(Here is one last nod to Chinese New Year and the new Year of the Snake.)
Of course, the immense snake mentioned by Xavier Romero-Frias (in his retelling of the legend about the origin of the Maldivian ruling dynasty - see our last news item) was a mythical creature. Pythons are (often unpleasantly) real, as are those other snakes encountered in the uplands of Laos. Even so, real though they may be, these serpents can present an other-worldly danger to the unwary hunter and his family.
As elsewhere in his fascinating study, Kàm Ràw (Damrong Tayanin) draws on memory and shamanic learning from his youth to offer detailed information on how pythons and other snakes once were handled by Kammu hunters (and perhaps they still are).
Hunting Certain Animals
(Kàm Ràw begins by discussing the hunting of elephants, horses, gaur and the rhinoceros. He then moves on to “big felines” and remembers a scary encounter with a leopard. Finally, he tells how pythons present a bit of a problem.)
Also the killing of a python requires special caution in a similar manner, since the python is closely connected with the dragon, pryɔ̀ɔŋ. The dragon may transform itself into a man, a python, a water-buffalo or a small grasshopper called hɔ́ɔs pryɔ̀ɔŋ which literally means “dragon grasshopper”. Should anyone accidentally kill a dragon in any of these shapes, the revenge may take the form of floods and landslides.
Yet pythons are killed for food, and some men eat python meat, but women never do. The dragon is particularly dangerous for women, and it is said that dragons rob women in order to marry them. Women must therefore always take care not to touch or have anything to do with things belonging to the dragon.
Even the killing of an ordinary python may arouse the wrath of the dragon, for the dragon is the owner-spirit also of pythons that are real snakes.
In order to find out whether a python is a snake or a spirit in snake form, a chopping block is placed beside the snake’s head, when a python is caught alive. The animal is carefully instructed: “Well, if you have an owner or if you are a spirit, then go away. If you do not have an owner and are not a spirit, then put your head on the block.”
Although the snake thus takes the decision itself, as it were, further precautions still have to be taken. A dead-fall trap is made [see below], and the severed snake head is put into it in order to make the owner-spirit believe that the python was caught by the trap and not by a human being.
The killing of other kinds of snakes is not problematic in the same way, but still most people resent eating snake meat. It is also considered unlucky to shoot a snake with a new weapon, because a gun used in this manner will probably never kill again. In the same way it is believed that a trap that catches a snake as its first animal will never catch any other prey.
Snakes are thus creatures of bad luck, and therefore the laying down of a snake is not celebrated with a feast.
A fuller extract from Hunting and Fishing in a Kammu Village can be found here (click on the Extract tab to download the PDF file).
And that’s enough about snakes for now.
As I said yesterday with regard to Chinese New Year and the new Year of the Snake, few NIAS books discuss snakes to any great extent. However, one NIAS book features a giant snake (as well as cunning birds, boastful fish, fearsome witches and much more). Here is Xavier Romero-Frias’s retelling of the legend about the origin of the Maldivian ruling dynasty.
The Legend of Koimala
Long ago, in the northern mainland, lived a poor couple in a hut deep in the forest. One day the husband went to hunt and didn’t return. His wife, who was pregnant with her first child, went to look for her husband, dreading that something had happened to him. While she was walking through the forest, the woman suddenly felt the pains of childbirth. She sat under a nikabilissa tree and gave birth there alone. While she was lying there exhausted, a tiger jumped out of a bush and devoured the woman. Since the child was hidden between two roots, the tiger didn’t see him and went away.
A herd of cows arrived after some time at that particular spot and one cow with a full udder happened to stand right above the child while she was grazing. The child felt for the nipple with his lips and sucked the milk. The cow, whose swollen udders had been hurting, felt relieved and returned everyday to that place under the nikabilissa tree. In this manner the baby grew and, as soon as he could crawl, he followed the herd of cows.
The story continues here (just click on the Extract tab and download the PDF file). The giant snake appears in the story just after the enormous fish and huge bird pictured below.
In our next post, another NIAS book discusses snakes - but this time how to hunt them.
Chinese New Year is upon us and with it the Year of the Snake. While few NIAS books discuss snakes to any great extent (with one exception to be revealed in a following post), for quite a few of our authors the Press has certainly proved to be a ladder for academic success.
(Happily, no NIAS book has proved to be a ‘snake’ affecting the fortunes of its author!)
With that thought in mind, we are happy to report where the following books are on the production ladder:
1) After the Great East Japan Earthquake: Political and Policy Change in Post-Fukushima Japan, edited by Dominic Al-Badri and Gijs Berends, was delivered to the printer today. Copies will be out in the next few weeks, especially in Japan for the second anniversary of the 11 March earthquake/tsunami.
2) Wu Song Fights the Tiger: The Interaction of Oral and Written Traditions in the Chinese Novel, Drama and Storytelling by Vibeke Børdahl is nearly ready for indexing. This immensely complicated layout involves the careful use of colour. As such, it will be printed probably in Singapore with copies available in May.
3) Dialogue with North Korea? Preconditions for Talking Human Rights With the Hermit Kingdom by Geir Helgesen and Hatla Thelle is about to be typeset. Copies will be available by mid-March.
4) Power and Dissent in Imperial Japan: Three Forms of Political Engagement by Hiromi Sasamoto-Collins is also ready for typesetting. We would expect copies to be available by early April but will be aiming to exhibit an advance copy (minus the index) at the AAS Annual Meeting in San Diego in six weeks time.
5) Hot Science, High Water: Assembling Nature, Society and Environmental Policy in Contemporary Vietnam by Eren Zink has just been edited but the author has not yet seen the edited ms, let alone agreed to/implemented all of the changes. With luck we can have this book out in late April, otherwise note your calendar for a May arrival.
6) Negotiating Autonomy in Greater China: Hong Kong and its Sovereign Before and After 1997, edited by Ray Yep, has just been sent for editing. We announced a June delivery date and that sounds about right.
7) Beyond the Singapore Girl: Discourses of Gender and Nation in Singapore, by Chris Hudson, is also being prepared for editing. We would have liked to have this book out in May but a wee bit later is probably more realistic.
In addition to these new titles, we have another five titles on the go and several more are brewing that haven't been announced yet.
Watch this space!
Look what Tippe just came with!
A long time ago (it feels) we sold world Arabic rights in the book Constructing Singapore by Michael Barr and Zlatko Skrbiš to an organisation based in Abu Dhabi. A few minutes ago, a carton with 10 copies of the freshly printed Arabic edition arrived here at NIAS Press.
Frankly, I don’t understand a word inside these copies but I’m not worried. Verification of the translation is always part of any agreement we sign for such a foreign-language edition.
And what we do know is that this ‘rigorously researched book’ – ‘an invaluable study and critique of [Singapore’s] elitist mechanisms and processes’, which is ‘essential reading for anyone wishing to study further the nature of elite rule in Singapore and in particular the stark realities that underpin that elitism’ (etc., etc. – there have been many positive reviews) – is now available to a whole new readership. We are certain these readers will find it a compelling study.
We have talked about Choice book reviews before, noting their importance especially in North America.
What we didn't say then however is that, in its January issue each year, Choice publishes a list of "Outstanding Academic Titles", selected for their excellence in scholarship and presentation, the significance of their contribution to the field and their value as important – often the first – treatment of their subject.
This time a NIAS Press title has hit the jackpot – Chris Goscha's Historical Dictionary of the Indochina War has won the recognition it richly deserves, earning the accolade of "Outstanding Academic Title" for 2012.
This is not the first recognition the study has received – see for instance a lengthy review published recently in Revue d'histoire (which we must soon translate and post to the website) – nor will it be the most fulsome; we confidently expect the rave reviews to begin roiling in as the year progresses. Nonetheless, the recognition by Choice is a nice way to start 2013.
Brilliant work, Chris!
The hours can be long but not all aspects of publishing involve a hard slog. The occasional celebration also comes our way.
Outside a chill wind gave a sharp edge to the sub-zero temperatures last Friday but, inside the Royal Library's Black Diamond building on Copenhagen's waterfront, warm cheer plus champagne and oysters (and many other goodies) were on offer.
The occasion was a celebration of the career and achievements of Stig T. Rasmussen (seated in photo), now retiring after many years as the head of the Royal Library's Orientalia and Judaica department. Stig is also series editor of the library's COMDC series, which aims at providing a complete set of catalogues of the Oriental collections in the Library. To date, 11 works have been published in the series, the last four of which have been produced by NIAS Press. These are fantastically detailed and special reference works of immense value to scholars working on old manuscripts (more details here).
Happily, Stig is staying on at the Library for a while to oversee the completion of two more volumes in the series, one on Chinese manuscripts, the other on Persian. More about these major works at a later date.
NIAS Press gets (at least!) as busy as the next person this time of year, but from our little family to yours, we'd like to wish you happy holidays and the very merriest of Christmases.
NIAS Press has recently published a new work, a comparative study of the Nordic Region and Asia. This intriguing volume explains why, after centuries of Western scholars studying Asia, Asian scholars are beginning to study Western societies in return. Highlighting the parallels and differences between East Asia and the Nordic region, it explores how both regions have much to learn from each other and offers challenges to scholars and policy-makers from both regions. The picture is of proud co-author (and NIAS director) Geir Helgesen and the new book.
A key source of academic books in Thailand is Asia Books, which has branches all over Thailand. Its outlets at Bangkok Airport (Suvarnabhumi) are especially frequented by foreign scholars passing through.
One such scholar returning from a trip to Burma/Myanmar and caught on camera at Suvarnabhumi earlier this week was Mikael Gravers. (Note how carefully he is not staring at the prominent place in the bookshop given to his Exploring Ethnic Diversity in Burma, published back in 2007 by NIAS Press.)
Part of Mikael's recent trip was to collect material on a new book that he is editing with Flemming Ytzen. Aimed not just at scholars but also journalists, NGOs, businesses, policy-makers, etc., this tightly focused volume analyses the changes sweeping the country and their implications. We look forward to bringing this out into the world in February-March.
As the publishing business evolves, so too must the Press! This is not a joke at the expense of our staff, but a reality in the changing world of our business.
Below is a shot of a few members of the NIAS Press team - Freek, Gerald and Karl Jakob - working on an e-publishing course.
- Feb. 29 2016
After a year of 48-hour days and frantic juggling, first copies of the printed volume of End of Empire: 100 Days in 1945 that Changed Asia and the World, edited by David P. Chandler, Robert Cribb and Li Narangoa, finally reached the NIAS Press office this morning.