THE JAGUAR PRINCESS by Clare Bell

10 12 2016

Pre-Columban Mexico

Let me start with an extract to give you something of the feel of the book:

jaguar-princess-coverIn the Aztec year Three Reed, in the age of the Earthquake Sun, a six-year-old girl named Mixcatl sat in a barge threading its way through the waterways of Tenochtitlan. She glowered at the passing reflections and tugged angrily at the slave yoke about her neck. Leather thongs hobbled her ankles and wrists. Her hands had been tied in front, where she could chew on the length between her wrists when the overseer wasn’t looking. She was making little progressd in freeing herself; the leather was tough.

Scowling and wincing with pain, she felt the sides of her neck above the wooden yoke, where the flesh was raw and full of splinters. A crude and clumsy thing, the collar was made of two Y-forked pieces, lashed together to form a a tight diamond-shaped opening for her neck and two handles that stuck out over her shoulders.

Mixcatl knew well what those handles were used for. She had been dragged from the jobbing lot where slaves were collected for transport to market. The collar handles made it easier for the slave traders to seize slaves and shove them into the market boat.

Reaching up awkwardly with her bound hands …

This story is different from my usual medieval reads because it is set in medieval Mexico not Europe, and from my usual fantasy fixes because the girl changes into a jaguar not a wolf. I don’t know if there were wolves in Mexico but jaguars seem to have been quite common there and very much feared. I noticed the interesting detail, too, that because jaguars are bigger than people and weigh more than them, as people the shape-changers are very heavy (dense is the right word, I think) and can’t for instance swim: they sink straight to the bottom. I would hate that. (The only shape changing I would fancy is into a mermaid!)

As a small child, Mixcatl is sold into slavery – or kidnapped and sold, it isn’t clear.

At the age of six, she arrives in Tenochtitlan, the ancient Aztec city, and there she is sold to Speaking Quail. He is a tutor at the school for young monks and priests of their appalling religion (thousands of people have their hearts torn out or their skin torn off or are burnt alive as a sacrifice every month) but he is a good man.

The story depicts Mixcatl’s development as an artist and the gradual realisation that she is also a shape-shifter. The king wants to kill her – sacrifice her – but she is protected by the ruler of a neighboring state, a kind of philosopher-king who hates the religion of Tenochtitlan.

I liked the description of the city and the way of life, something I hadn’t even imagined before. And I loved Mixcatl, the jaguar princess of the title, and her mentor, the old art teacher who – but I mustn’t tell you any more. Only that after you read this you will never think of the Aztecs and Tenochtitlan the same way again.

There is a film, Cat People, with Nastassia Kinski, and you see her change into a jaguar. That and some other scenes  from the film are very moving, (and should not be missed – nor should the David Bowie soundtrack, so I’m posting it here in case you have missed it!) but the story in this book is much better than the plot of that film.

 

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The Power of Concentration and Balance

13 07 2014

Watch this …





An Interview with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

21 05 2014

A fascinating interview with the creator of Sherlock Holmes in which he talks about Holmes – of course – and also his researches into Spiritualism and the Paranormal.





Christine Keeler IS Grizabella

7 12 2013

Something rather different today.

Christine Keeler musical

I have always been a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s. However, it seems to me – and I may be wrong, I haven’t yet seen, or even read a synopsis of, Stephen Ward – but it seems that he has lost the thread somewhere along the line.

The Mary Magdalenes (as in Jesus Christ Superstar) and the Grizabellas (as in Cats) have been forgotten.

I don’t mean the whores – there will, I assume, be plenty of that in Stephen Ward (how could there not be when he was, by profession, a pimp?) (one of the up-market ones, bien sur; me, I have always preferred the more earthy ones, bastards you know where you are with).

No, I don’t mean the whores, I mean the outsiders, the ageing beauties, the ex-whores, indeed all those who when they pass their use-by date are cast aside “like flowers of the field”.

This thought came to me when I read these two articles. Read them now – please – before going on. This one from The Guardian (which is admirable) and this one from The Daily Mail (which is the usual tripe). But read both to get the full picture..

Who was “the Glamour Cat”? Who was the femme fatale who had affaires with  John Profumo, the secretary of state for war in Harold Macmillan’s government, and the Russian naval attache, Yevgeny Ivanov, and brought down a government?

And who is now the shunned outsider?

Lloyd Webber should be seen with his arm round Christine. “Touch me! It’s so easy to leave me all alone with my memory of my days in the sun …”

It is indeed.

But now, apparently, it is just the silly and superficial (and rich) who count.

Or perhaps it is simply that Christine Keeler (unlike Mandy Rice-Davies and Stephen Ward) is not and never was “one of us”.

(Not so different from what I am usually on about, actually, now I look back over it.)





Two Video-Clips I Want to Share

8 02 2013

Two very different video-clips that struck me forcibly this week. The first – well, have a look at it, and see HERE

The second you will find HERE.

Of the second, we might say well, this is evolution in action. The birds that swallow the plastic junk will not survive, those that turn their beaks up at it will survive, which is presumably how all species learnt to avoid toxic non-foods.

But what can one say of the first?  Do societies where girls and women are free and educated have a greater chance of survival?  Because if so, these Neanderthal males are fighting a battle they must ultimately lose.





John Kent Harrison’s HELEN OF TROY

7 06 2011

[Continuing from my previous post, King of Ithaca …] Perhaps the central focus of this film, this version, is the way a powerful and arrogant macho alpha male lusts after a “slut” who dares to refuse to make herself available. The “slut” in question is of course Helen (Sienna Guillory – perfect in the role), and the man, Rufus Sewell (an equally perfect, megalomaniac, Agamemnon) – and the song is by Sting! Enjoy it!