Dreams and Visions in the Chronicles of Ancient Dark Series

Niklas writes…

Dear Michelle Paver,
I am currently writing an essay in a class about Dreams in literature for children and teenagers. In my essay I want to take a closer look at the Chronicles of Ancient Dark as I always felt like you had a clever way to place dreams or visions in a way that not only push forward the narrative but also give great insight into one of the characters while also giving explanations for these dreams or visions that fit the lore of the world you built. I am curious as to:
1. What was your vision/intention with using dreams and visions to greater extend?
2. When it comes to Wolf how did you come up with ideas of how an animal would dream?
3. Do you feel there is anything that differentiates Chronicles of Ancient Darks usage of Dreams from other book series?

Michelle Replies…

Dear Niklas, what an interesting essay.  To answer your questions: (1) My intentions in using dreams and visions in the Wolf Brother books were largely as you say, either to drive the story, and/or to show character – while trying to stay in keeping with how prehistoric people might have thought.  In psychological terms, the dreams of Renn and Torak mostly tend to show what’s going on in their unconscious: in other words, what they’re not yet conscious of knowing, but are aware of at a deeper level. For instance, in Viper’s Daughter when Renn dreams/has a vision of her mother, on a psychological level this is her unconscious  helping her process the fact that she has inherited aspects of her mother – which, as she comes to realise over the course of the story – aren’t all bad.  Also, some of Renn’s waking visions, and all of Torak’s spirit walking,  are of course based on shamanism, as practised by many indigenous peoples all over the world (and probably by prehistoric people as well).  (2) For Wolf’s dreams, I’ve used what I know of wolf and dog cognition, and I’ve tried to keep his dreams simpler than those of Torak and Renn, and rooted in instinct and feeling; the same goes for all the passages from Wolf’s point of view.  (3) Finally, I can’t really say whether my approach differs from how dreams are used in other book series, as I don’t really know any.  Except, I suppose, that I try to avoid dreams being too prophetic.  I wouldn’t regard that as realistic – unless, of course, the “prophecy” really relates to something that the character is already unconsciously aware of.  I hope the above proves helpful to you – and good luck with what sounds like a fascinating essay!  With best wishes, Michelle