Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Review - The Honey Jar

The Honey Jar by Rigoberta Menchú and Dante Liano
Illustrations by Domi
Publisher: Groundwood Books – http://www.groundwoodbooks.com/
ISBN: 0-88899-670-5

The Honey Jar is another collection of stories from 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner and Maya activist, Rigoberta Menchú and Guatemalan National Literature Laureate, Dante Liano. These stories are re-tellings of ancient Mayan folktales and legends that the author grew up hearing from the storytellers in her village in Guatemala.

I loved the story of Grandfather Sun and Grandmother Moon who were lonely in the sky, a creation tale. It was very tender and sweet. The story tells of how Grandfather Sun and Grandmother Moon created the stars and how Grandmother Moon’s face became marked. There’s another tale called Where It’s Revealed That Each Thing Has A Spirit that I loved as well. Each of the 12 stories in this book entranced me and made me smile. They have a dreamy feel that makes me think of my indigenous ancestors and the storytelling tradition – the one I carry on to my grandchildren.

This book is an important one in that it not only preserves ancient tales, it brings them to a new audience and teaches the ancient love of nature. Any book that teaches and brings old tales to the light of the modern day is a treasure. We’ve lost so much of our history, our folklore and traditions that I really stand up and take notice when someone writes of these things, reclaims them if you will. It helps when the writing is as excellent as in this book, when you can almost feel you’re back in time, sitting with the elders at a fire listening to these stories as the night envelopes you. My favorite quote from the book is this one, “They will know that the earth does not belong to them, but that they are part of it. The earth will be a sacred place, a place created for the dreams of all generations. Chuchu’ib, Tata’ib! Thanks to your counsel, people will plant their dreams on the earth, and their dreams will blossom as if they were magic flowers”.

Domi’s illustrations add to the sense of fantasy, of being swept away in time. The colors of her palette are robust and vibrant, bringing to mind the rainforest, tropical jungles and the smell of the mountains. My favorite of her paintings in this book is the one on page 27 where the eyes in the forest seem are patterned in just such a way that they remind me of the glorious tails of the peacock.

No comments: