Adventures in NaNo-land – The Myth at the Core

November 8, 2012 at 12:16 am (fantasy, Links, writing) (, , , , , , , , , )

The Trading of Skin is built around Sami mythology, a fascinating polytheistic paganism involving deities and ideas that explore the idea of a duality of soul and a connection between the spirit and nature. It turned out to be a perfect basis for a story about people who change forms by trading their skin from man or woman to animal and back again. It was very easy to write the two brothers, Oaván and Dáidu in as shamans in training because the of the rich and varied traditions of the noaidi, Sami shamans, and their tendency to commune with nature in order to worship, at the sieidis (worshipping stones), álda and sáivu (sacred hills), and more personal sites such as the settlement seitas and the family Storjunkare.

I touch on three main concepts in the story and apply the appropriate gods and goddess from the mythos to the storyline.

1)Duality of soul – The Sami believed that everyone had a free soul and a body soul, and the free soul was capable of transcending to a place called saivo, where gods, shamans and the deceased could meet to improve the fate of mankind, where as the body soul was restricted to their physical being.

2)Man’s connection to nature – There is a strong animistic element to the Sami mythos. In fact the god of forest animals, Laib Olmai was one of the more important gods to the Sami – so important that morning and evening prayers and offerings were dedicated to him. The traders of the skin in the book, the Haldi, worship him specifically, and he is heavily involved in the plot.

3) The balance of body and spirit – Sami beliefs held that when a person was created a goddess Maadteraahka was responsible for giving them their body and a god, Maadteraajja was responsible for giving them their soul. I make several references to this idea and the associated deities in the story as well.

Here’s a sample of how I use this concept in the story:

Oaván hoped he would be able to remember everything that had worked for his father. The same methods might come in handy if he could change Heaibmu’s mind about letting Lieđđi remain in Anár. Oaván would want to woo her if the situation would allow for it. Despite the fact that he had shot her, she hadn’t looked at him in fear the way that the women in Anár did. When he had spoken to her in his mother’s tongue, when he had first found her, she had even smiled at him. That, and he had never met another woman who had appealed to him the way she did, like they were in sync some way.

Just like mother and father, he thought. Even though his parents were very different they seemed to complement each other in a very natural way, similar to the way a person’s two souls were supposed give them balance. His father had been the spirit, a great noaidi and a strong leader, almost a personification of Maadteraajja, the god who gave people their souls. His mother had been the body, more rugged than his father, with the endurance of a bear. She was the Maadteraahka to Osku’s Maadteraajja, but without him, she was lost … a body without the soul.

Suddenly, Oaván wanted to stop his reflections and focus on the natural scenery that passed him by. He liked thinking about the way things had been with his mother and his father, hoping to have the same kind of love himself someday, but reminiscing about how things had been always brought him back to the fact that they weren’t that way anymore. He and Dáidu had buried themselves in their studies of all things noaidi, trying to avoid their sadness from their father’s loss, but it didn’t always work. Now was a good example, as they headed towards their father’s favourite sieidi carrying the dead man’s ashes.

Chapter 4 is filled with references to the Sami mythology. I have posted it to and you can find it at this link:

More tomorrow J



  1. Jae said,

    I like it, but you have a few ‘woulds’ and ‘coulds’ and ‘mights’ I think you could eliminate to make your sentences stronger. Otherwise, sounds intriguing!

  2. chantellyb said,

    As I’ve mentioned before, this is NaNoWriMo and therefore first draft. The point is to get the story out in 30 days and the editing comes later. Because of this, the sentences won’t be as tight as they will be end product – the main focus is on ideas.

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