The Country of the Blind by H.G. Wells is another tale from the “Bedtime Stories” book that I’ve been reading for the Once Upon a Time challenge. The challenge is a great excuse for me to read more fantasy. I also began reading Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.
Once upon a time there was a valley in the Andes that was cut off from the rest of the world by a powerful earthquake. Before the earthquake, however, the valley got inhabited by settlers fleeing the Spanish rule. It was a marvelous place abundant with everything a man needed to survive and prosper save for one grave flaw: all children born in the valley were afflicted with blindness. Gradually, generation after generation, people of the valley adapted to their condition and did it so perfectly that they lost the very concept of sight, while their other senses, such as touch and hearing, had become keener, more developed. They built a set of paths in the valley that served as guides, helping them orient themselves in the environment. Naturally, they developed their own model of the world in accordance with their perceptions and with no room for seeing.
And so they led their contented and peaceful existence in total isolation, until one day, through a falling accident, a man from the outer world stumbled into the valley. His name was Nunez, “an acute and enterprising man,” who was quick to recall that “in the country of the blind, a one-eyed man is king.” But his hosts, or captors, were of a different mind. “Four days passed and the fifth found the King of the Blind still incognito, as a clumsy and useless stranger among his subjects.” As a decisive man of vision, Nunez tried persuasion, so these people could grasp the full measure of their inferiority. However, because the concept of seeing was alien to them, they found his talk of the bigger world and particularly that of sight disturbing and wicked. When all the words failed, the resourceful and unyielding Nunez resorted to force. Yet, although blind, the people of the valley proved capable opponents, and Nunez’s attempt at coup d’état only put the self-proclaimed king in a position of servitude and inferiority. Resigned to his fate, Nunez began to learn the blind people’s way and tried to fit in. He even fell in love and was about to marry a woman. But that would come at a price – his ability to see and enjoy all the wonders that came with it.
Wells wrote two versions of the story: in the original version Nunez ran off into the mountains and died. The second version has a different ending, but I haven’t read it.
When reading the story, I marveled at Wells’s ability to bring to life the fictitious world of the blind through great detail and vivid imagery. It’s one of the stories that I can read and re-read and never get tired of it thanks to Wells’s exquisite use of language and his appealing style.
Herbert George “H.G.” Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946) was an English author, now best known for his work in the science fiction genre. He was also a prolific writer in many other genres, including contemporary novels, history, politics and social commentary, even writing text books and rules for war games. Together with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback, Wells has been referred to as “The Father of Science Fiction.” Some of his early novels, called “scientific romances”, invented a number of themes now classic in science fiction in such works as The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, When the Sleeper Wakes, and The First Men in the Moon. — Information via Wikipedia