In the long ago, there was a boy named Henry. His greatest love was his little sister, and his greatest desire was to be a thief. It was a passion as misguided as it was pure.
In the coming of age story The Fortieth Thief, author Ruth Finnegan tells the lively story of Henry as he grows up and tries to pursue his dream of learning to be a proper thief. Finnegan packs a lot of literary dazzle in a short and charming story. This fantastic tale gives a new and unique perspective to Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves story. A folk tale of the natural world, and a morality story about selflessness and love. Henry can be forgiven for his ill-advised goals because of his innocence and youth, while at the same time we can all learn a little something from his passion and exuberance.
The Fortieth Thief is an adorable story that is a great addition to an age old tale that contains a great message for young children where adventures like this may be in short supply in the real world but never in our imagination, and Ruth Finnegan sets readers imagination on fire.
Pages: 43 | ASIN: B086SDJ9KT
The Helix Pearl is an enchanting book that retells the story from Black Inked Pearl but this time from the perspective of the sea. How did the idea for this novel come to you?
I really don’t know because like my other novels it just arrived with me in my sleep. So maybe it already existed in the liminal space that anthropologists talk about and the students of the Enchanted know so well, the in-between space when you’re not awake, you’re not asleep and dreaming, and yet you’re both. A very receptive place.
So I didn’t really plan it, but I suppose in a way. yes, it is just that the plan was already there in my unconscious or in, should we call it , in the tapestry of the Universe that’s been there since the beginning of time and always will be, something that I, somehow, somewhat tap into when I’m in that mysterious ‘away’ place.
But then I suppose in another way it comes from my literary background. Not everyone likes this because it’s not written in, for example, the kind of grammar and so on that you were taught as ‘correct’ prose at age 12 or so. The wording seeps up, somehow, from the depths, from my knowledge of poetry, from my learning of the rhythms of African storytelling which I think now infuse all my creative writing, and above all from Greek myth, and maybe too from the shared collective unconscious that Jung talked about (when I was younger I used to think thtvnonsense – no longer).
The novel also comes, more directly, from my reading ( aloud) of Homer’s wonderful epics – songs, really – specially the sea-tossed tale of the Odyssey. Homer knew what he was talking about! He knew well those violent storms of the Mediterranean, He knew firsthand the ways of the sea, p the tossing of the waves and the fury of Poseidon, the raging god of the sea.
In fact the subtitle is a direct translation of Homer’s epithets or the sea – wine-dark and garrulous, chattering, always always talking, never still – have you really known a really quiet sea? Peaceful at times, certainly, magical, but always murmurs from the tiny little wavelets. And wine-dark – I don’t think that means dark in the sense of gloomy, more glowing like deep red wine. Homer also calls the sea ‘ever laughing’, isn’t that just right? never ever totally still but always moving, roaming , rambling ( the Literary Titan review puts it well), sometimes sparkling and laughing in the sun, sometimes laughing violently in storm as it engulfs ships and holds monsters in its depth.
The other bit of background, very deep in me, is from growing up by water: in part by the Donegal sea and in part by a great river, the Foyle, that opens out to the sea by my beloved native city of Derry, Columba’s oak grove. These memories, these experiences, run all the way through the book and give it meaning for me.
When writing from the Sea’s perspective what were some themes or feelings you felt were important to capture in the character?
I think the themes and feelings I wanted to capture were exactly those I’ve talked about in answer to the first question – the laughing of the sea, its storms, the way it’s always there, eternally laughing, so that its view somehow puts the familiar, story and characters into – yes this above all – a kind of universal perspective.
Isn’t that the way, the role, of literature? to bring out the universal? I think I wanted to make that happen.
And remember – the double helix, the mystic spiral, the curl of the wave, is the sign of life, of eternity, infinity: ‘heaven in a wild flower’. That too.
Also, thoiugh in essence it just arrived irrespective of my conscious planning, I did also work at the research on water. I searched out the songs and poems associated with the great rivers (they all had at least one, amazing) the huge number of rivers tun under London, maybe also under or anyway through many of the great cities of the world. I marvelled at what I found.
I was also amazed to discover how much of the earth’s surface is water. I know in another book I (well, I in my maternal grandfathers name, David Campbell Callender) talked about the importance of grass, the weed that so miraculously clothes the earth. But that’s just the dry land. What, to my astonishment, I discovered Pin The Helix Pearl is that most of our planet’s surface is water. In the novel I wanted to convey not just that fact but the wonder of it.
So I wanted that to come out but also, and maybe above all, the fairytale quality of the story.
Another surprise, which then for me became a central theme, was that I learnt more about Kate – about the many sides of her nature – from the book. Even more important possibly, I discovered more about the male character.He has become more central, someone whose nature we struggle to. unlock (more so in later books). In Black Inked Pearl he is shown in quite a bad light, inexplicably abandoning Kate, and though he heroically goes back to find her he’s pretty curt with her when he does and is only redeemed (if anything could really redeem his earlier betrayal) by his offered sacrifice at the very end
In The Helix Pearl, I began to understand that there was far more to him than I had realised, and that he hadn’t abandoned Kate, rather she just hadn’t followed him, in this book because of her fear of the water, a central motivation for the tale. Quite a discovery on my part.
You’ll notice my vocabulary – I think of the book as something I ‘discovered’, magically already there, not planned or invented.And yes, that is the feeling I would like readers get from the book.
What were some goals you set for yourself as a writer with this book?
Well, the things I’ve just been saying.
To be quite honest. I’ll have read it again, because I’ve forgotten almost all of it. It came so quickly in dreams or whatever. I don’t even remember the process of writing it.
I do know however this as with all my fiction and poetry and even a little bit with my screenplays and non-fiction. I wanted it to sound good. Here it is specifically the sounds of the sea and of water but always I want there to be rhythm and sonic echoes and cadences and resonancing. As with Homer and all ancient and mediaeval literary works it needs to be read aloud.
Do you have plans to continue to expand this story?
Well, as with all my writing I’ll just have to see what emerges.
But also yes, in the way, definitely.
In fact I have already expanded, or, rather, recycled, the story,
exploring its many dimensions in my own literary way. I know not all readers like my style, and that’s all right though I love it when people do warm to it and I get lovely understanding reviews (
Literary Titan’s for example!), but , really, I have no choice. That’s just the way of writing that’s been given to me.
So yes I’ll be re-doing the story. It will be a series that, once it reaches the full novel form, will go on being expressed in a poetic way steeped in implicit literary metaphors and associations, specially inspired by Shakespeare. Homer, Rumi and the Bible – and so much else from my life of reading and listening.
When you write out of sudden unsought inspiration, you don’t exactly have plans – all the same this is how I now see my ‘Kate-Pearl’ series eventually emerging.
Some are published, some already written and, in several cases, waiting for the illustrator, the fantastic Rachel Backshall. The final one is just a (very insistent) gleam in the eye – it will arrive when it’s ready.
So here’s the full.lst (double asterisk if published, single if written but not yet published, obelisk (!) if, for children, illustrated
Oh Kate! A block book * !
The magic adventure: Kris and Kate build a boat A picture book ** !
Kris and Kate’s second adventure: the Pearl-Maran A picture story book * !
The enchanted Pearl-Away A chapter book !
Voyage of Pearl of the Seas **! for young adults/adults
Black Inked Pearl **
The Helix Pearl **
Pearl of the Wind *
Thy Tears are Pearl
Let me explain. It is a projected series that, unlike most series, is not directed to a particular age group, set of interests or specific genre. Rather, as you can see, it runs through all ages (something like the British National Health Service is supposed do, ‘from cradle to grave’). It is all essentially the same story but told in a way suitable to its target audience, about, in the opening volumes Kate and a companion and her dog, Holly as their younger selves. After the first novel, Black Inked Pearl which for some reason was different, they’re all about setting out on the water in a boat that is in some way felt to be magical, and facing disaster – and coming through, strengthened and more mature.
The next novel will be Pearl of the Wind. It is complement not sequel to the earlier ones in that it is the same story but now told not in the third or first person, as with the previous two , but in the second, the vocative. Homer opened with ‘Sing oh goddess .., ‘, here it is ‘Sing oh Wind … ‘; and unlike the earlier focus on earth, then on water, it is the third element, air, that is invoked and that gives the setting.
The text of Pearl of the Wind is probably incomplete but I am not sure. It has an unusual origin. I was on a cruise, a ship in mid-ocean ( what more liminal … ) when I happened on an email about a competition to write a novel in 3 days – 3 days flat! You could have thought about it before (as I had, I’d just never had time to get it down) but the actual writing had to be done in just three days. A challenge! Well I did it, loved the process,and sent it off. Naturally I’ve heard nothing since but at least it’s there.
I can by now recall nothing – nothing – of its content ( some interspersed poetry about winds possibly?) just its POV – point of view. I guess it needs to be extended before going out – or maybe not. Anyhow time I looked at it again.
As for the final one – that will probably be the most complex and searching of the lot, so maybe not till my deathbed. It will of course be the same story – myth – again but this time bringing together the dimensions of the rest in terms of tense and person and material elements and love; and above all of the elusiveness of personal identity.
It’ll probably be called (I leave you to winkle out the Shakesoearean, as ever, allusion) ‘Thy tears are pearl’ , and though I already have quite a feel for the setting and perspective and central character I decline to say any more at this point. We’ll just have to wait and see (me too).
Till then my best writing wishes and thank you for reading this.
Inspired variously by the Odyssey,William Blake’s cosmologies, Rumi’s poems, and Charles Kingsley’s stories foryoungsters, this novel embraces the magic of childhood imagining. Kate andChris, along with Kate’s loyal dog, Holly, swim and frolic on a summer shore. Aship built from driftwood becomes their vessel: Kate’s the queen and Chris isthe Man of Action, the one who saves them both from wind and water. At first,Kate’s fear of sailing the high seas causes her to abandon ship, but a terribleloneliness sets in, and she regrets leaving. The sudden appearance of amagician saves the day; she answers his riddles to regain her berth. In theirboat, the Pearl of the Seas, Kate and Chris pilot through treacherousrocks and come ashore in a welcoming kingdom, where they learn a version of theTower of Babel story, “the very disaster of our world.” In this hybrid book ofnarrative blended with verse and song, different ways of telling a story mayappear on a single page. The King of Names instructs Kate that “for the deepthings it is poetry.” Such wise lessons fortify the children, but even happydreams must end. Their parting gifts include a magic pebble-pearl that rightsthe broken mast so they may return to the shore of reality and family. Though thePearl of the Seas may not buoy them to distant lands again, theydetermine that Black Inked Pearl–the written record of theirtravels–shall be their legacy. As in the novel for adults, Finnegan’s (BlackInked Pearl, 2015) “fairytale prequel” for younger readers delights in theassociative wordplay of sound and sense. A moment of canine joy provides avivid illustration: “Still in gleeful flightful lightsome delighting delight.Barking, sparking, larking.” A handful of superb black-and-white drawings by Backshallcomplements the work’s whimsical vision.
Time for the World to Learn From Africa is an educational book that brings forth the historical and characteristic details of Africa. Why was this an important book for you to write?
It goes back a long way. My first degree was in classical studies – Greek and Roman times – following my father. I really loved that and I could happily have spent all my life studying those deep ancient cultures. But the feeling grew on me that there just might be other cultures in the world worth studying.
I suppose that came from a mix of motives – moral, political, family values, missionary background. Also, well, just curiosity.
Why that should have led me specifically into a fascination with AFRICA I’m not sure, maybe reading the rather romantic accounts in Laurens van der Post’s books.
Anyhow I discovered that the way to learn about Africa was to study aanthropology. So I went back to Oxford to do that and found to my pleasure that the anthropologists there specialised in Africa. So without really having consciously planned it, p two years later I was in a remote West African village studying storytelling!
So that’s what started it off.
Resulting from this, what I really really wanted to achieve in writing the book was to get people interested in this amazing continent. Not only do many people not know very much about it, but there are also some very strange ideas and assumptions about it, mostly quite unjustifiable. Since I wanted to do something to dispels those ideas, I knew I just had to write the book.
I also felt another thing: that I have been lucky enough to have had access to a very good education which must have cost the state and my not-at-all-well-off parents a great deal It was, and still is, my duty to give something back.
So all that lay behind writing the book
What were some personal experiences that you felt helped you write this book?
I was fascinated by the field research I did on African storytelling. It became a very personal thing. I was living in a village remote from other people like myself – you had to walk 3 miles from the nearest road, balancing on a fallen tree across a raging torrent in the wet season, even in the dry pretty impassible (it was a good thing that I’d spent part of my childhood in an isolated cottage in Donegal so was reasonably ready for it). A very revolutionary experience for me. Actually, though hard in some ways, I look back on that year as an immensely rich and growing experience, an adventure!
I think that, as with many other anthropologists, that first field experience was a deeply intense experience, personal that you spend all your life drawing on, both intellectually and, somehow, emotionally.
I felt like this book was immensely informative and easy to consume. What is one thing you hope readers take away from your book?
The obvious thing of course is hoping to stimulate an interes in Africa, an awareness of ignorance (‘the beginning of wisdom’ – Plato was right) and thus a curiosity to know more.
But in my mind that’s perhaps not all of it. It’s also about opening readers’ minds not just to Africa but, wider, to a more general awareness of other cultures in the world beside the West, other lives and ways of living: that there’s something for us all to learn from them. That links into the motivation behind the new Balestier Press “Hearing Others’ Voices” series which I edit. The series includes books on other cultures such as the fascinating Native American knowledge systems or hunter-gatherer people like the Bushmen, and a series of volumes not just by celebrities like the current Astronomer Royal or the previous Archbishop of Canterbury but unknowns like the Vietnamese boat refugee arriving at the age of 3 and now a successful GP and professional singer, the charity shop worker who talks about his tattoos and his inexplicable visions, or the incredibly gifted creator of the famous Apple logo.
What for me lies behind all of these is the same curiosity that lay behind the Africa book – the first of the series. My interest in Africa is fuelled by a more general a passion to discover more about ways of life different from my own.
It has been wonderful experience – a privilege – learning about, and trying to convey something of, these many different lives and ways of living. We are not at an end yet, far from it.
In your research on this topic, was there anything that surprised you?
I suppose that now, looking back and thinking about it – I wasn’t really aware of it at the time – I’d say maybe two main things.
One was that I went out with rather grand romantic ideas about Africa being so “different” – but then discovered that beneath the surface differences, people were just people, just ordinary, like me: good bad, clever stupid, all that.
The other thing was more an intellectual discovery. In the west, at least until very recently and maybe still, we tend to think of language and literature as in a way the “top arts” (that fitted well of course with my training in classical languages and literature). So I began by taking it for granted that studying stories and story-telling would take me tothe heart of things, to what really mattered in the local,culture.
But no! Storytelling was hugely interesting of course and I have absolutely no regrets about focusing on it. But what I gradually came to see from my time in Africa was that, rather than the linguistic, the highest and most valued arts were to be found in drumming and dancing.
That taught me something about the (ethnocentric/culturally limited) views of my own culture, something I built on later in a book on “Communicating… “ The central theme of that was that though language in its many forms is indeed important in human cultures, there are also many other important modes in use, and that human communicating is in practice always multisensory.
Without the findings from my African experiences that is something about my own culture that I would never have noticed. And yes, that did indeed surprise me.
It is a common notion that Africa has, and indeed ought to have, learned much from the west. This is not wrong; all cultures rightly learn from each other. But less is said of what there is to learn from Africa: from her stories, myths, music, proverbs, insights – and more. Here an acclaimed African scholar steps into the gap by uncovering for us something of the great legacy of African thought and practice in ways that will astonish many. Written with verve and authority and directed above all to students and sixth formers, this book will also delight and often surprise those who know something of Africa as well as those hitherto ignorant. Ruth Finnegan OBE FBA is Emeritus Professor The Open University, Foreign Associate of the Finnish Literature Bureau, and International Fellow of the American Folklore Society. An anthropologist and multi-award author, she has published extensively, chiefly on Africa, musical practice, and English urban life. Recent books include How is Language?, Fiji’s Music: Where Did It Come From?, her edited Entrancement: The Consciousness of Dreaming, Music and The World, and two prize-winning Africa-influenced novels Black Inked Pearl and Voyage of Pearl of the Seas.
If you are looking for an interesting tale from a non-typical character’s point of view, you must pick up a copy of The Helix Pearl by Ruth Finnegan. If you have read her book Black Inked Pearl, you will recognize our dear Kate and her story. However, instead of hearing about her tale from the view of another human, we are treated to the view of the most mystical character: the Sea.
Having lived through the contents of the book before, it might seem odd to have a companion tale, quite long as well, on a story that has been done before. The beauty of shifting perspectives is that you can appreciate different aspects of the first story and see old passages in new light. The Sea is a non-human character and therefore will have different perspectives on moments in the story that might run contradictory to what a human would do. That is what makes the story fresh and intriguing.
Finnegan has taken an interesting approach to the way this particular book is written as it is not in the same style as your typical novel. The Sea thinks, ‘speaks’ and communicates its observations to us in the most fractured, slightly difficult way to imagine. The sentences are short and abrupt, they appear to jump around, and it reads more like rambling than clear. This is intentional because the Sea itself is a rambling body of water. Have you ever looked out over the ocean and thought that it was consistently smooth and easy to understand?
The Helix Pearl reads like a Shakespearean play which I think will appeal mostly to readers looking for an intense and cerebral read. While it is bold to write a tale from the viewpoint of the Sea and to include God and humans within the narrative, it is not an easy task. Ruth Finnegan has managed to weave an intriguing and engaging story.
Pages: 305 | ASIN: B07ZKQTRLY
Ever wondered what the thieves in the Ali Baba story were really like? Where they came from and how they were recruited and what exactly they did? And were they all the same? You don’t know? Find the amazing answers in the story of an ordinary little boy, a newly discovered version now for the first time revealed.
An absorbing fairy tale for children of all ages, young or not, with an unexpected twist and an ecological and human ending.
Read about the centuries-long history and rationale behind quotation marks. You’d never guess … Uncovered for you in a stunning piece of detective work.
No need to feel hesitant ever again about how to use them, or which version to insert – for once you know why, you know how 🙂
Time for the World to Learn From Africa by Ruth Finnegan is an educational book that brings forth the historical and characteristic details of Africa from the perspective of a seasoned academic and researcher. Ruth Finnegan provides great insights into the African civilization and authoritatively correct widely held misconceptions about the cultural, artistic and educational foundations of the prestigious continent. She does this by tendering empirical evidence both from her research and the documented findings of others; including African academics.
Finnegan’s plunge into the intricacies of the cultural heritage of the 2nd largest continent isn’t without credible basis. Her solid educational background in the humanities, combined with the experience she garnered while living and teaching in Africa helped set the stage for this well structured and informative book. She divides the book into 11 parts, 10 of which are dedicated to specific cultural and artistic aspects of Africa. She begins her journey to set the records straight by first attacking the notion that all cultural subsets of the African civilization are fundamentally alike. Finnegan debunks this misconception by citing examples of multiple African cultural groups that differ in their social, religious and economic forms.
In subsequent chapters, Finnegan backs up her claims that there is much for the world to learn from Africa by delving into the traditional, historical and often overlooked artistic archives of the continent. Her first stop is the literary uniqueness of African cultural groups. Here, she discusses expansively the nature of African literature; pointing out that members of that civilization while not abandoning written literary works, favored oral literary forms and performing arts. I enjoyed this part more than any other because Finnegan doesn’t just treat the subject superficially, rather, she digs deep and supplies detailed information on Africa’s admirable oral-literary expeditions.
Finnegan then proceeds to touch on another of Africa’s intriguing peculiarity: language. She’s quick to highlight the complexity and varying dimensions of African languages, refuting the claim that African Languages are on the whole primitive and devoid of the structure of their western counterparts. I savoured this part as I got to see the enthralling bits of African languages, especially their extremely tonal nature.
The next chapter looks at the place of panegyrics or praise poetry in African traditions and how the vastly stylish literary components of these praise songs or chants are inspiring to both African and non-African artists. In other chapters, Finnegan assesses other deeply entrenched cultural components of African civilizations including the creative use of drums for communication, the intriguing bond that exists between musical performance and dance in Africa, the elaborate attention given to names and the naming process, the role of proverbs in African communication and a host of other captivating African themes.
Finnegan’s attention to detail and comforting simplicity ensures that even high school students can benefit hugely from her findings. She writes in an engaging tone and pulls you tenderly through the pages of the book by using her sharp storytelling skills, allowing you to enjoy your exposure to the cultural and historical details.
Pages: 228 | ASIN: B07RJTBDNF
An award-winning unput-downable tale of two children building a boat from a log they find buried in the sand and sailing off to far-off fantastic lands in a stormy sea-driven adventure with their faithful – but accident-prone – dog Holly. There they learn much wisdom from a king who, like God, has many names’. After an incredible sacrifice of his dearest dream by the boy (now growing up) they return – another dream – to a family tea with their loved ones. The tale is a prequel and companion to Ruth Finnegan’s award-winning epic romance ‘Black inked pearl’, here adapted for preteens but characterised by (in a simpler form) the same unique dream-like and enchanted style as in the original novel.