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Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’

First edition cover of The Country of the Blin...

First edition cover of The Country of the Blind and Other Stories (1911) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

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image by reflectionsinapuddle

“Today, my boy, I’ll give you your last lesson. I am getting old and frail; my health is no longer what it used to be even 80 years back; it’s time for me to move on. You want to say something? You have my leave to speak.”

“But where would you go, roshi? Isn’t this the only Sanctuary in the entire world? Why would you want to leave this magnificent mountain, with only snow leopards and eagles to keep us company?”

“What do you know of the world or beyond it, boy?”

“Whatever you taught me, roshi.”

“What I taught you is but a speck of dust on this great mountain. Don’t you fancy yourself a sage. Remember, you know nothing. But enough of idle talk. Brace yourself for your last lesson. Almost half a century has passed since you entered the Sanctuary as a brainless youngling. Half a century of hard work and learning the secrets that most mortals consider either lost or never in existence. Half a century of isolation and solitude… save for the company of this old fool… So let’s get to work. I’ll give you my final secret recipe that you must learn and you’ll be ordained to become the Great Master yourself. But first I must see what you are made of.”

“Yes, roshi. I am ready.”

“So you think, boy, so you think… Now, take a dash of the blackroot powder. Not that! The other box with a human skull on it. Right. Then add a few drops of the mountain toad venom. Slowly, don’t spill it. Very well. Now take a pinch of dragon grass and a viper’s egg, and don’t forget a good measure of snow leopard scat. Mix it all well. Good… Now you must read the incantation I taught you when the moon was full. Don’t look at me as if you have no clue what I am talking about. Just do it, or I’ll read it myself… Whisper, you oaf! You don’t have to shout it at the top of your voice for the whole world to hear…”

Roshi?”

“Yes?”

“What’s the recipe for?”

“Just give me the vial. Didn’t I tell you I am an old fool? Of course I forgot to tell you what it is. Nothing much. Just a recipe for disaster. As soon as it touches the rocks at the foot of the great mountain, it will bring about great suffering upon this world. But you needn’t worry, boy, for you’ll be spared.”

“Oh, no! Why would you do such a despicable thing, roshi?! Come to your senses I beg!”

But the one called roshi, a desiccated mushroom of a man, with a long white beard and gnarled limbs, left this heartfelt plea unanswered. He sprinted with the agility of a young cougar – in contrast with his withered appearance – and was already stooped over the room’s only window that opened up a vast panorama of a jagged mountain range, snowy tops blazing in the sun, an eagle soaring up high in the azure sky.

Holding the corked vial with the potion in his left hand, the old man reached out, unclasped his gnarled fingers and unleashed the vial on the unsuspecting world. At this very moment, his apprentice flung himself at the window, like a flash of lightning, and dove headlong into the cool air. The Great Master must have gone mad, but I can still catch the vial, he thought plummeting toward the earth, cutting through freezing air like a hot knife through butter, his cloak flapping violently in his wake. He could see the vial; he could reach it… There! He caught it and squeezed it in his half frozen palms, then shut his eyes so as not to see the sullen visage of rocks below barreling toward him. In a matter of seconds his body will become one with the somber landscape. And what about the evil potion? I can’t allow it to touch the rocks and obliterate the world! If only the Great Master taught me the magic of flight! If only I had wings!

At which moment his free fall slowed down and finally came to a halt, when his face nearly touched a massive boulder at the foot of the mountain. From this vantage point, it didn’t look as despondent as from above, covered with cheerful green moss and all. Still hovering over the rocks, the apprentice whirled himself out of his topsy-turvy attitude, and began to ascend, spiraling higher and higher, as if on a pair of invisible wings. And as he  took in the resplendent views around him, reveling in his newly acquired ability, he turned his gaze to the top of the great mountain, where the Great Master, still looking no bigger than a horsefly from down below, was bursting in paroxysms of hilarity.

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Credit: Melissa Nucera

If you more or less follow my blog, would you be surprised that this cute little creature lured me into yet another reading adventure? Not only is the image adorable, it also reminds me of my longtime desire to reacquaint myself with one of the best fantasy stories I’ve ever read, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I read it so long ago that I hardly remember anything from it except that there was the Little Prince, the Fox and the Rose, and that the book had an aura of magic  that lingers in my memory until this day.

Thanks to 50 Year Project, I got introduced to the Once Upon a Time challenge today and couldn’t resist the temptation to sign up for it. The challenge is hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings  and runs between March 21 and June 19.

“This is a reading and viewing event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum.”

There are different levels of participation in this event. At this point, I’ve chosen the Short Story Quest. I’ve got this wonderful book called “Bedtime Stories” that includes 18 short stories — all written by great writers of the past two centuries. Every Sunday I will write a post about a story from the book. I would also like to include The Little Prince on my list of readings and other books in the fantasy genre, simply because I am a big fan of it and will read these books any time of the year, reading challenge or not. 🙂

If you would like to join the fun, please visit Stainless Steel Droppings and sign up.

Related posts:

https://reflectionsinapuddle.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/my-favourite-fantasy-books/

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vortex of colour

Image by reflectionsinapuddle

She floated in darkness, tranquil, like an autumn leaf on a puddle, when, from an ocean of nothingness, a tiny speck of light the size of an ant’s eye blinked shyly and lodged at the base of her soul. As she focused on the light, it began to swirl and shimmer, vibrating and expanding, until it burst into a myriad of shards, carving an opening in her heart. Through it she fell into a wormhole filled with incessant chirping of legions of invisible crickets. The wormhole twisted and turned, its raging waterless rapids battering her like a leaky raft. She was falling… whether eons had passed or a second, she couldn’t tell. At some point, it came to her — she was falling upward.

As her endurance began to wane, the wormhole suddenly collapsed, and she was in the dark again. But this time there was a change. She felt tingling in her palms. Weak at first, the tingling grew more intense with every breath she took, spreading through her body like a forest fire. When it reached her face, her lids fluttered, and she opened her eyes.

She found herself curled up in what seemed like a cave with its porous walls lit up with faint green light; she sniffed at the wall, then licked its surface – it was rock solid and tasted of sand and fire. Following an ancient instinct, she began to crawl clumsily in search of an exit, twisting her sinuous body and clawing at the rock under her feet. After coming across the same crevice the third time, she realized she was going in circles and… there was something else. As she looked in disbelief at her sharp talons and a long powerful tail covered with scales and spikes dragging along, her mouth opened wide, as if on its own, and a blood chilling shriek rolled out of her throat, an echo bouncing off the walls like thunder.

***

“Jake, Jake, wake up! You have to look at this… Now, quick, come to the window!”
“Go back to sleep, Sam…”
“Look, look, Jake, the moon is cracking! Just like an egg!”

Jake yawned, rubbed his eyes, and got out of the bed. If that again had to do with the elusive monsters hiding in the closet, his younger brother was in big trouble. Jake didn’t bother with the slippers, just headed straight for the window, and stopped dead in his tracks: outside, a huge glowing orb of the moon was suspended in the black sky. The orb cracked open, like an egg, and spit out a creature that looked part like a bird and part like a snake. The beast regarded the two gaping boys with its emerald eyes, unfolded a pair of magnificent wings, and soared toward the stars, its serpentine tail waving. Farewell.

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Dragon by miheco

Photo credit: miheco (Creative Commons)

If you are a fantasy buff, you couldn’t have missed the new book by George R.R. Martin, A dance with dragons. Neither could I. I had been waiting for it patiently for what seemed like an eternity. I wolfed down the first four books of the Song of Ice and Fire series and was hungry for more. Although the fourth book didn’t make quite the splash in my puddle like the first three.

When the fifth book finally hit bookstores, I got it on my Kobo e-reader and delved into the world of … well, dragons, of course. The dragons have visibly grown; so did violence, bloodshed and adult content. Please don’t take me wrong, I am not against all these things if they are vital for making characters believable and moving the story forward. In the fifth book, unfortunately, I observed very little movement. For about 200 pages, I had been waiting patiently for the plot to take some unexpected turn. Then I waited some more. Not much was happening though, save for violence, bloodshed and sex. My attention waning, I was dragging through the book with no reprieve in sight from the fictional folks’ bleak existence and torment. I pitied them — and myself for having to read this dark fantasy that seemed to have lost any glimmer of hope or any positive emotion. When I got to the scene where one of my favourite characters gets brutally murdered, my ‘wiring’ shorted out. What remaining curiosity I had left to get me through the rest of the book was gone without a trace. I put the book aside to never open it again. I don’t care if the character gets resurrected in the next book by some magic. As far as I am concerned, he is dead. And so is my infatuation with the series.

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