I have been working on a novel titled Rewriting Adam for the past three years. Through a series of unusual circumstances, my protagonist finds himself helping an archaeologist survey an area in northern Myanmar. Their local guide is a young man who is Shatikha*, a minority language group from that area, and also the language group that my husband and I are working in, translating the Bible into their language. For me, it made sense to have my novel set in that area of the world where we lived for 13 years.
Every culture has its own worldview, beliefs, and legends, so I decided to incorporate some of these stories into my novel. In one of my chapters, my protagonist discovers what the Shatikha believe about ghosts. The ghost stories told in this chapter are either true first-account happenings, or are true stories told by trusted Shatikha sources. My husband gathered these stories himself as part of his cultural study. So, knowing these stories existed, I couldn’t help but incorporate them into my novel. It seemed the perfect way to include my interest in the strange and weird and my love for speculative fiction.
And even though I was writing a novel, I also wanted to incorporate my love of poetry into my writing. Therefore, each chapter begins with my own work of poetry that foreshadows events in the chapter. For the chapter about Shatikha ghosts, I decided to write a poem based on Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, “The Raven.” And even though my poem is only the length of one stanza of Poe’s poem, I tried to write so that the reader would become uncomfortable—to shift uneasily in their chair, as if something scary was about to happen. I know I could never reach Poe’s standard with just one stanza, but I wanted it to be just enough to prepare the reader for what was to come.
Here is the poem:
Once upon a jungle pathway, bamboo heavy, blocking sun’s ray,
Traveller needing rest and beckoning home hearth, presses t’ward the call,
Danger comes so unsuspecting, in human form, veiled presenting,
Shadowed stalking unrelenting, weary traveller trapped to fall,
Danger bites, addiction’s power, death feeds slowly from the fall—
Fear the ghost. Fear—one and all.
That was a fun poem to write. Bottom line, though, is this: The real story behind the story will always be the Shatikha people themselves--how God has redeemed them and given them the divine power to demolish strongholds (2 Cor. 10:3-5). They no longer need to be afraid of ghosts or the shaman or any evil spirits. In Jesus, they have the freedom to share their ghost stories without fear. And that, dear friends, is Truth—and the most beautiful story of all.
|Shatikha script: book heading for the book of Acts, literally translated "The Story About What the Apostles Did."|