A Fabled Tale

For all the Kpop and Kdrama fans, fancy a quick dip into Korean literature?

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly is a short novella by the beloved South Korean author, Sun-Mi Hang.

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Accompanied by very cute illustrations, the simple story is about a hen, aptly named Sprout, who does not want to lay eggs for human consumption anymore and instead wants to raise a chick on her own. Her determination to follow her dream is fraught with danger and several obstacles. Will she be able to achieve her ultimate dream? Borrow the book from the library and find out!

Constructed like a fable, the story’s myriad characters are like metaphors that readers-both children and adults-can relate to. In the simplest way possible, the story talks about following one’s dreams despite what the world tells you, the need to find your own identity and that it is alright to not fit in with the world around you, or the ultimate importance of letting go of people and things even those that are the closest to you. These may sound cliched or philosophical ideas, but the author wraps these themes under the guise of an animal fable and is not trying to rub those ideas into your heads or is not consciously trying to teach you those moral lessons.

The novella stands somewhere between children’s literature, a fable and philosophy book. It will remind the readers of other favourite animal classics like The Wind in the Willows or Charlotte’s Web or the evergreen The Little Prince, which similarly deals with larger existential issues through the eyes of a little boy.

In this case, it is through the eyes of a hen on a farm and her chick. So sit back on a cloudy Sunday afternoon and enjoy this quick and easy read!

(Side Promotion: Read my review of The Little Prince herehttps://bookreviewsgalore.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/a-princely-read/

Read the first 20 pages of the book, The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly here:

https://oneworld-publications.com/media/preview_files/9781780745343.pdf

Read a short interview by the author, Sun-Mi Hang here:

https://oneworld-publications.com/media/wysiwyg/Reading-Guides/hen-who-dreamed-she-could-fly-reading-guide-draft-3.pdf

Into The Wild

Jack London’s exploration of a dog’s life from being a pet to a sled dog to a ferocious beast in his short novel ‘The Call Of The Wild‘ is immensely intense and delightful. The story is set at the time when gold was discovered in ‘the frozen North’ and there was a great demand for the sled dogs as means of transportation in the Arctic. The protagonist of the novel is a half St. Bernard and half Scotch Shepherd dog named Buck who initially lived a life of ‘a sated aristocrat’ in Judge Miller’s house in Santa Clara Valley. But that was until the treacherous gardener

Manuel stole him and sold him to a couple of dog traders as a result of which Buck ended up as a part of a dog team. It is here that he learnt the rule of the club, knew about what it is to be part of a team and a pack; learnt how to work hard etc. It was for him the first initiative into the wild, the primitive, the instinctual and the uncivilized. He soon adapted to the harsh demands of being a sled dog and gradually there arose within him ‘stirrings of old instincts’ that made him intimately aware of his wild origins. From all the incessant  brutality and cruelty of his world, Buck was fortunately rescued by the gentle yet strict John Thornton who nursed him back to health and to whom Buck became fiercely loyal. With him Buck had a curious relationship-one in which he allowed his primordial instincts to take over and he went hunting for days on at a stretch but always came back to Thornton and his camp. In the end however, the ‘call of the wild’ overwhelmed Buck and he soon plunged into the wild, the forests to meet his ancestral instincts raging within him.

The Call of the Wild‘ is like a bildungsroman of sorts as it traces the progress of Buck. It intricately shows his transformation, from a pet to a primitive ferocious beast. Jack London’s writing is gripping and fascinating. It takes the reader into the mind of Buck (similar was the case with his book, ‘White Fang’). London’s detailing is meticulous to say the least-every other aspect whether its Buck’s anatomy, his primeval thoughts, the cruelty meted out to him, the landscape-is rich in detail. The narrative is pretty straightforward and direct. It is visual, precise and to the point. It is a balanced mix of adventure, action, excitement as well as meditation and interiority. The narrative is replete with bursts of actions and adventure which is interspersed with Buck’s thoughts. The external occurrences are often the cause of Buck’s mental states through different stages of his life.

The Call of the Wild‘ is a short yet powerful and intense novel which is packed with intricate details and multifarious themes-loyalty of animals to man, the primitive instinctual nature of all creatures, the cruel treatment of animals by humans etc. The novel will undoubtedly be a compelling read as it has the pace of a thriller and the intensity of a period piece.

Animal Farm-Politics in a different way.

Animal Farm‘ was another book that I read as part of my English Literature class. Written by George Orwell, ‘Animal Farm‘ is an interesting read with animals as the main characters. I quite enjoyed the book mainly because of Orwell’s remarkable story and its relevance to politics of any country. Anybody who knows the dirtiness of politics will surely relate to this book. ‘Animal Farm‘ is a biting satire on politics and is based on the Russian Revolution and the events during Stalin era. There are several characters in the novel that represent real life characters prominent at that time.

The story is about animals on Manor Farm who lead a revolution to get rid of the torturous and oppressive Mr Jones, a human and how they overthrow him and take over the farm. The pigs are proclaimed as leaders. Although initially several steps are taken to better the animals’ conditions, gradually power corrupts the pigs and they begin neglecting the masses i.e. the animals. Sounds like politics played n India, doesn’t it?

The most remarkable feature of the book is the use of animals to represent a human tendency(I think it is human because I do not think it exists in animals)-  to play dirty politics. Orwell’s writing is simple, no flamboyant usage of language and his story is plain to understand as it does not have deep symbolism which one has to crack one’s brains over. Another plus point, despite it being written in 1945, is that it is still contemporary. Its themes of power, corruption , deceit  and the vicious cycle of politics are still relevant as even today politicians use tactics mentioned in the book. Not much seems to have changed in the political field. Anyone can, even today, draw parallels in our own society and among our politicians from several incidents in the book. Napoleon, the pig who usurps power in the book is a classic example of how power corrupts and his sidekick Squealer, is an excellent example of any political party’s spokesperson who will do practically anything-lie, cheat, kill, bribe-to uphold the leader’s greatness(even though he/she does the most gruesome and criminal of things).

As a conclusion,’Animal Farm‘ is a delightful read, an amazing satire that can make one think. It is good(but not necessary) to get some background information on the Russian Revolution and Stalin Era to comprehend the story thoroughly. Without that information too, the story will be meaningful. ‘Animal Farm‘ is well worth a read!