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Book Review: When the River Sleeps by Easterine Kire

Book Review: When the River Sleeps by Easterine Kire

Kire, I feel, has that ingenious storytelling charm in her. The narrative drifts slowly and then it takes you by surprise. In a word, her storytelling is a revelation. One of her works which I have recently (re)read is When the River Sleeps. I have always enjoyed this text. This fiction paints the tale of one lonesome heartbroken hunter named Vilie and his ordeal to find the sleeping river that had appeared in his dreams for two years. Vilie, on finding the sleeping river, desires to fish out the heart-stone from the river while it sleeps, which the heart-stone, will give him cosmic kind of powers. But those with great bravery only can get hold of this divine stone. It’s a perilous journey that Vilie has undertaken. He comes across all sorts—villagers, bark weavers, a were tiger, hunters who allegedly pinned a murder on him but later resolved, forest spirits, two Kirhupfumia sisters; one evil and the other good. He was able to acquire the heart-stone but it comes with serious consequences.

It’s bewildering to see how Kire weaves profound fantasy plot intertwined with culture, tradition and folklore of the Nagas (Angamis) especially. Through Vilie’s ordeal the unique culture and traditions of the Nagas is highlighted. The creativity of the narration is commendable. At the beginning of the story, one won’t expect such intense order of fantasy. But as the story progresses one starts sighting the fantasy realm. The scene where Zote, the evil sister cast out her anger in the form of pestilence and plague to the village resembles to that of dementors from Harry Potter prancing over muggles.

The magic and the spirits of the forest which Kire narrates here sound like both magical realism and one of those magical myths and tales which Naga grandparents would tell their grandkids around the fire hearth. Kire so beautifully captures the courses in which the other-worldly or the supernatural shapes life in the olden day Nagaland.

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