Harvest

by

Jim Crace

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Mistress Beldam/Stranger Woman Character Analysis

An enigmatic woman who arrives in the village with her father and husband at the beginning of the novel. Her real name is never known; Master Kent nicknames her Mistress Beldam, and Walter explains that he’s referencing the word “beldam,” meaning a female sorceress, and the phrase “Belle Dame,” meaning a beautiful woman. It’s a powerful name, and Mistress Beldam is associated with the power of the natural world, which inspires both attraction and wariness in the villagers. When she first arrives, the villagers note her youth and fertility and see her as a mate for their sons, a means by which they can shore up the village’s declining population. Walter often compares her to an animal and she survives in the forest for long periods of time, showing her close connection to an abundant nature. However, she’s also a highly destructive force, especially after the death of her father; she commits senseless acts of violence, like killing Master Kent’s horse and likely murdering Mr. Quill, and she puts the final seal on the village’s demise by burning all the cottages. In this sense, she represents the natural world’s promise of strength and regeneration and, at the same time, its destructive and anarchic potential.

Mistress Beldam/Stranger Woman Quotes in Harvest

The Harvest quotes below are all either spoken by Mistress Beldam/Stranger Woman or refer to Mistress Beldam/Stranger Woman. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Harvest published in 2013.
Chapter 3 Quotes

We know we ought to make amends for shearing her. That’s why she’s standing there, awaiting us. She’s asking us to witness what we’ve done […] For a moment, the temper of the barn is not that she has shamed our evening but that we’ve found our Gleaning Queen.

Related Characters: Walter Thirsk (speaker), Mistress Beldam/Stranger Woman
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

It feels as if some impish force has come out of the forest in the past few days to see what pleasure it can take in causing turmoil in a tranquil place.

Related Characters: Walter Thirsk (speaker), Mistress Beldam/Stranger Woman
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

The plowing’s done. The seed is spread. The weather is reminding me that, rain or shine, the earth abides, the land endures, the soil will persevere forever and a day. Its smell is pungent and high-seasoned. This is happiness.

Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Harvest LitChart as a printable PDF.
Harvest PDF

Mistress Beldam/Stranger Woman Character Timeline in Harvest

The timeline below shows where the character Mistress Beldam/Stranger Woman appears in Harvest. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
Then a woman emerges from the half-demolished shack. Her head is bloody from the collapse of the roof,... (full context)
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
The woman is enthralling to the men, not because of her beauty, but because she’s “within reach”... (full context)
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Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
...they put the longbows aside, saying this is “no place for rough manners,” but the woman responds derisively that they’ve only seen rough manners since they arrived here. Master Kent decrees... (full context)
Chapter 3
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
...the Derby twins seem ashamed, as do all the men who held down the strange woman and cut her hair. By now everyone has figured out who really set the fire,... (full context)
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
Just when they’re becoming truly merry, the strange woman approaches the barn, standing at the edge of the feast. Walter recognizes the shawl he’s... (full context)
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Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Mistress Beldam hesitates for a moment and then walks away through the gate. The villagers “exchange sheepish... (full context)
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
Master Kent asks Walter to find Mistress Beldam and bring her to the barn, where she can find some shelter away from “danger.”... (full context)
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
Then Walter goes in search of Mistress Beldam . He’s always been loyal to Master Kent’s instructions, having known him since childhood; Walter’s... (full context)
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
...by the same thoughts as he is. He feels more entitled to search for the woman than they are, since he doesn’t have to hide her from a wife or family.... (full context)
Chapter 4
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
With the shock of Mistress Beldam ’s appearance at the feast, the village still hasn’t nominated a Gleaning Queen. All the... (full context)
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
...of dramatic thought, looking into the distance, and the villagers wonder if he’s waiting for Mistress Beldam to appear so he can crown her the Gleaning Queen; some of the men turn... (full context)
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
...but he’s intrigued by Mr. Quill and hopes he can find discover some sign of Mistress Beldam during their tour of the village. (full context)
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
Master Kent stands watching the gleaning. He knows Walter hasn’t found Mistress Beldam , but he seems more troubled than this circumstance warrants. Earlier, he told Walter that... (full context)
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
...until they reach the steaming marsh. The smell is terrible and there’s no sign of Mistress Beldam , but Mr. Quill is excited by everything in the village, exclaiming on its humble... (full context)
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
...a potential opportunity to him. As they approach the pillory, he realizes he’s forgotten about Mistress Beldam and feels suddenly disloyal. Right after this thought, he and Mr. Quill catch sight of... (full context)
Chapter 6
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
...his own survival before all his neighbors become aware of the news. He thinks of Mistress Beldam spending the night in the forest, and then he and Kitty make love again. Walter... (full context)
Chapter 7
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
...have gone wrong already. Walter thinks back on the strangers with their raised bows and Mistress Beldam , still at large; he now sees these events as evidence that something is fundamentally... (full context)
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
...Jordan discovers a bloodstained piece of cloth, which Walter and Master Kent immediately recognize as Mistress Beldam ’s shawl. Jordan demands that Walter identify the shawl’s owner but he says it doesn’t... (full context)
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Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
Any man besides Master Kent would be angry at a woman who killed his beloved horse; however, he seems neither surprised nor angry at this evident... (full context)
Chapter 8
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
...he’s doing. Mr. Quill says he fears “for us,” but Walter points out that it’s Mistress Beldam who has most to fear. They agree that she must be found and warned, before... (full context)
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Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
The two men are worried that Mistress Beldam will return to the cottage where she hid the shawl, and which the servants are... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...the ransacking of the cottages, to Willowjack’s death, to the impending arrival of the sheep—to Mistress Beldam . Even Walter considers the possibility that “she’s brought a curse onto our land.” They’ve... (full context)
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
...the manor, explain that all the recent troubles are the fault of the newcomers, particularly Mistress Beldam , and ask for the women back in exchange for their help in apprehending her. (full context)
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
...breaks off from the villagers and joins Mr. Quill, as they’ve agreed to search for Mistress Beldam that night. As they settle down to wait in the shadows, Mr. Quill explains that... (full context)
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Eventually, all three men hear Mistress Beldam coming. Walter isn’t sure if the husband knows they are crouching near him, or if... (full context)
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...runs to the pillory, hides the bottle which she’s dropped, and hurries after the departed woman. (full context)
Chapter 10
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
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...the three strangers, who arrived at the same time he did. His kind behavior to Mistress Beldam and the young man proves they’re scheming together. Moreover, since Walter now spends too much... (full context)
Chapter 11
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
...night and played no part in the torture. Now he must be eager to find Mistress Beldam , as she’s a “free-roaming sorceress to lay his hands upon.” (full context)
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The groom spots Walter and asks if he knows anything about the whereabouts of Mistress Beldam . From his swaggering demeanor, Walter knows the man doesn’t understand how much the villagers... (full context)
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...same time he’s vaguely jealous that Mr. Quill might have caught up with the fascinating woman and might be spending the night with her right now. (full context)
Chapter 14
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Now there are only four people in the village: Walter, Mistress Beldam , her husband, and Mr. Quill. Walter plans to search for him the next day,... (full context)
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
...left for the pigs to eat. For the matter, the pigs could easily have eaten Mistress Beldam as well, since Walter hasn’t seen her for two days. On the other hand, Mistress... (full context)
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
...When he lies down on this makeshift nest, he realizes Master Jordan has been using Mistress Beldam ’s shawl as a pillow. Walter wraps it around him, imagining he’s sleeping next to... (full context)
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
...again after dawn he finds that the shawl is gone. It seems to Walter that Mistress Beldam “has been roaming like a living ghost throughout our lanes,” not needing to sleep. She... (full context)
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...him and assumes he’s gone to sleep in one of the cottages, perhaps reunited with Mistress Beldam . (full context)
Chapter 15
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...the storm has subsided, Walter leaves Kitty’s cottage to look for the young man and Mistress Beldam , thinking that they should be grateful to him and welcome his company. They must... (full context)
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
...Kitty, one as John, another as Master Kent, two more for the young man and Mistress Beldam , and the last as Cecily. In his imagination, all of them are proud of... (full context)
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
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...asleep and dreams that he’s knocking on doors and no one answers. In the dream, Mistress Beldam gags him with her shawl and strikes him with a metal prong, after which all... (full context)
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...plume of smoke rising from the manor house chimney, which means the young man and Mistress Beldam have spent the night there. Although it’s logical that a young couple will be curious... (full context)
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...Mr. Quill’s body among the animal corpses. He sees a small monument of stones, which Mistress Beldam must have constructed for her father. Cupping his hands, Walter calls to Mr. Quill several... (full context)
Chapter 16
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
...has been cooking and it smells homely, as it did when Lucy Kent was alive. Mistress Beldam has been using the manor’s stores to care for her liberated husband. (full context)
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
...man is naked and wrapped in the shawl while his clothes dry against the fire. Mistress Beldam has made a stew and set the table for three, waiting for Walter to arrive... (full context)
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...are no clothes drying and the fire is dead. In fact, the young man and Mistress Beldam have ransacked the parlor and stolen everything of value. Walter walks into the scullery, which... (full context)
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Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
...behind shows enthusiastic spite. On one hand, this is justified since the young man and Mistress Beldam suffered much in the village; however, Walter feels betrayed by Mistress Beldam’s “keenness to punish... (full context)
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
...climbed them recently, leaving smudges on the bannister. He wonders if the young man and Mistress Beldam are hiding from him and calls out, but they don’t respond. Carefully, Walter climbs up... (full context)
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Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
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...and the cottages; soon the whole row, even his own house, is engulfed. He knows Mistress Beldam has set the fire and sees the couple loading a cart with possessions from the... (full context)
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Walter knows he needs to leave the manor before Mistress Beldam sets it on fire as well. If he’s caught in the wooden turret, he won’t... (full context)
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...the imprisoned women named him. He wonders if Jordan’s men or the young man and Mistress Beldam are responsible. He feels that he’s failed Mr. Quill, both because he’s allowed him to... (full context)
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However, Mistress Beldam doesn’t arrive with her torch. Perhaps she’s in a hurry to leave before someone returns... (full context)
Chapter 17
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
...earth. The manor house is burning; if anyone ever asks, Walter will blame it on Mistress Beldam , who is bringing “sin and mischief” to the village but also “bearing [him] away.” (full context)