Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Book Review: The Blaft Book of Mizo Myths

Mythology of a region is essentially the collective memory of generations of people who inhabited the place. A myth is like a species of organism that evolves, adapts, spreads and perpetuates itself through oral re-tellings. With each retelling, a myth absorbs something from the person who tells it and those who hear it. I believe introduction of verbal languages has seriously caused a threat to the evolution of myths. By writing down a myth, its organic nature is threatened. It attains a state of permanency which totally stops its growth.

Having stated that, today it has reached a stage where the recording of myths and study of mythology has become important. Otherwise these amazing amalgamation of cultural snippets from past will cease to exist. In Malayalam this attempt had begun a century back when Kottarathil Shankunni recorded the mythology of Kerala in an exhaustive volume called Aithihyamala. Today every region in India have become aware of the cultural value of mythology and are taking serious steps to collect and do research on them.

That was the reason I was thrilled to receive a book from Blaft Publications about mythology of Mizoram. The book titled The Blaft Book of Mizo Myths is written by Cherrie Lalnunziri Chhangte who is a scholar doing research in comparative study of Native American and Mizo literature. To be frank, I was disappointed by the length of the book, I expected more. (It is 50+ pages book). But after fully reading it, I believe it was a sensible decision.

The book introduces you to a very different world and I would say the stories are unlike any myths that I, possessing whatever limited exposure of Indian mythology, have come across. What make Mizo myths and fairy tales distinct from others is that, they have a childish inquisitiveness, an intent to probe the unknown and come up with simple answers to every puzzle that they meet in their lives. Another factor that I noticed is that the content of these stories are pretty mature. For the kids of today who are overprotected from the contact with nature and outside life, these stories of unrestricted congruence with the amazing world out there, may be hard to adapt. But once they adapt, I believe it has the potential to be a treasure trove with life altering possibilities.

The book contains six stories, and each of them take you to a different surreal atmosphere. There are stories of lovers, warriors, otherworldly creatures like weretigers and Mura, a huge predatory bird (I was envisioning a pterodactyl while reading about it), supernatural demons like Lasi and much more. I loved The Story of the Beginning of the World which is a rich introduction of Mizo mythology. I feel moving this story to the beginning would be more beneficial to the readers. But I loved the way the book ended- with a sad and brutal story of unrequited love that brings the reader back to the mundane world which he inhabits.

I hope Blaft continues publishing such collections of beautiful mythology from other parts of the world and the author Cherrie Lalnunziri Chhangte comes up with a more elaborate volume of Mizo Myths.

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