Saturday, August 25, 2018

Not your typical Disney fairy tale

So, having finished up the Applied Topology series with an adventure (The Lake of the Dragon, forthcoming later this year) that takes Thalia up into the Pamirs, I'm starting a new series that has some links back to the first series -- notably, the language of that remote village in the High Pamirs, which turns out to have some very interesting properties. And at the same time, I'm mulling over a third fantasy series built around Lake Shaimak and its Dragon.

Reading the folklore of a region often feeds my fantasy plotting with new ideas, so I went hither and yon on the Internet in search of Pamiri folk tales and found just one book: Tales from the Roof of the World. 333 pages. In German. No translation that I could find. "Oh, well, it'll be good for my vocabulary," I groaned, and ordered a copy.

I've been relieved to find that it's not very difficult reading. The stories are written for a general audience, not a scholarly one (Thank you, God) and I can get by with looking up maybe 4 to 5 words a page if my dictionary's handy, or I can wing it making context-based guesses if the dictionary's in the other room. And the stories are starting off on an unexpected note.

I knew I was going to enjoy the first group of stories when I saw that the table of contents listed them under the sub-heading "The Power of Women." What I didn't see coming was...

The first story opened as all such tales always have. The king whose daughter's beauty shone like the light of the moon, check. Task for the princes who woo her,check. Prince after prince after prince fails, check.

Then, just as I was about to go to sleep, there entered the Hashish Smoker and his Water Pipe.

Not only that, the Hashish Smoker gets the girl because he tells the best stories!

Oookay. We're not in Walt Disney World any more, and I can't wait to find out what the next folk tale is about!

But if you want to look at traditions before they were Disneyfied, you might note that the Victorians wouldn't necessarily have been as surprised as I was by the entrance of the Hashish Smoker. Just look at the illustration to this post; it's one of Tenniel's original illustrations to Alice in Wonderland.

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