Branzillo's various ancestors, results in the re-union of Madoc's line, and the transformation of the present Branzillo into an advocate of peace, to prevent the war.

The Rune Resembling St. Patrick's Rune

Throughout the story, Charles Wallace invokes this poem to ensure the victory of good. The poem features in several parts of the book, each with slightly different wording or different punctuation; the poem's definite composition is unsure.

With Ananda** in this fateful hour,
I place all Heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And the fire with all the strength it hath,
And the lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the wind with its swiftness along its path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the Earth with its starkness
All these I place
By God's almighty help and grace
Between myself and the powers of darkness

It is very similar to a portion of James Clarence Mangan's poem "St. Patrick’s Hymn before Tarah," a poetic rendition of Saint Patrick's Breastplate.

The rune within the L'Engle's book has one significant difference from St. Patrick's Hymn. "At Tara" is replaced with "With Ananda"; the original refers to the Hill of Tara. However, in L'Engle's version, the words are different, and this has relevance to the overall context of the plot, as Ananda is both the name of the Murray family dog and the Sanskrit word for "bliss", a kind of internally-generated divine condition, which is neither a deity nor a physical location.

Audio adaptation

In January 2012, an audio CD version narrated by actress Jennifer Ehle was released.

Awards and honors

In its first paperback edition, A Swiftly Tilting Planet won a National Book Award in category Children's Books (paperback).

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