“The darkness aids dark things to grow. The only way to defeat it is to hold on to the wisdom of choosing what to fear and to stop fearing”.
True to the title of the book Easterine Kire’s Spirit Nights is indeed a book about spirits which is blended into a Chang Naga tribe folklore fable.
It was a time when human world and spirit world existed together. Spirits regulated the well-being of the village; growth of crops and paddies rest on the spirits. In short, the spirit world and the natural world existed in parallel.
One day the tiger ate the sun and the village is swallowed by darkness. Darkness continued in the village for days on end. Tola, the eldest person of the village and who is also the only surviving child of the village seer is left with nothing but to fend her village and the people with her seer instincts.
Tola’s grandson Namu takes on the flight to kill the colossal tiger. In the process he is transported to a parallel spirit world where he enters the mouth of the tiger and encounters his parents who had long passed away. The young man is tied between the union with his parents and his destiny and there’s no way Tola could escape his fate.
This book might not exactly be one of the best of Kire’s books but the sense of foreboding and eeriness that this book draws is quintessential of Naga folklore. It has taboos, superstitions, ghoulish supernatural occurrences and disquieting nightmares. Kire’s array of folklore knowledge is commendable. The equation of the tribal world being set up in a patriarchal society is made evident throughout the book. Tola, the grandmother is the chosen seer of the village but her cousin Chongsen is made the seer because Tola is a woman and to make a woman seer of the village is a taboo. ...but even if she had shared them, would they have taken heed of her dreams? Would they have listened to a woman? A widow?..... she could never become a seer because she was a woman....
Spirit Nights is drenched in superstition and tribal beliefs and it’s as if Kire is celebrating the tribal life through this book. It is fantasy fiction all the way but it’s as if Kire is embracing her tribal identity and manifesting a world of her own. Spirit Nights runs along like a dream while experiencing a tribal folktale narrative. Kire understood the need and the intensity of depiction of her people in a short book.
Easterine Kire’s Spirit Nights is a story of foreboding undertone that juggles between the lives in the natural world and the spirit world. The essence of folklore fable is explored best here by using tribal folklore narrative which is quintessential to Kire’s other books on Naga Folklore. This book can’t get more Kire-esqued than this.
A folklore fable but more on the fantasy side, this book is a must read if you love magic-ish and fantasy books. Although, this one is a tribal folklore induced fantasy, one is sure to get the satisfaction of reading all things fantasy.
Publication Year: 2022, Publisher (India): Simon And Schuster India, Pages: 182, Price: INR 499