Monday, January 7, 2019

The Beast Weeps with One Eye, by Morgan Al-Moor

★★★★★ A fine little story with a satisfying outcome.

(African High Fantasy) Attacked by endless flocks of ravens, the Bjebu people flee their village to a strange place controlled by a strange god, who grants them safety in exchange for “three offerings of sorrow.” (6,663 words; Time: 22m)

"," by (edited by Scott H. Andrews), appeared in issue 268, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2019.032 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: Nwere fights so hard for her people it’s hard not to love her and root for her to succeed, but the bad-guy is also a solid character, which makes for a very strong story.

It’s very much to the story’s credit that Babawa-Kunguru isn’t a cardboard villain at all; he suffered terribly at the hands of the other gods, and we don’t blame him at all for wanting to escape. Further, the whole point of the “three sorrows” was so that Nwere would understand that he wasn’t laying his burden on her people out of evil; he was a victim too.

She understands and sympathizes, but there’s no way Nwere can allow him to enslave her people.

Her solution is beautiful, at least if I’m reading it correctly. Because the Bjebu had lost so much, they took such great joy in simply being alive that they were naturally immune to the sorrows that Babawa-Kunguru needed to get rid of. Nwere was able to focus that joy into an unbreakable shield.

What’s not clear is whether this helped Babawa-Kunguru or not. He flies away, so he no longer seems to be bound to this place, and he acts as though the deal is accomplished; he’s not insisting on a third sorrow anymore. But it doesn’t seem that his burden of sorrow has been lifted. Perhaps it’s enough that it’s within his power to lift it now.

This appears to be a high fantasy with a generic pre-colonial-African setting instead of the generic medieval-European setting we’re used to. For lack of a better idea, I’ve classed this as “African High Fantasy,” but I’d love to hear better suggestions. "Folktale" didn't quite seem right for this one.

Con: Although the story wraps up satisfactorily, I have the feeling there’s more to it. It certainly seems like a very rich world for just a single story.

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3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I like how the story turns around when Nwere stops feeling like she has no choice and focuses on the gain instead of the loss. But it is unclear exactly how this works out. I'd like to learn more about the mythology of this world.

    1. Same here, but, so far, this seems to be his/her only publication.

  2. Yes - a very good story and very worth reading. It did not read like a folktale or fable.

    I too was puzzled by the ending. The 3rd sorrow was the lost of hope, and Nwere wished for him to have hope / joy in the 5th to final paragraph.

    I think that was enough for him to fly away from the place escaping the chains of sorrow.

    Had to think about it.