Monday, January 12, 2015


A while back I wrote a book called Dawnwind: Last Man Standing.  It's the story of a solitary human who goes to live among an alien race, the Junians.  I'm still working on the follow-up book, which has been proceeding at a glacial pace.  Nevertheless, it does continue to grow by lines and paragraphs.
One of the most interesting things about writing in this setting is the background, the world-building. Junian culture is different from our own. Conflict among them is very rare. That doesn't mean that there aren't differences among them, but they almost never come to blows over these differences.
Thinking about their culture, trying to pin down their mindset, has led me to consider how the Junians might view aspects of our culture.
For example, if you were to show them Les Miserables, they would quite enjoy the musical bits, but the Inspector's vendetta against Valjean would leave them completely baffled. Likewise, Fantine's treatment and fate would mystify them and they would be repulsed by the Thenardiers.
In Dawnwind, my protagonist has to explain what a 'murder mystery' is to one of his hosts.  The idea of a violent, antisocial act being used as fodder for entertainment mystifies him.  He remarks, quite frankly, that he would prefer a good comedy or a romance.
Agatha Christie, alas, would not find many admirers among the Junians.
Which, by a circuitious route, led me to consider the matter of fairytales.  Fairytales can reflect the core values of a culture.  Most of our fairytales would probably leave the Junians cold.  They would be the fodder of nightmares among them.  Hansel & Gretel, alone, would be enough to convince a typical Junian that humans probably deserved their fate.
But what would a Junian fairytale be like?  What morals or cultural lessons would a Junain fairytale strive to impart to a child?
Below, is an example of one such story.

Once there were a man and a woman who loved each other very much. They married and set up their house, but try as they might, they could not conceive a child.  They consulted physicians and sorcerers but none could help them. Finally, they spoke to a priest who told them to pray for a child, which they did.

One day, after bathing in a blue lake, the childless couple discovered a redfruit tree.  It was tall and slim, its limbs weighted down by succulent fruit.  The husband climbed the tree with his knife and began to cut the fruit, dropping it into his wife’s waiting arms.  

Then, near the top of the tree, the husband discovered a fruit redder than blood and much bigger than any of the others.  When he cut it free from the limb, the husband heard a wailing cry coming from the fruit.  He was so shocked that he almost dropped it.  Instead, clinging to the strange fruit, he quickly climbed down the tree.

On the ground, husband and wife examined the fruit.  They could both still hear the sound of a babe crying. Finally, the wife said, “Husband, cut the fruit open.”

The husband cut the fruit open and beneath the rind, they found a beautiful baby girl.

The wife immediately gathered the weeping infant into her arms.  No sooner had the child been clasped to the woman’s breast than its cries ended, replaced by gurgles of delight.

“We have found our daughter,” said the woman.

“Yes, we have,” agreed the man.

They took the baby home with them and named her Tasoti.

Tasoti grew into a loving, friendly child.  Everyone who met her loved her and she had many, many friends.

Then, one day, Tasoti came to her parents and said, “I must go home.”

“You are home, child,” said her mother.

“No,” said Tasoti. “I must go home to the tree where you found me.”

Now, this caused great alarm to boil in the hearts of her parents, for they had never told Tasoti her origin.

“Why must you go?” asked her father.

“It is time,” said Tasoti. “I must go home.”

At first her parents refused to let her leave, but every day Tasoti would come up to them and say, “I must go home.”

And every day her loving parents said, “No.”

Time passed and Tasoti began to look tired and worn.  Her lush red hair grew thin and brittle, she lost weight and would not eat.  Every night she would cry herself to sleep.

Her parents’ hearts were torn by her suffering, until, one day, when Tasoti told them she must go home, they nodded in solemn accordance and said, “Yes. We will take you home.”

Tasoti smiled and her parents rose and took her hands and led her to the blue lake and the redfruit tree where they had discovered her so many years ago.

At the tree, Tasoti turned and hugged her mother and father, then walked up to the redfruit tree.  She wrapped her arms around its slender trunk and sighed.

“I am home.”

And, as her parents watched, Tasoti melted into the tree and was gone.

Her parents returned to their house, where they mourned her loss, and then celebrated her life.  And every year, on the anniversary of her birth, they would go to the redruit tree. There, they would hang garlands of flowers on its slender limbs, to remember their loving daughter and to thank the gods for sending her to them, even if she could not stay.

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