It is always the narrative that helps us remember certain life lessons better than the others and ‘Son of the Thundercloud’ is one such mesmerizing, tragic and comforting story.
Pele, after losing his entire village including his wife and child, embarks on a journey without a destination in mind. On his way, he meets two sisters, fading and weak but surviving on hope. They have been alive for about 400 years, their strength derived from their belief in the popular legend ‘Son of the Thundercloud’. It is believed that this child will bring back rain to their famine struck village. As Pele spends a night with these sisters, he experiences a strange event- the shifting of the Earth, thus creating ravines, creeks, etc., thereby changing the geography of the land.
As the rains strike down that particular night, these sisters introduce Pele to Mesunao- the tiger widow, living in the Village of Weavers. Mesunao will be the bearer of a child, another chosen one, who will eventually kill the ‘tiger’ that has been tormenting the villagers for decades, the same tiger that killed Mesunao’s husband and her seven sons. This ‘Tiger’ is not made of flesh, but of shadows and can not be killed by traditional methods but a special spear.
Beyond all the supernatural and mystical happenings, there is a vicious world waiting to attack anyone who looks more content than them. While the son represents hope, the villagers represent a certain doom that is inevitable. The author emphasizes the existence of people who wouldn’t let storytellers live and would rather spread darkness than hope. It might be because it’s their soul that is corrupted or that they don’t have faith in the stories anymore.
The author intertwines Magical Realism and the ordinary village life with all it’s simple and sometimes, preposterous beliefs. Through Pele, we understand that this is the world where anything can happen, only if you ‘believe’. Pele stands strong in the face of crisis, adhering to his beliefs and challenges the people to think out of the ordinary, but finally succumbing to resignation and acceptance. The world is incapable of understanding the workings of nature, designing methods to dismiss any event they cannot justify, sometimes with unimaginable brutality.
“No, I’m talking about the famine of stories and songs. They killed all the storytellers who tried to tell them about the Son of the Thundercloud. They killed hope.”
One of the salient features of the story is how the author guides you through. While the plot doesn’t adhere to a particular norm, you find yourself trusting the author. The shifting of stars and Earth, the 400-year-old sisters, Mesunao’s pregnancy by a single drop of rain, etc. are some popular legends in Nagaland and the narrative brings out a whole new perspective to these traditional stories through characters that will always be immortal, through its readers.
The writing holds your attention even though the writing is extremely simple. With barely 150 pages, Kire weaves an engrossing, honest and poignant tale that with cling to you, in an almost hypnotic manner.
Blurb (as on Goodreads):
After losing all his family in a terrible famine, a man leaves his village with just the clothes on his back, never once looking back. For endless miles, he walks through a landscape as desolate as his heart. Until two ancient women who have waited for rain for four hundred years lead him to the Village of Weavers where a prophecy will be fulfilled. A single drop of rain will impregnate the tiger-widow and her son will slay the spirit-tiger. The traveler will help the woman bring up the boy. He will witness miracles and tragedy and come close to finding a home again. And he will learn that love and life are eternal.
In her new novel, Easterine Kire, winner of the Hindu Prize, combines lyrical storytelling with the magic and wisdom of Naga legends to produce an unforgettable, life-affirming fable.