A lyrical, dreamy picture storybook of five interlocking outings among the Kadar adivasi (indigenous) community in the Anamalai hills in southern India.
The Kadar tribes were historically nomadic hunter-gatherers, but 40 years ago, according to the authors’ note, they were “forced to live in small permanent settlements at the edges of [the] forests”; today, they act as guides to tourists and traders who want to traverse their lands. Researchers Ramesh and Chandi spent hours with tribal elders, and the result is this magical collection, exquisitely illustrated by Frame. The stories are mostly narrated by Madiyappan, a Kadar elder, as well as his uncle, Krishnan, and his cousin Padma. They guide the narrator, presumably an urban visitor, through a dramatic and philosophical forest walk: “Paths have character: there are easy ones, challenging ones, unforgiving ones, one that encourage you to walk with a steady swinging rhythm and other that tease your stride with odd twists and turns,” Madiyappan says. The book introduces the hills’ and forests’ flora and fauna—bison, monkeys, hornbills—and uses Indigenous words unapologetically, although many can be deciphered in context or found in the book’s short glossary.
Like many oral folktales, the stories meander, but here the craft is also in perfect synchrony with its content: “Good forest people are curious,” says Padma. “We constantly explore.” (Folktales. 8-12)