How many of us know our folk tales? Not many I’ll bet. Certainly not me or anyone I know. I know our religious stories, stories surrounding our gods but no folk tales. Not a one. But I’m so interested in other people’s folk tales and legends that I scour the internet for interesting stories of ghosts and dragons and fox demons and watch Japanese anime about their legends and read Chinese folk tales whenever I can find it. But not once have I tried to look out for folk tales within my country. So when I was offered a chance to read and review a Mizo Myths book from one of my favourite indie publishers, I jumped at the chance.
Mizo Myths is a collection of short stories by Cherrie Lalnunziri Chhangte, professor of English at Mizoram University, Aizawl. She also holds a PhD in African American fiction from North Eastern Hill University and is a recipient of the Nehru Fulbright Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. What makes this collection particularly special is that she did her postdoctoral research on a comparative study of Native American and Mizo Literatures at NY University and Stanford University. So she pretty much knows the ins and outs of Mizo literature, making this a brilliant translation.
The book itself is very small, containing just six stories but those six stories are so unique and memorable that it is something you’ll cherish and read time and again. I particularly enjoyed The Story Of The Beginning Of The World which I read out loud to my family after dinner last night. It had been a while since we had done that and honestly, it felt like I was back in my grandma’s place as she rolled up balls of rice and handed it to each of us while telling a story.
The author accompanies her tales with footnotes in case you aren’t from the area and don’t know the story behind a particular legend and also includes locations of certain artefacts or “monuments” that feature in these stories. For instance, there’s a cylindrical rock somewhere in the middle of a city resembling a hammer, this is said to be the hammer of Cchurbura (The story of the beginning of the world). There are also tales about why the bat comes out at night and why a lone butterfly always follows a pair. In fact they’re clean enough to read to children. And while these may make it seem simplistic you must realise that these are the stories than an entire community was raised on and these have passed through generations to make their culture what it is today.
You won’t find many similarities with Indian folk tales in you know any, the Mizo culture and legends are quite unique and that’s exactly what makes it an interesting book. I had taken up an Indian Books challenge this year and while I have acquired a few books I have failed miserably at reading it. I’m really glad I got to read this one though, it fills my Mizoram slot and has made me absolutely pumped about a visit there sometime. I thoroughly enjoyed this and will be reading this to my nieces and nephews and my kids if and when I have them. 5 stars.
*I received a review copy in exchange for my honest review, opinions expressed are my own.