Masaryk university in brno faculty of Arts Department of English and American Studies




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The tale based on the Midas myth is, however, not the only tale Serafine narrates. Later on, when Xanthe is born, Serafine tells more stories to both of the girls. This time her story is interwoven with the mythology of her native Caribbean island. She tells Miranda and Xanthe about Manjiku, the scary sea monster (and remarks that, in fact, all men are like Manjiku, thus sharing her female wisdom and experience) and the story of Amadou and Amade. It is a story of unfulfilled love, in which Amade lets her lover Amadou go away with a starwoman, and she herself swims far into the sea, hoping for Manjiku to take her. Instead of the expected death, however, she rescues Manjiku from his curse and stays alive.

Not only is this tale connected to the mythology of Serafine´s native island (the sea monster Manjiku, the starwoman), as has already been suggested above; it also has a strong connection to reality. Could this be the story of Kit Everard´s mother? Estelle Desjours, Kitś mother, Ant Everard´s first wife, used to go swimming often, and although she was considered a good swimmer, one day she drowned. “One day as usually she drove herself there (on the beach) in her mule cart, and disappeared.”149 Her death was never fully explained, and gradually it was transformed into various tales. Miranda, for example, mixes the story of her grandmother with fairy tales, influenced by the story her father has made up:”Estelle Desjours became mixed up with stories that she´d heard about mermen and mermaids and dolphins that could talk and other sea creatures (…) Kit used to say she´d sat astride a dolphin and struck out too far.”150 Another variation of the story is the one that comes from Serafine. She, too, attributes the story with magic and unreal elements: “Manjiku had taken Mr Anthony´s first wife, the island wife, the one that died by drowning. (…) But this savage story isn´t seemly for the little English girls, so Serafine has adapted it, as storytellers do.”151 Does it imply that, indeed, Serafine´s story is a transformed story of Estelle Desjours? We know from the other parts of the book that Estelle was Ant´s first wife and that when Kit was about eight years old, he and his father (Ant) moved to England, leaving Estelle behind. It was then, when she was on her own, that the mysterious accident that led to her death happened. Although there is no evidence that Ant left Estelle for another woman, and we can only speculate about it; it is a fact that the true story of Kit and Estelle resembles that of Amadou and Amade rather conspicuously.

There is yet another story the girls know, another one with a happy ending. It is traditionally told in the Everard´s family, as well as in the history books. It is a story of “how the first Kit Evereard won the love of an islander and how she saved him and his brave band of pioneers.”152 It is supposed to have come from first-hand sources and it is supposed to be authenticated. The story has it that Ariel ( a native girl, raised by Sycorax) raised the alarm upon hearing that there was a violent uprising against the white settlers planned for the upcoming night. She supposedly did so because of her love for Kit Everard and on behalf of the child she had by him. However, as the readers learn in the previous chapters, the history was different. Ariel did not want to save Kit, in fact, she wished to destroy him. The story narrated by Serafine is an instance of the re-telling of the history and creation of a new one, one that would be more appropriate and would fit the conquerors. For the story of Ariel and Kit was retold and altered by the white settlers, the ones who gained power as they won the control over the island and the islanders.

Indigo starts with one of Serafine´s stories and, as a matter of fact, it also ends with one. It is the story Serafine tells to Astrid (Miranda´s mother) on one of her visits in the hospital where Astrid, now aged and decrepit, lies. Once again, it is a story in which Serafine proves her ancient wisdom, her soothing and calming art. This time, it is a story about a way to catch a tigress. The point of the story is that the tigress becomes vulnerable when faced with her own reflection in the mirror, which she takes for a little cub. Once again, Serafine´s story has links to the reality of Astrid´s life as it deals with the mother-daughter relationship, which is highly relevant regarding Astrid. For, as we know from the previous chapters, Astrid was far from being a perfect mother. And Serafine´s story, again, provides an advice: ”It´s no good always wanting the same, the same as yourself in someone else. To look for yourself in little, is dangerous.”153

In most of her stories, Serafine is, in fact, fulfilling the traditional function of the act of storytelling. As Hans-Heino Ewers in his study called “Children´s literature and the Traditional Art of Storytelling” claims, during the preliterate times when the tradition of oral storytelling emerged, the practical aspect of storytelling was highly significant. “Stories are told because of the usefulness of their insights, and at the same time, they are (often quite imperceptibly) adapted to the practical requirement of the present. This explains how they can sustain their viability and practical value over the ages.”154 Ewers believes that didactics has, in fact, always been part of storytelling. “Every real story (…) contains, openly or covertly, something useful. The usefulness may, in one case, consist in a moral; in another, in some particular instruction; in a third in a proverb or maxim. In every case a storyteller is a man who has counsel for his readers.”155 And so is Serafine, as her stories, indeed, always contain a message, advice or comfort. No matter how fantastic, fairy tale like or mythical may her stories may seem, Serafine never tells her tales without a purpose, never without a subtle link to the reality.

Towards the end of the book, in the closing chapter, Serafine is attributed the magic ability to hear the distant voices of the past, present and future. She can hear them inside her head,“ she´s tired nowadays to unscramble the noises, but she´s happy hearing them, to change into stories another time.”156 This way, Serafine merges with the character of the sage Sycorax, who, although dead, possesses the same ability to hear the voices of the living world. Thus Warner connects the stories from different centuries as both the voices of Serafine and Sycorax merge into one timeless Sibyllan voice that crosses both culture and temporal boundaries.

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