Related works

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Books and other works that meet at some point with Riddley Walker.


Doctor Mirabilis

By James Blish (1964). Historical novel about the life of Roger Bacon, touching upon some of the same themes as RW and Canticle, e.g., the nature of knowledge and orthodoxy in a preindustrial world, intuition and misreading as tools of discovery, and gunpowder. Out of print.

A Mouthful of Air

By Anthony Burgess (William Morrow, 1992). An overview of linguistics—aimed at a general audience, but still extremely thorough—discussing how English has evolved, and how words and dialects evolve in general. Particularly valuable for its exploration of the tension between structure and ambiguity (which Riddley Walker puts to such good use), and for its reminder that the idea of "standard" English hides a great deal of regional variation and history. At least two of Burgess's novels, A Clockwork Orange and Nothing Like the Sun, are written in invented or borrowed dialects, and he treats the subject with passion and wit.

The Golden Bough

By James Frazer (Touchstone, 1996; originally published 1922). Probably the best-known modern work of comparative mythology, describing recurring patterns of religious practice such as sacrificial kingship, sacred marriage and resurrection myths. Frazer has since come under fire for misconstruing or exaggerating his sources to suit his overall thesis of the pagan roots of Christianity, and for his (typically for the time) condescending remarks about "savage" cultures; but the book is still extremely influential, especially on the modern "neo-pagan" movement. (abridged edition online and an argumentative essay)

Mr. Punch

By Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean (Vertigo/DC Comics, 1994). Dark comic-book novella about a boy's encounter with Punch showmen and other shady characters at a seaside arcade. Includes several typical Punch vignettes alarmingly depicted in McKean's haunting mixed-media style. (publisher's page)


By Russell Hoban (1996). Surreal science-fiction mystery in which a technology for space travel has bizarre consequences. (more)


By Russell Hoban (1974). Comedic fantasy about hospitals, the creative force, and Orpheus in the subway. (more)

The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz

By Russell Hoban (1973). Hoban's first non-children's novel, about a young man's coming of age, an absent father, and an archetypal lion. (more)

The Medusa Frequency

By Russell Hoban (1987). Fantasy comedy in which a heartbroken novelist encounters the head of Orpheus. (more)


By Russell Hoban (1983). Hoban described this novel as continuing the "action" of Riddley Walker metaphorically, though it is not a sequel, but rather the dark philosophical journey of a 12th-century German Jew caught up in the Crusades and the siege of Antioch. (more)

Turtle Diary

By Russell Hoban (1975). Urban realistic novel about two lonely adults wanting to release sea turtles from the zoo. One kind of sea turtle is called a Ridley. (annotations for Turtle Diary)

A Canticle for Leibowitz

By Walter M. Miller, Jr. (1959). Early classic of the "post-holocaust" subgenre of science fiction, with many parallels to RW, though entirely different in style. Thousands of years after a nuclear war, Catholic monasteries preserve scraps of knowledge from the past, and a martyred nuclear scientist has become a myth-figure. As civilization re-emerges, it quickly rediscovers the technology of destruction and the cycle begins again. (more)

Cloud Atlas

By David Mitchell (Random House, 2004). Part science fiction and part historical novel, ranging from the 19th century to the distant future. In an essay originally written for the 2005 Russell Hoban Soam-Poasyum, Mitchell cited RW as an inspiration for the "Sloosha's Crossin'" section of the novel. LF

Through the Narrow Gate

By Christine Wilkie (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1989). A short academic study of Hoban's early novels through the mid-1980s (The Mouse and His Child, The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz, Kleinzeit, Turtle Diary, Riddley Walker, Pilgermann, and The Medusa Frequency). It is concerned primarily with archetypes and Jungian theory/depth psychology as they appear in Hoban's work. One chapter focuses on Riddley Walker, another on the experimental play that was based on the novel and that had some input from Hoban. DS

Russell Hoban/Forty Years: Essays on His Writing for Children

Edited by Alida Allison (Garland Publishing, 2000). Literary analysis of Hoban's children's books from many angles, teasing out themes that have also featured in his work for adults including RW. Out of print, available as an ebook for Kindle or Nook.


Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

1985 science-fiction film directed by George Miller, set in a barbaric post-nuclear-war world, where a wandering hero (Mel Gibson) takes up with a band of wild children—who speak in an invented slang and are waiting for a messiah called "Mr. Walker"—against the corrupt government of "Auntie Entity" (Tina Turner). Besides the names, there is an obvious (if clumsy) Hoban homage in a scene where the children narrate their myths using a "tel"—in this case, a broken television.

Also, the energy source for Auntie's city is pig shit.

Current 93

This English "apocalyptic folk" band led by David Tibet—described by MW as "an interesting group, though not everyone's cup of tea"—has numerous RW references in their lyrics: their song "The Blue Gates of Death" incorporates a rhyme from the book, another song is titled "In the Heart of the Wood and What I Found There", and the album Of Ruine or Some Blazing Starre cites the St. Eustace story. (more)


U.S. rock/blues/metal band whose song "Rapture of Riddley Walker" (on From Beale Street to Oblivion, 2007) deploys an assortment of Hobanic terms within what is otherwise a pretty standard lyric of grandiose despair. Good music though.