#193 David Day
September 22nd, 2016
LOCATION: Rocky Point, District of Metchosin, Vancouver Island.
If asked to name B.C.’s topselling authors, few would cite Toronto-based David Day with his internationally successful books on Tolkien, vanished species and Lewis Carroll. His childhood home up to the seventh grade was located twenty miles west of Victoria, at the end of R.R. 1., in a forested, off-limits, national defence area known as Rocky Point at the most southerly point in Western Canada, not far from the last leper colony in Canada on Bentinck Island. The Day family of five lived in a two-bedroom bungalow with a total floor-space of 800 square feet. The house still stands (as of 2015).
“As a child I loved the place,” Day says. “Rocky Point was a curious neighbourhood. Besides essentially living on an ammunition dump with a leper colony to the south, we had a federal prison (William Head) across Pedder Bay to the east, the Beecher Bay Indian reserve to the west, and the Mary Hill military firing range to northwest.
“Nonetheless, Rocky Point is and was a remarkably idyllic nature sanctuary of protected forest and shore line filled with every kind of wildlife and a spectacular view of the Olympic Mountains across the straits of the Salish Sea.
“There were a dozen DND houses on the road and the gate to the entrance to the military reserve was a mile down the road, so it was somewhat cut off from the other farm communities. The nearest grocery was a very hilly five miles away. We had a very winding and not-well-kept 18-mile road with many stops on an armed forces bus for an hour-long ride to school in Belmont Park near Royal Roads. Many of the wives at Rocky Point compared it to Alcatraz.”
Offshore was Bentinck Island, the slightly more humane leper colony that in 1924 replaced the notorious Darcy Island colony. It remained operational until the death of the last leper in 1957. “Bentinck is a very small island that is just a stones throw off Rocky Point,” Day says, “although the strait between has a strong current, and on the southern side it is separated by an even stronger current by the famous ship-wrecking Race Rocks with its lighthouse, first built in 1861.”
Bentinck Island is now a military artillery testing and firing range. At Rocky Point, Day’s father was a fire lieutenant, then later fire chief. Rocky Point needed its own fire prevention service because the compound basically served as a Department of National Defence munitions factory and dumping port. “Fires there were frowned upon,” Day quips.
“The books I write are far more profound than I am.” — David Day
To coincide with the release of three Peter Jackson films based on The Hobbit in 2012, 2013 and 2014, new editions of David Day’s six Tolkien-related books were republished, icluding The Illustrated Encyclopedia (Simon & Schuster 2012). According to publicity materials, Day’s six titles pertaining to Tolkien’s works have sold nearly three million copies in 20 languages since 1978. Reprinted by various publishers around the world, the first of these, The Tolkien Bestiary (Harbour 1987), could be the bestselling book ever first published from B.C. In 2012, Day reported it had been published in 120 editions in twenty languages.
Even though Day has published numerous successful books pertaining to the writings of Tolkien, he didn’t read Lord of the Rings until his late teens. He got the idea for an encyclopedia of an imaginary world while taking a bibliography course at UBC.
David Day was born in 1947 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Victoria, and his first home, as an infant, was an army hutch in the Gordon Head Military Barracks in Saanich, now the University of Victoria Campus. His main childhood home up to the seventh grade was located twenty miles west of Victoria, at the end of R.R. 1., in a forested national defence area known as Rocky Point (the most southerly point in Western Canada, not far from the last leper colony in Canada on Bentinct Island.) Day thereafter grew up in Victoria, edited his high school newspaper, contributed sports articles to the Victoria Times and worked on Vancouver Island for five years as a logger.
He travelled in Europe, staying mainly in Greece, where he wrote some of the poems that were included in his first book that arose from his timber camp journals, The Cowichan (Oolichan, 1975; Harbour, 1976).
He told B.C. BookWorld: “The material my first book, ‘The Cowichan’ came out of journals kept in the late sixties and early seventies in the Caycuse and Nitinat logging camps in the Cowichan Valley. Those journals were filled with the voices and stories of men who lived and worked on the edge of the massive primeval forests of the Pacific Northwest. Logging tales filled with the sound of diesel engines, chainsaws and falling timber became mixed with the native Indian lore about wildlife: eagles, bears, mountain lions and elk.
“Writing was a means of making this wilderness known to me in a deeply personal sense. The landscapes of my waking and dreaming life became one. A kind of personal mythology came into existence as the creatures of the forest came to inhabit my dreams.
“Curiously, Wordsworth’s dictum that poetry “takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity” is reasonably demonstrated in the composition of The Cowichan poems. Although the logging camp journals were the basis for this first book, most of the poems only began to emerge form those pages as finished works over the next year and a half of living on the Aegean island of Paros in Greece.
“While in Greece, I sent a dozen poems to Robin Skelton at the Malahat Review in the hope that he might choose one, and was astonished that he took the lot, editing them down to one long seven-page sequence, entitled Logging: Cowichan Lake. Upon returning to Victoria, I entered U-Vic’s creative writing program.
“At this time, Gary Geddes was putting together Oxford University Press’s first anthology of B.C. literature, Skookum Wawa and chose a couple of my poems. He then recommended me to Ron Smith who just starting Oolichan Books who published The Cowichan in 1975. Over the next year, Ron and I had something of a falling out, and Howie White at Harbour Publishing generously offered to publish a second edition with sepia archival photographs.”
In the year he graduated from the Department of Creative Writing at UVic, David Day completed a non-fiction assignment for the Provincial Archives called Men of the Forest (1977) and he co-edited Many Voices: An Anthology of Contemporary Canadian Indian Poetry (J.J. Douglas, 1977) with Marilyn Bowering.
That ground-breaking anthology included George Lezard of the Okanagan, Mary Augusta Tappage of the Cariboo, George Clutesi, Eleanor Crowe of Summerland, Sarain Stump, Gordon Williams of Vernon, Skyros Bruce, Benjamin Abel of Westbank, Edward John of Fort St. James and Jeannette Armstrong Bonneau of Penticton.
As an author, Day has uniquely combined death, fantasy, environmentalism and idealism. He has achieved sales of several million books with ecological titles such as The Doomsday Book of Animals (Toronto: Wiley, 1981), selected as Book of the Year by Time magazine, as well as The Whale War (D&M, 1987) and Eco Wars: True Tales of Environmental Madness (Key Porter, 1989), an encyclopedia of ecological activism. It cites the deaths of Chico Mendes (murdered, Brazil, 1988), Dian Fossey (murdered, Rwanda, 1985), Fernando Pereira (murdered, New Zealand, 1985), Hilda Murrell (murdered, England, 1984), Valery Rinchinov (murdered, USSR, 1981), Joy Adamson (murdered, Kenya, 1980), Karen Silkwood (murdered? USA, 1974) and Guy Bradley (murdered, USA, 1905).
Other environmental titles include The Encyclopedia of Vanished Species (Gallery Books, 1989), Noah’s Choice: True Stories of Extinction and Survival (Penguin, 1990), The Green Booklist (Viking-Penguin, 1992) and The Complete Rhinoceros (Environmental Investigation Agency Press, 1994).
Illustrated by four wildlife artists, Nevermore: A Book of Hours (Quatrro $20) is a bestiary and a book of remembrance, updating his Encyclopedia of Vanished Species from 1989. He links the fates of extinct animals to human characters—Julius Caesar to the Aurochs, Jacques Cartier to the Great Auk, Samuel de Champlain to the Passenger Pigeon, Vitus Bering to the Stellar’s Sea Cow, Daniel Boone to the Black Bison, Charles Darwin to the Antarctic Wolf.
His Tolkien-related titles are The Tolkien Bestiary (Harbour, 1978), The Hobbit Companion (2000), Tolkien: The Illustrated Encyclopedia (2000), The Tolkien Companion (Mandarin-Mitchell-Beasley, 1993) and Tolkien’s Ring (Harper-Collins, 1994).
Tolkien’s Ring is illustrated by Alan Lee, the Oscar Award-winning artist and art director for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Hobbit films. Castles (McGraw-Hill, 1984) was the first of Day’s five collaborations with Alan Lee, followed by Lost Animals (1984), Gothic (1986), Tolkien’s Ring (1994) and Quest For King Arthur (1995).
Day told B.C. BookWorld in 2012: “My first encounter with Alan Lee was the result of a curious set of coincidences. In 1981, I was in Toronto, a couple of years after the publication of ‘A Tolkien Bestiary’ and was on my way to New York to promote my ‘Doomsday Book of Animals’ when Jack Jensen, who I had met through Earle Birney, suggested I get in touch with Ian Ballantine while I was in New York. As Ian Ballantine was the legendary founder of both Bantam and Ballantine Books, I thought this was rather presumptuous, but I was assured he was very approachable; and as the publisher of the recent best-sellers Gnomes and Faeries, would be interested in meeting me.
“With nothing much to lose I made the call while in New York. To my astonishment, he arranged a meeting that same day at Bantam Books. To my further astonishment, he stated he knew who I was and then sat by amused as he played me a tape in which his designer David Larkin was having a conversation with the illustrator Alan Lee. Two minutes into the tape, Lee was stated the illustrations were going fine, but the concept of the book and its text was a major problem for him. Ideally he would like to have someone like that author of A Tolkien Bestiary, a Canadian writer named David Day work with him on the project!
“A few months later, Ballantine had flown Alan Lee and me to New York, and then taken us up to his up state New York home in the village of Bearsville in Woodstock. There we sat around a table with the designer David Larkin and brainstormed the project that eventually became the book Castles. That was the beginning of a friendship and series of collaborations with Alan Lee that has lasted for over thirty years.”
Day’s numerous children’s books are also published worldwide. Illustrated by Eric Beddows, Day’s first children’s book, The Emperor’s Panda (McClelland & Stewart, 1986), is the story of the first panda the world has ever seen and a shepherd boy named Kung in a land called Sung Wu.
Illustrated by Richard Evans, his children’s picture book The Swan Children (Doubleday, 1989) is based on an Irish folk tale about an embittered queen who transforms four stepchildren into swans for 1,000 years, until they are liberated by tolling of church bells. Realizing the age of magic has ended, the swans return to an underwater kingdom. “What interested me,” Day said, “was the confrontation between the pagan world and the Christian one… with the result that the pagan world went underground but still existed.”
For young readers he has also published The Sleeper (Doubleday, 1990), The Walking Catfish / or The Big Lie (Macmillan, 1992 or Piccadilly, 1991), Aska’’s Animals (Doubleday, 1991), Aska’s Birds (Doubleday, 1992) Tippu (Piccadilly Press, 1993), King of the Woods (Little Brown, 1993) and Aska’s Sea Creatures (Doubleday, 1994).
Other David Day titles include The Burroughs Bestiary (London: New English Library, 1978), Castles (McGraw-Hill, 1984) and The Search for Arthur (D’Agostini, 1995), plus three more volumes of poetry: The Scarlet Coat Serial (Press Porcépic, 1981), The Animals Within (Penumbra, 1984) and Gothic (Exile, 1986).
Day has lived in Toronto, London, Spain, Greece and Victoria, including a stint working for McClelland & Stewart in Ontario. Early in his career David Day wrote for Punch in England. He has also written columns for Britain’s Daily Standard and Evening Standard. The Whale War was the basis for a BBC television film of the same name. Eco Wars was published in the United States as The Environmental Wars. The Emperor’s Panda was adapted and performed by the Young People’s Theatre of Toronto. Gothic was adapted as a stage performance by magician Simon Drak at the Royal Victoria Museum’s Magic, Shamanism and Poetry Festival in 1987. His 100-part television series Lost Animals, narrated by Greta Scacchi, has been translated into 18 languages.
In the mid-1980s, David Day brought Britain’s poet laureate Ted Hughes to B.C. to read in Victoria and Vancouver; and later with Linda Rogers he organized the Spirit Quest Festival in Victoria. Since 2007, Day has lived in Toronto but makes annual summer migrations to B.C.
In 2012, Day’s reading tour to promote his newest book, Nevermore: A Book of Hours – Meditations on Extinction (Quattro $20), coincided with his father’s 88th birthday and a totem pole-raising ceremony on the grounds of the Lieutenant Governor General’s mansion in Victoria by his old friend, Kwakiutl Chief Tony Hunt.
Illustrated by four wildlife artists, Nevermore: A Book of Hours is a medieval bestiary—part natural history, part human history, part mythology, and part literature and poetry—as well as a book of remembrance, updating his Encyclopedia of Vanished Species from 1989. Day links the fates of extinct animals to human characters—Julius Caesar to the Aurochs, Jacques Cartier to the Great Auk, Samuel de Champlain to the Passenger Pigeon, Vitus Bering to the Stellar’s Sea Cow, Daniel Boone to the Black Bison, Charles Darwin to the Antarctic Wolf.
As a tribute to a multitude of strange and astonishing species which have literally ‘gone the way of the Dodo,’ the book begins with the historic first encounters with the unjustly maligned Dodo’s extinction in 1680, and marks the beginning of ‘Globalization’ and the monetization of species that rapidly resulted in many extinctions at the hand of man.
Day says the highlight of his literary promotion was a reading at the Old Fire House in Duncan, in the Cowichan Valley, where his logging camp journals were written, giving rise to his first book, The Cowichan.
In February 2015, David Day received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Victoria, prior to the appearance in October of his study of the life and works of Lewis Carroll, Decoding Wonderland, to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, now more commonly known as Alice in Wonderland. This occasion was simultaneously marked by a UBC Library exhibit and Day’s lavishly illustrated investigation of the text by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, the British mathematician, clergyman and Oxford don now more famously known by his pseudonym, Lewis Carroll. The UBC Library exhibit featured a 19th century facsimile of Lewis Carroll’s original manuscript, works by the original illustrator John Tennell and original woodcut remarques in a linen and leather case for Dali Alice, a book illustrated by Salvador Dali in 1969. In his 296-page Wonderland Decoded: The Full Text of Lewis Carroll’s Novel with its Many Hidden Meanings Revealed (Penguin Random House 2015), David Day hasn’t didn’t shy from conjecturing about a possibly scandalous relationship between Dodgson and his “dream-child” in real life, Alice Liddell, who inspired the work. No clear evidence has arisen to explain why her parents suddenly forbid Dodgson to see her and why he was not invited to her wedding. Dodgson, who never married, liked to play with pre-pubescent children. He was obliged to remain celibate in order to retain his position at Oxford. Day spent several decades on the project as a literary detective, seeking both rare illustrations and hidden meanings. “Alice nearly wrecked my life,” he wrote to Alan Twigg. “But I’m very stubborn and once I got hooked, I couldn’t quit until it was done.”
BOOKS [according to his website]
The Cowichan (1975)
Many Voices: An Anthology of Contemporary Canadian Indian Poetry (co-editor) (1977)
The Scarlet Coat Serial (1981)
The Animals Within (1984)
The Visions and Revelations of St. Louis the Metis (1997)
Just Say ‘No’ to Family Values (1997)
Natural history and ecology
The Doomsday Book of Animals (1981)
The Whale War (1987)
The Eco Wars
True Tales of Environmental Madness (1989)
The Encyclopaedia of Vanished Species (1989)
Noah’s Choice (1990)
Green Penguin Book Guide (1992)
The Complete Rhinoceros (1994)
Vanished Species (2007)
Fantasy & mythology
The Burroughs Bestiary (1978)
A Tolkien Bestiary (1978)
Tolkien: The Illustrated Encyclopaedia (1992)
A to Z of Tolkien (1993)
The Tolkien Companion
Guide to Tolkien
Tolkien’s Ring (1994)
The Quest for King Arthur (1996)
The Hobbit Companion (1997)
The Hobbit Calendar (2004)
Tolkien’s World (2002)
Guide to Tolkien’s World
The World of Tolkien
Characters of Tolkien (2001)
Wonderland Decoded: The Full Text of Lewis Carroll’s Novel with its Many Hidden Meanings Revealed (2015) 9780385682268
History and LiteratuMany Voicesre: Sound Heritage Anthology Series (editor) (1975)
Myth and the Mountains: Sound Heritage Anthology Series (editor) (1976)
Men of the Forest: Sound Heritage Anthology Series (editor) (1977)
Children’s fiction and poetry
The Emperor’s Panda (1986)
The Swan Children (1989)
The Sleeper (1990)
Aska’s Animals (1991)
The Big Lie (1991)
The Walking Catfish (1992)
Aska’s Birds (1992)
The Wolf Children (1991)
The King of the Woods (1993)
Aska’s Sea Creatures (1995)
Television, radio, film and theatre
The Scarlet Coat – Theatre (1984) Play based on David Day’s book `THE SCARLET COAT SERIAL’. Commissioned for Theatre Saskatchewan as a heritage project by SaskTrust. Performed- Saskatchewan, Canada.
The Lost – Radio (1984) CBC National Poetry Contest Award-winning dramatized reading of ‘THE LOST’ – a long sequence of poems from David Day’s `THE ANIMALS WITHIN’ broadcast on ‘ANTHOLOGY’ the CBC’s weekly national arts program.
Gothic – Theatre (1988/2003) Stage performances in three day festival: DREAM QUEST – MAGIC, POETRY, SHAMANISM. Performed with magician Simon Drake and Hunt Family traditional Kwaguith (Kwakiutl) Native Indian Dancers, Royal Victoria Museum Theatre, Victoria, B.C., Canada. 2003 – In development by Bulgarian director, Petya Tordova, as a mixed-media theatre and film project, London, UK.
The Emperor’s Panda – Theatre (1988) Stage dramatization of David Day’s Governor General’s Award Nominated, National Library Award; and IBBY International Award Winning children’s novel . ‘THE EMPEROR’S PANDA’. Directed by Peter Moss as a full-length stage play for the national Young People’s Theatre of Toronto, Canada.
First Step – Film
Noah’s Choice – Television (1990) British ‘Channel Four For Schools’ Television Program on extinction and survival of species based on the Kestrel/Puffin book of the same name. Narrated and hosted by author David Day.
Still Life at the Penguin Cafe – Ballet (1993) Film / Television David Day’s book is acknowledged inspiration for the British Royal National Ballet’s `STILL LIFE AT THE PENGUIN CAFE’. Choreographed by David Bintley and first performed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera, New York . 1994, 1995, 1996 – World Tour with Royal National Ballet . 1996 – Filmed version at Royal Opera House Covent Garden first televised on BBC TWO Television, UK – Christmas Day. 1997-8 became available on BBC Film Video – General Release.
The Whale War – Television (1993) One hour British ITV undercover documentary on the whaling industry entitled `THE WHALE WAR’ based on David Day’s book of the same title. Produced by ITV in co-operation with the Environmental Investigation Agency. 1995 – `THE WHALE WAR’ – Feature Film option bought by 20th Century Fox.
Lost Animals – 100 part television series (1995/1996) originally created for Britain’s CHANNEL FOUR and Japan’s NHK TELEVISION NETWORKS. Produced by CLARK TV, London, and WALK PRODUCTIONS, Tokyo. SERIES OF 100 SHORT TV FILMS – one hundred individual stories of animal species that have become extinct in the 20th century. All scripts by David Day. Series is based on David Day’s DOOMSDAY BOOK OF ANIMALS. 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 – ‘LOST ANIMALS’ SERIES – in translated formats have been broadcast in twenty languages and networks worldwide: Australia, Italy, Germany, Spain, Holland, France, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, USA, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, India, Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Pakistan, South Korea, China, Hungary, Indonesia.
Just Say ‘No’ to Family Values – Poetry and jazz (1998) Narration of English language versions by Greta Scacchi. Multiple screenings on Japanese and British prime-time television and now frequently rerun by American Knowledge Network, and Japanese and British schools programming . Channel Four Videos with accompanying booklets and learning aids for students. SENATOR, TORONTO, CANADA Poetry and Jazz performance with the Juno-award winning Hugh Fraser Quintet. Poetry performed to jazz accompaniment. Also original lyrics written by David Day for Hugh Fraser’s compositions
Arthur I & Arthur II – Ballets (2000) QUEST FOR KING ARTHUR – BALLET. 2000, 2001, 2002 – David Day’s book, `QUEST FOR KING ARTHUR’ is the reference for the Royal Birmingham Ballet’s ARTHUR I & ARTHUR II. David Day was commissioned by Royal Birmingham Ballet as dramaturge under direction of David Bintley for two full-length ballets in the King Arthur Cycle:
ARTHUR – PART 1 and ARTHUR – PART 2. These ballets also have linking texts to accompany the performances. These are the longest ballets ever staged. Premiering at the Royal Opera House and Covent Garden and the National Ballet Theatre at Sadler’s Wells, ARTHUR I & ARTHUR II was the flagship arts project for the Royal Birmingham Ballet and the City of Birmingham’s Millennium Commission.
[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2015] “Environment” “Kidlit”
The UVic Libraries and the University of Victoria Alumni Association are pleased to invite you to a special event recognizing 11 outstanding members of the UVic alumni community, as part of Alumni Week 2015.
The UVic Distinguished Alumni Celebration will be held from 7:30-9 pm on February 4th at the Hotel Grand Pacific.
Distinguished alumni from across academic disciplines will be recognized. With such an array of expertise and accomplishments, it promises to be an inspiring evening.
On this occasion, the UVic Libraries are proud to honour David Day (BA 1976 – Creative Writing) as its 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient.
David Day is the author of more than 40 books of poetry, ecology, history, mythology, fantasy, and children’s literature. Internationally, he is best known for his literary criticism on J. R. R. Tolkien and his works. His books have won numerous literary awards and have been selected as “Books of the Year” by Time Magazine, New Scientist, Parents Magazine and the Observer. His books have sold over 4 million copies and have been translated into 20 languages.
Day, born and raised in Victoria, was a UVic Creative Writing graduate under the mentorship of Robin Skelton. His first book, ‘The Cowichan’ (based on his logging camp journals) was published in 1975. In 1976 he worked for the Toronto publisher, McClelland and Stewart, and two years later moved to London, England where he published ‘A Tolkien Bestiary’, the first of his six international best-sellers on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.
Day’s landmark book on animal extinction, the ‘Doomsday Book of Animals’ with an introduction by the Duke of Edinburgh, was selected in 1981 as a ‘Book of the Year’ by Time Magazine. This was followed by ‘Whale War’ 1987, ‘Eco-Wars’ 1988, and ‘Noah’s Choice’ 1990. Day has also been an environmental columnist for Britain’s Daily Mail, Evening Standard, Mail on Sunday, Sunday Times and Punch Magazine.
In the 1994, he wrote the ‘Lost Animals’ British, a Japanese TV series of one hundred, five-minute documentaries on extinct species. It was narrated by Greta Scacchi and translated into 20 languages (currently on YouTube.) His ‘Whale War’ was also the basis of a British ITV documentary.
In 1994 and 1995, his ‘Tolkien’s Ring’ and ‘Quest for King Arthur’ appeared: two of the five books with academy award-winning artist, Alan Lee. And in 2000, Day was dramaturg for the Royal Birmingham Ballet’s millennium productions of ‘Arthur I’ and ‘Arthur II’.
Day has also written nine illustrated children’s books, while his children’s novel, ‘The Emperor’s Panda’, was runner-up for both the Governor General’s Award and the National Library Award.
Day’s CBC award-winning poems have been praised by the Canadian poets Earle Birney, Al Purdy and Margaret Atwood; while the late British poet laureate Ted Hughes wrote: “Day’s poems are flight monologues – whirling kaleidoscopic surges through the weathers and times of his life.”
Most recently, he has published ‘Nevermore: A Book of Hours’ in 2012 and ‘A Tolkien Dictionary’ in 2013. His study of the life and works of Lewis Carroll, ‘Decoding Wonderland’, will appear in October 2015 to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’.