Author: Katherine Arden
Publication: Random House UK
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She is the fantasy creator, mystery maker. Katherine Arden, born in 1987 is an American novelist, applauded for her Winternight trilogy. The Bear and the Nightingale is the first among these trilogies.
When I went through the novel, The Bear and the Nightingale, I just got amazed by Katherine Arden’s excellence in creating an aura of mysticism surrounding her characters and plots. Here every image, every intonation appear as a symbol, ominous or blessed whereas mystery and metaphor linger in every nook and corner of the chapters, snow smitten, and thrashing in the blue air. The novel starts with a pensive mood wafting through the poem of A.S Pushkin and a mourning February landscape.
The story of Snow Demon and a beautiful maiden:
Discouraging all the discomforts, the children are eagerly waiting for Dunia to start her story. Dunia is the caregiver of a Russian peasant family. Through her eyes, we intrude into the kaleidoscope of this snow smeared magic world where the mother can foresee her own death at the cost of her charmed pregnancy- the birth of Vasya- the magic girl, a scrawny pallid child who outturns all the conventional norms and embraces the crown of a renegade in the eyes of the norm- bound society.
When Anna, Vasya’s stepmother demanded her of the offence of throwing crickets in the prayer hall, she nonchalantly said, “Did not God make all creatures? Why should we alone be allowed to raise our voices in praise? Crickets worship with songs as much as we.”
Oh! It is only possible for her.
The Fugitive soul of the orthodox soil:
Yes, it is the story of Vasya as well as all the humans who struggle for existence in this fettered society, chained in fear, orthodoxy and superstition. The story with which the fiction starts the story of Morozko, the demon of winter who was bestowed with a beautiful maiden Marfa as her vicious stepmother forced her husband to get her to marry him in the deep frosty forest, but she returned home safely wrapped in a magnificent robe and gifted with a chest of gems and gold and silver ornaments. And this popular folk tale with which Duniya starts her story becomes a recurrent hymn in this legend of Vasya. Vasya was also sent by her stepmother to the dark snowy forest in mid-winter as she could not make her agree to go to the convent. She went there in a deep forest where a snowstorm froze everything and she met the snow demon Morozko. But ignoring all the gems and the princess’s ransom, that he offered her, she came back with her dignity and pride.
Finally, at the end of the story, she set off in the search of her life…in search of the snow demon Morozko, with her horse- Solovey. Solovey, her horse was waiting for her just outside the palisade. “Come,” Vasya said. “Will you bear me to the ends of the earth, if the road will take us so far?” She was crying as she spoke, but the horse nuzzled away her tears. His nostrils flared to catch the evening wind. “Anywhere, Vasya. The world is wide, and the road will take us anywhere.” She swung onto the stallion’s back and he was away, swift and silent as a night-flying bird. Soon enough, Vasya saw a fir-grove, and firelight glancing between the trees, spilling gold into the snow. The door opened. “Come in, Vasya,” Morozko said. “It is cold.”
It’s a wonderful story to go through where life and legend crisscross at every juncture. The Bear and the Nightingale in every respect is a great and unique literary piece in its plot, characterization, symbolism and the underlying eternal clash of orthodox religion and man’s struggle for a reason. Every avid reader will reciprocate and interpret the story from every respect as the book itself is a prism reflection all the spectrum of serious contemplation.