World-Building Wonders – Fantasy and Real Mountain Folk
In my YA action and adventure/fantasy novel Prince of Malorn, teenage Prince Korram must travel into the Impassable Mountains and seek help from a remote tribe known as the Mountain Folk. I patterned this people group after the Gujar people of South Asia who live in parts of India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. My brother actually lived and worked among the Gujar for several years, so his stories helped inspire some of the cultural aspects of the book.
In Prince of Malorn, the Mountain Folk are a nomadic tribe of hunters and gatherers who also keep goats for their milk, meat, and hides. They constantly travel across their mountain range in search of the best grazing. Their culture is very different from that of the “Lowlanders” (who are similar to many medieval-style fantasy peoples). In general, Mountain Folk keep to themselves and try to avoid contact with Lowlanders, though they do occasionally trade with them or buy supplies in foothill villages and towns. They accuse Lowlanders of cheating them in trade and taking advantage of their illiteracy and ignorance of how things work in town. On the other hand, Lowlanders accuse Mountain Folk of cheating them in trade, as well as of stealing their crops. They consider Mountain folk to be dirty, ignorant, and uncivilized.
The Gujar people are also nomadic herdsmen. They keep sheep, goats, and water buffalo, and constantly travel, mostly through mountainous areas, to find the best grazing for their livestock. Their culture is very different from that of the other South Asian peoples with whom they come in contact. When Gujar people stop to trade or buy supplies in villages and towns, they often accuse the local people of cheating and taking advantage of them. On the other hand, locals accuse the Gujars of cheating them, as well as of stealing their crops. They consider Gujars to be dirty, ignorant, and uncivilized.
As a Lowlander, Prince Korram faces a difficult challenge in getting the Mountain Folk to accept and trust him, let alone be willing to help him in his mission. Convincing other Lowlanders to start treating the Mountain Folk fairly and overcome their prejudices is almost as difficult. Much of the book deals with Korram’s struggle to bring about acceptance and understanding between the Mountain Folk and himself, and between Mountain Folk and Lowlanders. This acceptance and understanding, for the most part, has not yet taken place between Gujars and other South Asian peoples. Though the Gujars, like the Mountain Folk, will always have a very different way of life from those around them, I hope that someday they, too, will be able to see eye to eye with the outsiders they interact with.
Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published ten books (one YA action and adventure novel, four fantasies, a puppet script, and four anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel. She blogs regularly on books, life in Taiwan, writing, teaching, and etc, including her own series, Realm Explorers, that offers windows into fantasy worlds!
Prince Korram is heir to the throne of Malorn, but Regent Rampus is determined to stay in power at all costs. Korram treks into the Impassable Mountains to try to recruit allies from among the one segment of Malornian society not under Rampus’s control. But can he lead a band of untrained hunters and gatherers to victory, or will they all be crushed before the prince can claim his crown?