In re-working of my Amerindian inspired Fantasy novel, Bone Arrow, I’vecreated character collages that visually represent aspects of the central characters and surrounding themes.
Sunktokeca: Protagonist and warrior-shaman, sent to defeat Ska-Sicanagi, destructive spirit released by the antagonist, Khangithanka.
Khangithanka: The raven god and bestower of power to shamans. Antagonist to Sunktokeca based on a prophecy declaring Sunkotkeca’s power is akin to the gods despite no pledges to Khangithanka.
Yalse: The Trickster and coyote god, opposing force to Khangithanka & Sunktokeca’s confidant. Important to the outcome of the quest but his motivation is unclear often forcing confrontations with Wazichan and Mastinca.
Ska-Sicanagi: A malevolent spirit released from its binding by Khangithanka and sent to challenge Sunktokeca. If Sunktokeca is defeated, Khangithanka will defeat Yalse and maintain dominance over the shamans.
Mastinca: Sunktokeca’s oldest & most loyal companion. Pivotal to the success of the quest.
Wazichan: An exiled warrior, highly skilled & fated to join Sunktokeca’s quest. Wazichan openly opposes the manipulation of Sunktokeca’s life by Khangithanka and Yalse.
Hinhan: A powerful, dark shaman from the southern islands and creator of the bone arrow Sunktokeca requires to destroy Ska-Sicanagi.
Wakinyela: The love of Sunktokeca’s life he must abandon to defeat Ska-Sicanagi.
Iyaka: Sunktokeca’s jealous step-brother, determined to ruin Sunktokeca’s honour & opposition for Wakinyela’s affections.
During my research into indigenous North American customs and cultures, I came across reference to the markings painted on the war horses. There are many Amerindian cultures and tribes which exist today and many more that have been lost. I acknowledge with respect, that these symbols are not exhaustive nor do they belong to a single tribe. The markings explained below will have different interpretations specific to each tribe. The markings painted on a war horse signified aspects of the warrior’s prowess, symbols defining the number of enemy horses captured, the number of battle honors earned and wounds received in battle. Other markings like the red handprint signify a completed mission while the red handprint on the shoulder symbolizes the warrior’s oath of vengeance and the intended completion of his mission, to be interpreted as the impending death of his oath-sworn enemy. Other markings are specific to the war horse, offering protection in battle. There are several sets of markings painted around the hoof, eye and nose imbuing the war horse with increased ability to sense and see danger, to be faster and stronger.
From April 10 2019, paperback copies of Bone Arrow will no longer be available for purchase while I prepare a new release. I have learned much about the writing craft since Bone Arrow was released in October 2018. You can follow my writing journey over the next few months while I develop Bone Arrow further, sharing the Amerindian folktales & legends that inspired the story.
Bone Arrow does not attempt to retell indigenous North American folktales or legends, but many names for individual characters were carefully chosen to reflect the personality or motivations.
These names in Bone Arrow are adapted from the Lakota languages, part of the Siouan language family. The Sioux form a group of indigenous Native American tribes sharing many connections of tradition, language and history. That said, the Siouan language family includes tribes from the Great Plains, stretching into southern Canada.
None of the languages in the Siouan language family are exactly the same. The Dakota and Lakota languages are closely related and speakers can understand each other fairly easily. The same is not true for the Nakota language group who are the next most-related language group to the Dakota-Lakota. The Nakota language group includes speakers from the Assiniboine and Stoney languages. Nakota speakers cannot easily understand the speakers of Lakota or Dakota despite being closely-related languages. This alone, emphasises the complexity and advanced networks between Amerindian tribes of the Great Plains.
I do not speak any of the Lakota languages nor have any training in linguistics. I thank the linguistic anthropologists for allowing insight to the Lakota languages so I might use a few words in Bone Arrow. My own research was basic but appreciate the fabulous bilingual resource from the Lakota Language Consortium and their efforts to share Lakhota with the next generations and anyone willing to learn. I also owe thanks to Native American Languages Net for sharing select words, phrases, folktales and resources from many indigenous tribes of the Americas.
Here are some of the names for important characters in Bone Arrow with their pictorial meaning in Lakota:
I am often asked what motivated me to write Bone Arrow, a Fantasy novel inspired by indigenous North American folktales and legends. My inspiration behind Bone Arrow is discussed in a first post, a second post explains the cultural inspiration and this final post details folklore inspiration.
Bone Arrow includes many folklore references to several different Amerindian legends but does not aim to retell or recreate these. Instead, the vivid fables from many Amerindian cultures are the history and memories of these indigenous peoples. While all of the Amerindian legends and folklore traditions offered keen insights into acutely aware and adaptive cultures, a few were particularly special to me. In my research for Bone Arrow, I found Amerindian legends and folktales had a deep resonance for me that was unlike anything I’d encountered before. Many of the folktales have been preserved through oral traditions with changes reflecting the adaptations to conditions over generations.
Part of my research for Bone Arrow included these collections of Amerindian legends recorded into text as told originally in the form of oral stories. These include Tricksters figures, stories of reincarnation beliefs and the myriad of folklore beliefs and legends, revealing the distinct stories specific to the different geographical areas inhabited by the indigenous people of North America and Canada.
The Ijiraq is a humanoid mythical monster from the Inuit legends of northern Canada. Possessing powers making them visible only from periphery of eye sight, they dwell in frozen lands far from humans. The areas where the Ijiraq are believed to inhabit also contain underground fissures containing hydrogen sulfide gas, inducing hallucinations and mental confusion in high doses. A strange side-effect of the gas can include visual loss in the center of sight, reducing vision to peripheral eye sight. The exposure to harsh landscapes and the real risk to loss of life if straying from safety into the volcanic marshes of the arctic tundra are possible causes for the development of such a monster in local folklore.
Several indigenous Amerindian cultures have legends of Wakinyan, the Thunderbird, a massive black bird that appears physically to look like an Eagle or a Raven and in some legends is the northwestern coast, the Trickster figure, Raven is very similar in appearance. Legends of the Thunderbird stretch along much of the western coast and plains of North American and Canada. the Thunderbird is a respected mythic figure, the bringer of storms, both real and metaphorical. Wakinyan, as the physical manifestation of a storm possessed great wings that represented the clapping of thunder, while the silver eyes were a source of lightning. As such, the powerful totem was often the source of many ceremonies, rituals, dances and prayers for successful rain, the defeat of an enemy.
Many folktales have is a strong philosophical quality like many fables but a focus is often placed on the physical surroundings. The landscape where such legends and folktales were born remains a challenging environment and, one which many of the different Amerindian cultures consider with great respect. This is a two-fold sense of respect for an inherent wariness is clear when regarding the environment which is necessary for survival and the potential cause of destruction.The legend of the the wendigo, a humanoid monster of the Great Lakes region, is a common folktale among the Ojibwa and Algonquin indigenous peoples. It is a complex fable warning of the harsh realities of winter, starving, madness and the bitter cold weather. The wendigo was one of the first folktales I encountered and had a profound influence on the writing of Bone Arrow.
The last 6 months have been a whirlwind of activity and excitement for me. This inaugural but semi-regular post serves as part-reflection on recent events and part-update on current, unfolding projects. Curious to know more?
Storytelling & More: The launch of this website coincided with the publication of my debut Fantasy novel Bone Arrow and my regular posts here on this blog include summaries of Amerindian, indigenous Australian and Norse folktales, legends and myths I’ve found interesting during my research. I also post regular reviews of recently read novels I’ve found stimulating.
Bone Arrow Released: In August 2018, I released the ebook version of my debut Fantasy novel, Bone Arrowwhich was inspired by Amerindian folktales and legends. On October 1, the first paperback copies of Bone Arrow were available in major online bookstores from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BookDepository in the UK and Booktopia in Australia. The end of December 2018, marks the 3 months anniversary of the release of Bone Arrow. To coincide with this, I have written a series of 3 short posts sharing my reflections on the journey and my motivations behind Bone Arrow.
Work-in-Progress: In early 2018, I started researching a new project based on Norse myths. Under the working title, Ragnarok Dreaming,is a contemporary Fantasy retelling aspects of Norse mythology and incorporating the landscape and legends of ancient Australia. At the end of 2018, Ragnarok Dreaming was nearly 1/4 complete.
Museum Research Visit: In June 2018, I took a brief research trip to Melbourne Museum in Australia to see an amazing exhibition on-loan from the Swedish History Museum of Viking Age artefacts. The exhibition included a reconstructed Viking Age ship, silver and gold jewellery and ornaments, swords from Viking burials, reconstructed swords using ancient Nordic forging technologies, trade items including measurement scales for transactions, Norse currencies and slave collars.
NaNoWriMo 2018: In October 2018, I combined starting the first draft for Ragnarok Dreamingwith National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) using the extra motivation to put months of planning and research into action. Aside from increasing support and awareness of creative writing, NaNoWriMo was perfect to help me overcome any uncertainties in beginning a new project.
The New Year: In 2019, I’m planning a short research pilgrimage to Sweden, Norway and Iceland to experience first-hand, the landscape and history where the Norse myths and Viking Age culture were born. I also hope to complete the first draft of my current work-in-progress, Ragnarok Dreaming.
I am often asked what motivated me to write Bone Arrow, a Fantasy novel inspired by indigenous North American folktales and legends. My inspiration behind Bone Arrow is discussed in a first post, this second post explains the cultural inspiration and a final post details folklore inspiration.
Northwestern University maintains a historic collection of portfolios, in the range of 20 volumes of photographs taken by Edward S. Curtis in the early 1900s. This photographic collection shows some of the varied cultures and people of the past North America. Edward Curtis documented many cultural practices in different tribes throughout his travels but countless more was lost before and after. These portfolios provide a glimpse at the past.
The series of photographs below are a very small fraction of the collection of images taken by Edward S. Curtis during the early 1900s and are maintained as part of the collections at Northwestern University in the United States.
I am often asked what motivated me to write Bone Arrow, a Fantasy novel inspired by indigenous North American folktales and legends. My inspiration behind Bone Arrow is discussed in this first post, a second post explains the historic cultural inspiration and a final post details folklore inspiration.
Bone Arrowdraws on what I have always felt a firm connection to the natural world. From adolescence to when I wrote Bone Arrow in my mid-twenties, the impact of human-induced climate change and environmental damage was becoming apparent in Australia during the “Millennium drought” as the decade-long drought in the 2000s became known. In this context, I crafted a story where conflicting personalities battled for dominance and where the survival of the the natural world was paramount. This became the basic outline for Bone Arrow.
One of the earliest and most influential books I read in my adolescence was by American author Dee Brown Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee. The honest and often incredibly harrowing description of the American-Indian Wars, from the institutions of Reservations to the final surrender of Amerindian leaders in order to save their people had a profound impact on me. The historic fight begun by indigenous Amerindian leaders to preserve their culture and histories, their attempts to make American leaders understand the philosophies of their culture is a story that sadly continues today.
The influential historic indigenous writings by Amerindian leaders included Geronimo, Black Elk, Chief Joseph, Sitting Bull, Chief Seattle and Red Cloud and among many others, led me to write Bone Arrow, to incorporate the past history and present issues into a story that might inspire a present world to listen to the wisdom of the past and not repeat it.
Excitement has been growing and finally, the announcement that debut Fantasy novel Bone Arrow is now available in eBook and paperback formats. I have enjoyed exploring Amerindian folktales and traditions which inspired me to re-imagine a Fantasy landscape where global fables and legends resonant in the constant shifting dominance of light and darkness.
Amerindian cultures in the Arctic regions including the Inuit, mention in folktales, the “shadow people” or the Tariaksuq and Ijiraq, elusive, shape-shifting and malevolent spirits known for kidnapping children. These spirits, often mentioned in close association, can take the form of a humanoid-caribou like the Tariaksuq, or can lack consistent physical forms like the Ijiraq. Yet both the Ijiraq and Tariaksuq are believed to kidnap children who are either stolen or led astray, and once lost, the children are kept hostage unless they convince the spirits to release them. Not only children could fall prey to these elusive spirits with adults becoming confused and easily lost while trekking.
The Ijiraq, like the Tariaksuq, are reported to have powers which make them visible only from periphery of eye sight. The frozen lands where these spirits are believed to dwell have underground pockets of hydrogen sulfide gas. This noxious gas is capable of inducing hallucinations and confusion. The combination of noxious gas in these frozen lands is thought the reason for why the Tariaksuq cannot be seen directly. These strange and temporary vision loss issues may be the result of exposure to the gases released from vents in the arctic marshes and volcanic landscape.