Latest Wiki

Top Contributors

Owain Jones
Maggie Roe
Tom Payne
Shelagh Hourahane
Katherine Jones
Frances Stoakley
Antony Lyons
mail Rupert Allan
Tidal Cultures


Tarka the Otter, Henry Williamson; 1927

Tarka the Otter, Henry Williamson; 1927
I have an early edition (1928) copy of this book, given to me many years ago by my aunt.   This is not a book about cuddly furry animals living by the riverbank - certainly not the Tales of the Riverbank that I remember from children's BBC that went out at about the same time as I first read this.  This is nature (including humans) red in tooth and claw.  

Williamson is another author of classic water naturalist texts that I have who has a very mixed reputation. However Roger Deakin (in Waterlog) writes about Williamson's writing in glowing terms and describes Tarka as a 'great mythic poem'.  The rivers that Tarka's story is based upon are the River Taw and River Torridge in Devon and the narrative mixes naturalist, historical and cultural observation with an imagined otters-eye view of the world.  

' Now the water had dropped back, and dry sticks lodged on the branches marked the top of the flood.  The river flowed slowly through the pool, a-glimmer with the clear green western sky.  At the tail of the pool it quickened smoothly into paws of water, with star-streaming claws.  The water murmured against the stones.  Jets and rills ran fast and shallow to an island, on which grew a leaning willow tree.  Down from here the river moved swift and polished.  Alder and sallow grew on its banks.  Round a bend it hastened, musical over many stretches of shillet; at the end of the bend it merged into a dull silence of deep saltwater, and its bright spirit was lost.' (p.4, 19283rd edn, Putnam & Sons).