is a 1986 young adult fantasy/science-fiction novel by the American writer Madeleine L’Engle. It follows twin brothers Sandy and Dennys Murry as they accidentally teleport into the era of the Biblical Flood, finding the desert populated with supernatural creatures. Many Waters
forms part of L’Engle’s Time Quartet
(or Time Quintet
), which began with the Newbery Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time
The novel opens as twin brothers Sandy and Dennys return home to an empty house. It’s the middle of a cold winter and their hockey practice has been abandoned due to snow. The brothers fix a snack and take it to the laboratory where their parents—both research scientists—work.
In the lab, they notice that their father has a new computer. The keyboard is particularly exciting: it has keys for the Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Cyrillic alphabets. Dennys types “take me someplace warm.” Sandy is initially worried about fiddling with the computer, but when nothing happens, he joins in, typing, “someplace warm and sparsely populated.” Dennys adds, “low humidity.” As they leave the lab, they notice a sign on the door: “Experiment in progress. Please keep out.” They are alarmed. The sign wasn’t there when they came in. Behind the door to the kitchen is a hot mist. The house disappears.
The boys are standing in a hot, empty desert. They realize immediately that they have become involved in an experiment. Sweltering in their winter clothes, they strip to their underwear and set off in the direction of the only landmark in sight, a palm tree. As they walk, a cliff rises from the sand in front of them. In its shade, they meet a four-foot-high man, who introduces himself as Japheth. The twins and Japheth are able to understand each other, even though they recognize that they are speaking different languages. Japheth labels the boys “giants” because they are as tall as “seraphim” or “nephilim.” Japheth summons a small mammoth named Higgaion, who in turn summons a unicorn, a nearly-invisible shimmering being that will help them find water.
Noticing that the twins are on the verge of heatstroke, Japheth suggests they call unicorns of their own, to take them to Japheth’s oasis. As they ride, both boys begin to pass out. By the time Sandy reaches the oasis, Dennys has disappeared.
Sandy comes round in a tent that belongs to Japheth’s grandfather, Lamech. He learns that the camp is divided: Lamech is feuding with his son, Noah, who is the leader of the family. Sandy meets Lamech’s granddaughter, Yalith, and there is immediate chemistry between them. Japheth’s family promise to help Sandy find his brother, but they explain about the hazards posed by other creatures, especially the nephilim. The nephilim are fallen angels, who can turn into animals at will. They lust after the daughters of men, and some of Noah’s womenfolk have been lured away to become their wives. Lamech’s family also explains about the seraphim: angelic beings who serve a divine being called El.
Dennys is found by members of Noah’s camp. He has been mistreated, but he doesn’t know why or by whom. For a while, the two boys are too unwell to leave their tents, and the two camps will not communicate with one another. Yalith and other women in her family go over to look after Dennys. As the twins recover, they each earn a place in their new environment. Dennys can hear “the music of the stars,” while Sandy proves useful in Lamech’s garden. Through the intervention of the twins, Lamech and Noah are reconciled. Both boys separately fall in love with Yalith (and she with them).
El informs Lamech that Noah and his family must build an ark to save themselves from a coming flood; the twins realize that they have wandered into the Biblical story of the Flood. They are worried. They don’t remember Yalith’s name from the Bible, or the names of many other people in the family whom they like. What will happen to them? However, the twins know that they must not alter events, or they might disturb history itself.
All this while, the nephilim have been growing suspicious of the twins. The nephilims’ wives spy on the boys, and one of them, Tiglah, attempts to seduce Sandy, although without success. Dennys wonders the nephilim mistreated him during his disappearance.
Lamech dies and Noah’s family mourns. During the funeral, they discover that Sandy is missing. They all set out to search for him, realizing that he has been kidnapped by the nephilim.
Meanwhile Sandy learns how the unicorns work: they can travel anywhere in space and time, but the rider has to believe in them. He summons a unicorn, which leads Japheth and Higgaion to him.
The boys help Noah build his ark. There is no place on the Ark for Yalith: she is summoned by the cherubim into the presence of El. The twins see that the other women are not in the Biblical story because of the patriarchal convention of ignoring the contribution of female family members. As the rain begins to fall, the twins ride a unicorn home.
Although Many Waters
was not the most successful of Engle’s “Time” novels, it was described as a “carefully-wrought fable” (Kirkus Reviews
), and fans of Engle’s work welcomed the novel’s focus on Sandy and Dennys, who are minor characters in the series’ other installments.