A Winter’s Tale of Denial

Not to complain, but a friend of mine just landed in Anchorage, Alaska, and wrote that it was warmer there than here in New York City.  The wind chill is minus 25!  My car temperature says One!  When I open the door to let them out, my cats look at me like I’m nuts!  Brrrnik!

Some comforting thoughts, fellow frozen friends.  Spring is one month away.  It’s been real sunny most of these frigid days.  Not enough comfort?  Then how about a nice cozy Winter’s Tale?  This fall I gave you a free story to celebrate Fashion Week in NYC, so now that the models are done freezing their tails off for February Fashion Week, here’s another tale set in prehistoric times.

If you’d like to bump up your denial about the cold, here’s an inspiring tribe who sought to deny Winter with an impending Ice Age coming down from the north.  A sneak peek at a tale from the next book in the 1001 series.

The Tale of the Three-Season Year

             The descendants of Varw were especially busy during their eleventh generation, eradicating all stories dealing with death and barrenness: no myths explaining the death of plants, no dramas of non-abundance, no heroes dying and waiting to be reborn. Rituals and holidays had previously been altered, but no one had suspected the power of story to preserve what was no longer acknowledged.

Ten generations earlier, Varw had invented the scheme that altered the clan’s beliefs, a hopeless scheme concocted by a hopeless planner with the hopeless hope of defying Winter and ignoring the coming Ice Age. Varw’s scheme of Three was a reframing of the annual weather cycle into three seasons: Spring, roughly corresponding to the modern months of February through May, Summer, spanning June to September, and Fall, October to January. The end of Fall and the start of Spring slyly absorbed the coldest months of the year. Winter was cast out.

For a few generations it was enough to convince the people that it was in their control to perceive the changing patterns of the north wind however they deemed fit. As the cold settled in for a few more generations, it was necessary to bar the old Winter rituals: promises of the earth’s rebirth were acceptable but not in the context of the death of the land. Rituals were recast as ‘post-harvest celebrations,’ joyfully singing and dancing about the stores of food from the hunt, as if Spring was being postponed for the sake of enjoying a surplus in food. These rituals became more and more important as the actual supplies of food diminished.

It was an easy scheme to understand. But like so many ideas that look good drawn in the dirt with a stick, there were painful and unforeseen consequences. In the eighth and ninth generations, many clan members suggested that the Three-Season idea was more comforting for the head than the stomach. During that time, songs, dances, and tales of the hunt became as important as the celebration of the three seasons. The thrill of the hunt was as natural as Spring following Fall. Verses about fleet-footed deer and tales of mammoths happily dying for the clan were particular favorites in late Autumn.

The Borzi, Varw’s rival tribe, had always been the best hunters, and the best at preserving their meat during the barren months. The Borzi had laughed at the people of the Three-Seasons, calling them impractical and misguided. In response, Varw’s clan showed the Borzi that they could hunt and store meat as well as their rival tribe. In fact, it was necessary for survival.

As the ice floes appeared in the tenth generation, animals became scarce. The clan hunted more fiercely than ever. They not only hunted more strongly than the Borzi, they also hunted the Borzi themselves, their chief competitors for the devastated animals. The Borzi fought back; the clans now feared each other as much as ice and shortage.

What had started as an inspired voice in the back of one man’s head, extolling the virtues of creating your own order, ended as a blood cult of warrior-hunters thinly tied to a belief system based on denial.


Okay, maybe not so comforting, but if you’d like more distraction from your chattering teeth, sign up here for 1001/Qaraqbooks News.  Free updates about the upcoming Book 2, stories, and blogposts.

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