Adventures in NaNo-land – Details…Details…

November 6, 2012 at 3:12 am (fantasy, writing) (, , , , , , , )

One of the fun things about setting a fantasy tale in the mythology of an existing culture is being able to enhance the tale with the particular flavour of that culture. One way to do that is by interweaving details into the story from fashion, religion, social structure or lifestyle from ancient times. For “The Trading of Skin” the Sami culture provided me a lot to work with

The Sami have a vibrant fashion that has not changed significantly from the past. Both men and women still wear the traditional gákti, a longer coat-like robe for the women and a shorter jacket-skirt for the men, adorned with bold trim and beading. (Some Eastern Sami also have a hooded jumper from reindeer skins with wool inside, like this picture.) They also wear ponchos, large mittens and ear-flapped hats, ornamented with ribbon-work and geometric shapes in colours that represent their households. Including these details adds another dimension to the story:

Oaván glanced at the growing light on the horizon again, stopping long enough to straighten his hat and gákti. Both were ill-fitting, the hat’s earflaps barely covering his ears and the gákti’s skirt barely reaching mid-thigh, but he could not blame his mother for those failings. Jaská wasn’t a bad seamstress, but she was uncomfortable with delicate needlework, awkward and slow as a result, and Oaván had always grown more quickly than his peers. It was a stretch for Jaská to keep up with his burgeoning and bulky form, Oaván outgrowing his clothing faster than she could make them. She did not bother with any decorative additions, his clothing plainer than the average outfit in Anár. She simply did not have the time for them.

Another fortunate quality of the Sami is that they believe decorative items should primarily serve a purpose, so most artistic creations had a use as well, like knives, drums, baskets and cups. This means these items add colour to the story as well:

Oaván was sure he had found his lucky white reindeer. Slipping his bow up over his shoulder and drawing his duodji knife, with its antler handle and scrimshawed blade, he advanced upon the animal to put an end to its suffering.

It took only a few more paces forward for him to realize that this was not the reindeer he was looking for, or at least, based on the naked feminine human form before him, he assumed it wasn’t. Only, he could definitely identify the arrow jutting from the young woman’s bloodied thigh as his, the fletching dyed to match the colours of his household so nobody other than Dáidu could possibly lay claim to his prey.

More tomorrow J

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