Thursday, April 26, 2012

Historical Fiction or Fantasy? Herodotus: the Father of Lies

Some of my books are hard to classify. The Fire Series are not entirely what one might call historical fiction, and not totally fantasy either. They are set in the world Herodotus, born c. 490 BCE, the Greek historian describes as Scythia and ancient Persia. He describes Scythia as a wild place dominated by equally wild horsemen. These tribes traveled in wagons and on horseback. They were impossible to conquer because they knew the wild lands and could hide, blending into the landscape. The Persians tried, with their huge armies, to subdue the people, but they never could.

The Paralatae tribe, to which the royal brothers Zohak and Atar belong, was described as being a “royal” Scythian tribe, the descendants of the great mythical king Colaxais. Herodotus describes the Scythians as very strange because men and women enjoy equality, something very rare in his day.

Some of their habits are quite interesting. For example, they made cups out of the skulls of their defeated enemies, coating them with gold. They also made nice cloaks out of the scalps of their enemies. A warrior was very proud of such a cloak, and it grew in size as he or she fought and defeated the enemies, which were many. Enemies could be anyone they happened to meet.

In the second part of my “Fire Series,” King Melik is murdered. The ritual I describe is derived from Herodotus’ account. When a king or family member with a high standing died, a herd animal was slaughtered and its raw flesh was mixed with that of the dead human. This was passed around in a pot, and each member of the tribe would eat some of the raw flesh. The object was to recycle the person’s power back into the remaining people of the tribe.

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