Reindeer Moon (Reindeer Moon, Book 1)
Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
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"Reindeer Moon" may well come to be regarded as the supreme contemporary novel of our prehistory. It opens up corridors to the imagination that lead us back toward the long echoes of our distant human past, and its characters, as vivid as any alive, live on in the mind long after the book has been set down."Reindeer Moon" is the first novel, but not the first book, by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of classic anthropological accounts of hunters and gatherers. Yanan, its headstrong heroine, lived twenty thousand years ago near Woman Lake in central Siberia among places you will not find on any modern map. Yanan, only thirteen when her story begins, is passionate and courageous, and her companions--hunters of deer, gatherers of roots and twigs, shamans, babies at the breast--are all, like her, bound to the harsh realities of hunger, cold, death by violence or childbirth, and the cycles of love and jealousy, of marriage and kinship. As Yanan recounts the terrible adventures of her brief life she departs, from time to time, on spirit journeys that evoke the lives of animals with extraordinary intimacy, for Yanan's fate is like ours but conceived in different terms.
women suffer! I would bleed! I could die! I looked up at the bleached antlers in the arch of the roof, their sharp tines white in the firelight. Usually I saw life and strength when I looked at the antlers, but that night I saw rutting and fighting. I looked at all the many things wedged among the tines—Father’s hafted greenstone ax, Mother’s flint knife, Aunt Yoi’s ivory necklace that she never let me wear or even touch, a necklace given her by Timu’s sister, Owl, in a marriage exchange.
with them. It made me feel happy—if I had thought that the colts and the fawn would wait for me, I would have tried to play too. Even so, I never would have thought a person and a wolf could play while almost starving, nor did I feel like playing when I watched them. But like the wolf, I did feel mild. 7 ONE NIGHT I WOKE UP to hear geese calling, and when I went back to sleep, I dreamed of Graylag praising those strong birds for keeping their groups together. You didn’t keep your group
together, he seemed to say to me. Weeping, I tried to explain that I couldn’t help what had happened, but with a clapping of wings much louder than my voice, he rose into the air and vanished. I woke again and tried to look around, hardly able to remember where I was. The dark, the cold, the quiet, and the smell of stale ashes and wet fur reminded me. Then I thought of Aunt Yoi and my cousins, who by now must have returned to the Char River and told the people that Meri and I were here alone.
giving up. A raven flew down to roost on her spine. By early afternoon she was moving short distances to feed. Each time she did, the hyenas stole up to her youngster, making her charge back again. By midafternoon the hyenas were goading her to chase them. When she ran after one, the others would close in on the dead calf. When she ran back, the one she chased would lope at her side. This was heavy work for the hyenas, as the heather was thick and springy underfoot and the day was warm. From
gave Swift a weak smile. Swift then turned to me. “Hide-in-the-Grass! We’re glad these men are going with you,” he said, then added, “not that anyone forgets how you came alone from the Marten River.” It seemed my last chance to say something to Swift and Graylag, or to any of the people. The others now stood in the distance, waiting with their packs on, ready to leave. “I’m sorry, Father-in-Law,” I said to Graylag. “I, too,” he said. “I’m sorry, Uncle,” I said to Swift. He gave a polite nod.