Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Chukchi Bible

Oh hey! I wrote a book review for my internship class and the Three Percent blog a few weeks ago of The Chukchi Bible by Yuri Rytkheu. I really enjoyed the mixture of memoir and folk tale, as well as learning a bit more about the lifestyle of Arctic and nomadic tribes. So until my final course paper is written and before I finaly get to a recap of the March cross-country road trop, here's an excerpt of my review-oriented ramblings:

"A bird flies around, takes a few shits, the shit turns into land and, voilĂ , the world is created.

That may sound like a summary of a terrible animated short or a 1970s acid trip, but it’s simply my poorly hyper-abridged version of one of many truly beautiful Chukchi folk tales that mark the beginning of time and man in Yuri Rytkheu’s The Chukchi Bible. Here’s the real version:

A raven was flying over an expanse. From time to time he slowed his flight and scattered his droppings. Wherever solid matter fell, a land mass appeared; wherever liquid fell became rivers and lakes, puddles and rivulets. Sometimes First Bird’s excrements mingled together, and this created the tundra marshes. The hardest of the Raven’s droppings served as the building blocks for scree slopes, mountains, and craggy cliffs.

There’s just something amazing about folk tales. I grew up with them as bedtime stories and have had a soft spot for them ever since, even preferring them to all things Disney. See, I find fairy tales lack that realistic nitty-gritty and hometown hero charm only a culture-specific folk tale can evoke. “Folk tales” focus on specific aspects of a culture, its values and history, whereas “fairy tales” are mostly about dwarves, princes hooking up with princesses, and evil queens getting tossed into canyons. While both forms of story telling are meant to entertain, folk tales are better in regard to educating and reminding us where we come from. And The Chukchi Bible has no shortage of heroes, culture, reality and that delicious nitty-gritty that makes stories like this all the more tangible."

The rest of the review can be found here. So far I'm 2/2 on reading and liking works published by Archipelago Books. I've got a couple more from them to start and hope I'll find them just as enjoyable.

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