Who doesn’t love honey? There are only a few people who don’t. Nature’s golden, syrupy goodness makes for a beautiful story in The Honey Hunter.
A story within a story, the bookstarts with a child asking for a little honey now that he’s eaten all his vegetables. But wait! They are all out of honey and will have to wait till after the winter. The busy bees are resting during this time and if you take the honey before it is ready, strange things happen, the child is told.
His curiosity leads to another story — that of the land of eighteen tides and “mangroforess”, the Sundarban, where gazillions of honeybees lived, and Shomu.
Shomu loves honey so much that he could have it all day. But his family is poor and they make a living off of selling honey that his father collects, and shrimp that his mother breeds. Then comes a year when the seasons go pell-mell. The erratic behaviour of the seasons has thrown off the natural cycle. The shrimps and fish have vanished, trees are uprooted and the forests are almost destroyed.
Hungry for honey
Shomu wonders why he can’t go to the forest and collect honey. Why would the seasons matter? His parents tell him not to go looking for honey before it is ready. Terrible things would happen. They also warn him about He-Whose-Name-Must-Not-Be-Taken, the Lord of the South and Defender of the Forest, and Bonbibi, the Guardian Deity of the Sundarban, between whom a pact exists. If the forests are harmed and plundered, the pact will be broken and there shall be no peace or safety. But Shomu’s longing for honey pushes his parents’ advice from his mind.
Shomu goes on a mild destructive rampage when he sees the beehives in the forest. But he soon finds out that his actions will have terrible consequences. He-Whose-Name-Must-Not-Be-Taken appears, and so does Bonbibi.
When He-Whose-Name-Must-Not-Be-Taken is mentioned, one can’t help but think about Lord Voldemort (I know I did!) from the Harry Potter series. But here, it isn’t a dark wizard, but Dakkhin Rai — a ferocious Royal Bengal Tiger. The Defender of the Forest won’t think twice before punishing those who harm the forest. Will Dakkhin Rai forgive Shomu? Will Bonbibi?
Karthika Nair’s narrative is simple, and evokes vivid and vibrant images. The highlight of the book is definitely the beautiful illustrations by Joelle Jolivet. It’s best read with elaborate gestures and sound effects. Trust me.
The Honey Hunter is a book for the honey lovers, bedtime storytellers, adults young and old, and anyone who can appreciate the many colours and illustrations that adorn its pages.
The Honey Hunter by Karthika Nair and Joelle Jolivet, Young Zubaan, Rs. 395