A Saga of the Reindeer People
©1988 Megan Lindholm

 

Author's Note

I never intended to write this book.

The original sample chapters and outline that I sent to Ace editor Terri Windling were for a complete fantasy, a story set in another world, a different reality from ours. The answer I got back from Terri unnerved me. "I like it, but would you consider setting it in the real world, perhaps sometime in the distant past?"

I sat down immediately and wrote her a long letter telling her how completely impossible that was. But somehow, by the end of the letter, I found myself conceding that actually there was a culture that had always interested me, and yes, with some modifications, this story might fit into it, and...

I live in a small town. The Timberland Regional Library in Yelm is about the size of someone's living room. I thought the task of researching Lapp culture would be difficult, let alone finding information on the Bronze Age Lapp culture. But the Yelm Timberland Regional Library employs some of the most tenacious librarians that have ever ransacked a micro-fiche. Although I had always considered the Lapps and their culture a rather obscure area, they were soon showing me sources I'd never imagined, and tracking down books from other libraries for me. I found myself immersed in a world of reindeer and bright winter clothing, of birch-twig floored huts, of women who lived on equal terms with their men as early as Roman times and a people who may have wintered over the last Ice Age on a Scandinavian shore. It was enthralling. I found myself adding detail, splicing in events that both developed my characters and offered insights into what life might have been like in those days and that place. I wrote and wrote and wrote.

I wrote 624 pages.

Six hundred twenty-four pages won't fit in a standard paperback.

My options were simple. Cut the manuscript or split it into two books. I looked at all my beautiful research and knew I couldn't cut it out. So, somewhere, the monster had to be cut in half. With the able editing of Terri Windling, and later Beth Fleisher, the division was made. Material was added to give the first half a sort of ending, and to re-introduce the characters and conflicts in the second half. But it was not a totally satisfactory situation. I am very glad that in this edition the entire story will be told in one piece as I first intended it.

A number of my friends and readers have commented on how real the setting seems, and complimented me on my research. That's gratifying. And also troubling. I don't pretend to be an anthropologist. I'm a story teller. There were several places where my research ran out, and the only trail I had left to follow was my story. Scenes such as Heckram and Elsa's joining ceremony are entirely out of my imagination. I have not deliberately contradicted absolutely known facts. I've tried to make my characters people of that culture, shaped by that culture's attitudes. I tried to be true to what my research told me. But when I came to areas on which I could discover no facts, I filled in with something that might have been.

Any story, but fantasy especially, is a blend of what we know and what we don't know. In many places I've used Lapp words because I love the sound of them. I drew on the sensory input of my Alaskan childhood. I put in a lot of what I know. I've cleaned and skinned caribou, I've hiked across tundra, I've worked with children who are what we euphemistically call 'special', I've gathered mushrooms, plants and berries. But I've also put in what I don't know. I've never harnessed a reindeer or practiced herb medicine or had a spirit vision of Wolf as my brother. Those are just a few of the areas where research and imagination have blended to take me places I've never been. If I've done a good enough job, the reader will go with me.

In closing, thanks are due to Terri Windling, an editor who pushed me to take a book somewhere I hadn't been, and to the indefatigable librarians of the Yelm Timberland Regional Library, who told me how to get there. I hope you enjoy being along for the ride.