Ring of Bright Water
About this deal
Field, Marcus (2014-07-14). "Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion". The Independent . Retrieved 2021-09-14. Along the way Mijbil's sub species is clarified as not previously named, and so it became Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli.
Reader's Digest Condensed Books; Autumn 1961, Volume 47: Ring of Bright Water / The Judas Tree / The Edge of Sadness / A Fall of Moondust / A Christmas Carol / Summer of Pride This was one of my favorite books as a middle-grader - thereafter when my parents asked what I wanted for my birthday, it was always the same: an otter. (Nope. That never happened.)
Overall, Maxwell comes across as charming, eccentric and his appreciation of animals and birds is obvious. There can be various criticisms levelled at him for his attempts at domesticating wild animals, but I believe Maxwell was leading change in animal welfare and treatment, and it is unreasonable to judge him in recent terms. He writes incredibly well in describing the landscapes, flora and fauna and he delights in sharing it in his writing. To describe this book in one word I would use charming. The subsequent two books break down the façade a little and I think it's a shame that most people just read the first and accept it at face value. It does get a little depressing and self pitying though. It's also only really in the final book that he starts accepting some personal responsibility for events. Up until that point almost everything that goes wrong is due to someone else. I was uncomfortable with the very opening paragraph of Chapter 1 — the image of an otter, a wild creature asleep in Maxwell’s cottage. But I decided to let the matter pass and read on, hoping to arrive at a fair judgment of the book. And to some degree I was not disappointed. The work is literate, well structured and richly illustrated; it offers a highly appealing picture of a truly spectacular place.
Mij's inquisitive and adventurous nature leads him some distance from the cottage to a female otter with whom he spends the day. Ignorant of danger, he is caught in a net and nearly killed. The humans find him and help him recover. Graham spends a significant amount of time drawing Mij, but realises that to show the true agility of the otter he must draw it underwater. He builds a large tank out of old windows so that he can do this. What surprised me the most was my changed response to this book. I was not happy by the read as I had been when younger. It reminded me of my desire to acquire my own otter, and then thought of all the crazy kids in the 60's and 70's like me that wanted exotic pets (I'm thinking of Tiger King, here!). It seems to me these kind of stories may have helped that unfortunate trend along. Wouldn't the poor creatures been better left in their natural environments?
Fifty years ago Gavin Maxwell went to live in an abandoned house on a shingle beach on the west coast of Scotland. A haven for wildlife - he named his home Camusfearna and settled there with the otters Mij, Edal and Teko. Interestingly, the name of the book came from a poem written about/for him by Kathleen Raine, called The Marriage of Psyche: