This is the first of a new series here at The Bliss Institute on magical books. Books are an old love of mine that captured my heart since I was a child. I now wish to share this love with you all. So I felt it was appropriate to start with a book that I actually started reading in Barnes and Nobles with every intention of just checking out the first chapter. 10 minutes later I was hooked and purchasing Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale. A free sample can be read through the link but I will summarize the beginning of the story for you here.
This tale takes place in old Russia and follows the Vladimirovich family as the spiritual old ways are steadily being replaced by the Christian Church. The first chapter entitled Frost, sets the scene in the Vladimirovich family home where the children of Pyotr Vladimirovich are settling in for the evening. The lady of the house Marina requests a story from the family keeper Dunya who assisted in all things to maintain the Vladimirovich family. Marina coming in from the cold of winter requests a story about Karachun once known as the God of Death but now is the Frost Demon King Morozko. Dunya is reluctant to share this tale as speaking of the Frost King is known to draw his attention but after some gentle prodding indulges Marina with the tale.
Dunya shares a story of a young girl whose father remarries upon the death of her mother. Eventually the new mother wants to be rid of the her husbands daughter and convinces her father that it is time for her to wed. The step mother presents that the girl will wed The Frost King. Appalled the father objects as he knows that this is no match for a young girl and will most likely result in her death but is eventually convinced by his new wife. They then take the daughter out to the woods and leave her there near a tree telling her that soon her husband will arrive. The young woman waits, the cold creeping deeper within her until a horse arrives with a man upon it. With him comes a biting cold as he asks her repeatedly if she is comfortable. The young woman repeatedly replies that she is quite comfortable even as she begins to freeze. Her kindness and polite responses gain the Frost Kings favor and he returns her home with gold and jewels. The step mother thrilled at this decided to send her own daughter to the Frost King believing that her daughter would gain even treasure from the King. The daughter though, like her mother is arrogant and spoiled. When approached by the Frost King she is rude and insolent. Thus left to freeze which is where the father finds the daughter days later. Upon seeing her frozen daughter, the step mother dies on the spot thus ending this particular tale.
This is the start of The Bear and The Nightingale.
The story continues following Vasilia, Vasya, the daughter of Pyotr and Marina from her birth to her cresting womanhood. Through this tale you will find a vibrant telling of the affects felt when transition of a fundamental part of one’s culture is quickly changed. A tale of a young girl who through blood, experience, and destiny is connected to the metaphysical world around her in a way that few others at that time still are. She stands for the link between the power held within the individual which is broken when taken from the community into a hierarchal system created outside of itself. More importantly, Vasya displays for us through this vivid tale provided for us by Arden, that the line between light/shadow, good/evil, life/death is arbitrary and blurry. Arden takes us on a thrilling journey with Vasya to save her family and world from the brother of death who had been waiting for his chance to rise.
I found Arden’s book to be an entertaining text that touched on deeper topics than I had expected. I hope this little bit piques your interest and you read the story for yourself. If not perhaps Part II, where I will discuss the role of shadow integration, masculinity and the actualized Goddess will draw in.
Til then with love,