Saturday, December 15, 2012

Where’s There: The Hagway

Having been given 24 hours to prove his existence (and come up with a way to defeat Snodrog), Sir Bertram wanders the land until he comes to this road winding “through country vaguely reminiscent of northern Indiana” [The Pedant and the Shuffly; 30-1].

Published in 1968, The Pedant and the Shuffly comes at the tail end of Bellairs’ stint in academia, including teaching at various Midwestern colleges such as Indiana University Northwest. During his undergraduate years Bellairs had traveled numerous times from South Bend to Chicago, passing through the industrial hotbed of Gary, Indiana – itself not known as the most alluring or picturesque place in the country. Beginning in the fall of 1960, and continuing for the next three years, Bellairs again visited Gary though this time on a regular basis to teach English courses whilst still a graduate student at the University of Chicago.

The Indiana Toll Road was the inspiration behind the Hagway and Dale Fitschen recalls driving Bellairs on it between Chicago and Gary: “In winter, the sky was gray and the air yellow, miles of utility towers, polluted ponds, and blasted heath. Twere godawful on morale to pass that on the way to make an attempt at sprightly teaching.”

This is the earliest use of the word “hag” in Bellairs’ published work and it (or derivatives) would go on to feature elsewhere in his writing. This time around Bellairs uses the word (‘hag’ [ugly] + ‘way’ [road, path]) to belittle long, unattractive, winding roads.

Bellairs also made use of the word Hagway in Massachusetts, writing in a June 1968 letter that he “got a tumble from Emmanuel College, a good Catholic girl’s school out on the Hagway in Boston near Hagway Park.” The main thoroughfare past Emmanuel College is actually The Fenway, though the park he refers to is either the marshy Back Bay Fens Park or the actual baseball stadium located nearby.

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