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Showing posts with label Ji Lin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ji Lin. Show all posts


The Hunter (2000)

Retold by Mary Casanova

Illustrated by Ed Young

Pastel and gouache

Text set in Papyrus ICG

Book design by Michael Nelson

"The author first heard this story from an exchange student from Chang Chun, the capital city in the Ji Lin province of northeast China," begins the book, prior to the dedication.

Following this are reproductions of 15 stylized Chinese characters and their English translations:

Suffer - Drought
Snatch - Soar
Hasten - Rescue
Dragon - Palace
Reward with - Treasure
Magic - Rock
All - Benefit
Floor - Disaster
Begging to - Escape
Doubt - All
Heavenly - Secret (Plan)
Turning to - Stone

Not counting the cover and title page, Young produced 15 illustrations for this particular book, each corresponding to one of these characters, which appear as tiny, scarlet imprints on the right hand corner of each page, like a seal. Taken in total, they form a narrative.

This is the story of a young hunter named Hai Li Bu, charged with providing the meat for his village in a land where game has grown scarce and life is hard. "The children rarely laughed, the young women seldom sang, and the white-haired people were too weak to leave their mats."

However, deep within the caves beneath the village lives the Dragon King, whom Young illustrates with a multitude of fierce strokes, seemingly unconnected to any shape or outline. He is surrounded by treasures and by magic, and it is with him that Hai Li Bu must bargain.

"Your treasures are beautiful, but the only thing I desire is to understand the language animals. Then I can be a better hunter."

The Dragon King reared back and from out of his mouth shot a round stone. "Take it," he said, "and your wish will come true. But remember one thing: You must not pass on the secret of your gift, or you will surely turn to stone, like the one you now hold."

For a while, this gift helps the hunter, and he is able to return to his village each night with more and more food. But there is a price to be had, one of heightened responsibility. He must warn his fellow villagers of a coming storm - which he knows about due only to his understanding of the birds and the beasts. His fellow villagers do not believe his words, and so he is forced to divulge the secret of his knowledge.

"Look," he said, "the birds flee." As he spoke, his toes grew stiff as stones. "Tomorrow the mountain will be struck by lightning," he added, and his legs became granite hard. "The village will be flooded," he said, and his hands stopped in midair. "Listen," he said, "believe me and have courage." And as he spoke these last words, his lips turned to stone.
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