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The Birth of a Novel - Proverbs and Destiny 1 - conception

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October 1st 2014

When planning a rewrite of my novel, Destiny, I looked for a hero and heroine from an ethnic people, a people whose traditions and beliefs showed us how we should be living: for the land, not at the expense of the land as this is important to my story. I've always admired the Maori and Aborigini peoples' outlook on life. Similarly, the Native American tribes have a wisdom far beyond that of 'civilised' modern man. But these peoples were on the wrong continents for my story, so I turned to Africa, where I discovered the Oromo people. Thus far, I've only dipped into their culture, but their wisdom and care for the enviroment is obvious in their proverbs. This gave me the idea to find proverbs that were apt for my story, and which would help drive my story, and there are many.

The following proverb illustrates the bedrock of my story and a short excerpt of the first draft follows.

If there is peace between man, and animals, and the land, Waqqa who lives in the sky will send rain and great abundance. If there is no peace between man, and animals, and the land, there will be no fertility and the Oromo will cease to exist. – Oromo proverb.

 Chapter One


Kiya froze, listening: it had barely been a noise. An elusive sound; a twig breaking underfoot, the quiet brushing of an animal against the undergrowth. She melted into the thicket of bushes, her nut-brown skin and earth-dyed travelling clothes blending with her surroundings. Crouched down to wait, knife at the ready, she balanced on the balls of her feet and slowed her breathing.

Her heart thudded loud in her ears. Abe had seen strangers to the north, when he’d travelled the road from the high pass ten days back. Giants of men, he’d said: fair-haired and blue-eyed. He’d had dealings with their kind in the past and knew them to be merciless, war-mongering, deadly fighters. What did they want so far from their own land? Abe had stayed the night, traded his wares, joined their celebration, taken part in their storytelling, and travelled on, but his warning had made the village elders provision the secret caverns in case of need.

She waited, still as a breezeless day, until her muscles cramped. The air brought the scents of rotting leaves underfoot, of wild boar, of dust, now wind-dry off the exposed and broken mountain slopes. The whisper of sound came again and a deer crossed the path in front of her. She breathed more freely: just a deer.

Crossing the steep-sided narrow ravine, she picked her way over the bones of the ancient bridge and thanked Waqqa for the gift of water, as she did each time she crossed the tumbling river. The track wound upwards through the wooded cleft in the barren hills, and she strode easily, her bag swinging at her side. She paused at the top of the rise, where the trees thinned and allowed a view across the lands of legend to the south where, it was told, lay Boorana, the homeland of the Oromo peoples.

Beyond the mountains in the west, towards the sea her people had never seen, the sun sank in a lowering sky, edging the clouds with fire and painting the first snow of the waning year orange on the summits. Snow meant spring-melt, and spring-melt meant water for crops and good grazing for cattle. The tallest peaks were white even in summer, and Abe said there were rivers of ice in the higher passes.

Her eyes were drawn south again, across a sparse country of low hills, dotted with stunted oaks and juniper: stories said desert lay out there beyond the feet of the mountains, vast and uncrossable. No-one ventured that way, now, and from that direction none had come for many generations.

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