Books: book of a thousand days
  Creating the Eight Realms

In 2005, my parents went to Mongolia as volunteer representatives for their church and lived there for over two years. I began to read about the area and hear stories from them, and soon became fascinated with this huge, wild landscape and rich cultural history. One trend I kept coming across was the power that the nomadic Mongolians attributed to songs. Some examples:
  • Hunters would sing songs that imitate an animalís sound in order to attract it.
  • Herders lived and died by their animalsócamel, horse, cow, sheep and goat. Losing an animal could have terrible consequences for a family. So the herders had various calls to manage the flock, including songs that would signal time to go to pasture, return home, get a mare or ewe or she-goat to give more milk, and encourage a mother to bond with her offspring, and so on.
  • In their armies, chiefs would give orders in the form of a song sung to a familiar tune. The warriors then learned their orders by memorizing the song and singing it again and again as they rode. In this way, the generals could control a massive army and make sure everyone knew their orders.

The idea of the power of songs stayed with me, and I used that to create the healing songs of the mucker folk in book of a thousand days. From there it felt so natural to infuse the whole story with the resonance of Mongolia. While the Eight Realms is not a true historical setting, I used much of what I learned about medieval Mongolia in the creation of that place. Itís gotten to the point where I now have a hard time remembering which parts are true and which parts I made up! However, there never has been a real place called the Eight Realms. The worship of the eight Ancestors, the term "muckers," the names of the cities, and the singing of songs to heal people are all things I invented. Many cultures have traditions similar to the skinwalkers of this story, and some of the details of Dashti's life were quite real in Mongolia, some still so. The wonderful book Ghengis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, by Jack Weatherford, and the stories my parents told helped inspire some of the details of a mucker's life and the culture of The Eight Realms.

Map image copyright 2007 James Noel Smith

Return to main book of a thousand days page