Friday, 27 March 2015

The Oubliette

Oubliette in Wales - Source
Ah, the oubliette. For all those things that need or want to be forgotten. Including people. Yes, the oubliette (coming from the french word, oublier - 'to forget') was a form of dungeon or prison in which people were lowered and then often forgotten about. The only entrance and exit being the hole in the ceiling.

I first came across this fascinating but repulsive idea in another of Tim Wynne Jones books.

From what I recall of the story (and found online) it features a woman, Alexis, whose recent divorce sends her on a 'vacation' to the UK. There, amongst the ruins of an old and condemned castle, Fastyngange, she discovers an oubliette. Which begins to talk to her.

The oubliette spins her stories of the things it has seen (and contained) while ghosts roam the castle grounds around her. The hole convinces her to disassemble it (just the 'mouth') and bring it back to Toronto. Which she does. She chooses to travel back home to Canada aboard a ship -- which gives her plenty of time to discover that along with the oubliette she is also tansporting several of the castle's ghosts.

Once back in the sane lands of her Toronto home Alexis' entire experience is explained away by an analyst/psychiatrist as a delusion; suffered after the shock of her ex-husband's departure.

And then you discover that the entire story has been narrated by the oubliette to a vagrant who has come across its discarded remains in a back alley.

Read more about it here.