CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 11 . . . . February 3, 2006
The Honey Jar is a collection of short Maya tales depicting creation myths, explanations of natural phenomena and animal stories. Written by Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú, along with Dante Liano, the tales include features reminiscent of the ancient oral tradition.The Honey Jar is interesting in its cultural detail and provides insight into ancient Maya understandings. Domi’s illustrations are vibrant and the vivid images mirror the simplicity of the text.
However, from a literary standpoint, the writing is overly simple for the intended audience. For example, Menchú writes, “How many things are in the universe? Lots. Lots and lots and lots.” Although repetition is often used effectively in story-telling, in Menchú’s writing it is merely redundant.
As well, the plots lack tension and intrigue. Creation explanations represented in The Honey Jar seem to have no conflict or rising action; they merely explain how things such as stars, water and animals came into existence through the power of supernatural beings like Grandmother Moon and Grandfather Sun. In other tales, such as “Where It’s Told That Monkeys Are Descended from Humans…,” the plots seems to move forward clumsily with little logical consequence.
Certainly, translation may be a factor. Each language has its own rhythm, melody and flow. Although this work may be accurately translated, what we are left with is writing that is awkward at best.The Honey Jar may be of interest to those comparing and contrasting myths and legends from various cultures or those looking for evidence of oral tradition.
Recommended with reservations.
Marina Cohen has a Master’s Degree in French literature from the University of Toronto and has been teaching in the York Region District School Board for 10 years.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.