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The Kivailo World…

October 19, 2011

… has been mentioned in several posts lately, and it will be mentioned in several more, since my NaNoWriMo story this year will be set there. So I figure it’s about time to explain the world a bit (in case anyone actually reads these writing-related posts).

I created the Kivailo world for a story called “The Road Is All There Is” when I was thirteen or fourteen, making it one of my oldest stories.

Let me see… there was Miri I, Miri II, the kids in the forest, Mia, Kara, Riam&Ke, all kiddie “books” written between the ages ten and thirteen. Each written in one small ruled 20 page exercise book, in blue ink, with illustrations glued in, with covers and tables of contents… except for Miri I, none of them were ever finished, but most of them should still be around somewhere.

“The Road Is All There Is” is definitely still around, all three handwritten versions of it, each version filling several 40 page exercise books.

The three handwritten versions of "The Road Is All There Is"

During the three years I wrote and re-wrote “The Road Is All There Is”, the Kivailo world began to grow, changing from something created from pure laziness to a world full of its own history and cultures.

As I’ve mentioned in another post, I had simply been too lazy to do the research necessary to set “The Road Is All There Is” in the real world. It was a story I had made up while riding in my parents’ car, bored on a long drive through the darkness (the title came from the fact that I could literally not see anything but the road that was lit up by the headlights, everything else was black), a story inspired by a book about a girl and her village fleeing from Guatemala to Mexico (which doesn’t seem to be published in English. The title translates to “Cougar’s Daughter”, by the Swedish author Monika Zak). “The Road Is All There Is” was about 13-year-old Laura, who has to flee with the people from her village, but because I didn’t know how to find out where and why that could really have happened, I decided to just make up a country. And because I didn’t know enough about any other place, I decided to plop that made-up country right into central Europe, where I was familiar with the climate, vegetation, wildlife…

I started to rewrite the story twice, trying to get rid of my more unrealistic thirteen-year-old ideas, but in the end, I decided there was just no way around the fact that it was a totally stupid story: no matter how old the car and how bad the roads, it is never going to take a full year to drive across a country the size of Germany. So I gave up on it and moved on to other stories.

But as stupid as “The Road Is All There Is” was, some “facts” from it still shape the Kivailo world.

  • There is a country called Tokre, inhabited by the dark-skinned Kivailo, who come from India or thereabouts more than 2000 years ago (I once spent an afternoon messing up the geography of the Kivailo world a little, so India as we know it doesn’t exist) and the white Ternin, who came from Scandinavia in the middle ages, managed to defeat the Kivailo kingdom and are now the majority in Tokre, while the Kivailo are the oppressed minority
  • To the south of Tokre, there is a country called Taresh, and the Tareshi are related to the Kivailo
  • To the west of Tokre, there is a country where German is spoken (because I was too lazy to make up yet another language)
  • On March 31, 2006 (2001 in the original story, but 2006 works better for various reasons), the Tokrean army attacks Kivailo villages in the south of Tokre, killing many of the inhabitants and locking up the rest.

This last fact, the day known as 100th 11th, is a major plot point in all the “modern day” Kivailo world stories (“The Road Is All There Is” and its never-finished sequel “Joloai Means Hope”, “Masks”, “Tell Me, Sister” and “Goblins”. I had to put a bit more work into the why of it, because “the government is evil!” was a satisfactory explanation at thirteen, but more than ten years later, it’s not enough any more.

Why 100th 11th, and not 3/31? Because in those more than ten years I’ve written about them (not just the “modern-day” stories, either, but a lot of “centuries-old” legends, fairy tales and religious stories as well), the Kivailo have developed a hideously complex culture, involving a calendar in which March 31st is the 11th day of Spring, and a myth due to which “hundredth” means “cursed”. (“Eleventh”, on the other hand, means “blessed”, which means that 100th 11th would sound pretty silly if it weren’t such a tragic event.)

A hideously complex culture with a hideously complex language which I’ve blogged about here and here, a religion with eleven high gods and countless less important ones, dress codes and odd manners (like, don’t sit on your butt, no knifes at the table, and don’t greet a friend with your right hand), superstitions and proverbs, stories and songs…

A hideously complex culture that fills a whole big cardboard box, not to mention the files on my computer.

A hideously complex culture that’s in danger of dying out in the late 20th and early 21st century. The Kivailo have been oppressed by the Ternin for centuries, and while things have gotten better after WW II, the improvement doesn’t last long. When the KNP, a fanatically Catholic and white supremacist party, comes to power, Tokre becomes more and more segregated, the Kivailo language and religions for all intents and purposes illegal.

This is the climate in which the “modern-day” stories are set – a climate in which most Ternin have never spoken to a Kivailo, and vice versa, in which mixed-race friendships are unthinkable and mixed relationships even more so, in which there is a constant danger of attacks by the fKR, MtA and other terror groups I haven’t named yet, in which most Kivailo have no chance of ever being able to vote or drive a car, in which they no longer dare to teach their children their own language, in which their priests are hunted down, imprisoned and die under mysterious circumstances…

“Probably fell against a chair”, as my best friend and I like to say when we talk about that… I’ve only seen “Cry Freedom” once, almost ten years ago at school, and yet, I get goosebumps whenever I remember the end, a harmless landscape picture, music, and the names of dead prisoners and the causes of their deaths at the bottom of the screen… I remember huddling in the TV room at school, staring at words like “slipped in the shower” and “fell against a chair”. For some reason, that is the scene I remember most clearly, especially when I hear my mother’s choir singing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.

I’d only known a little about apartheid before we learned about South Africa in grammar school English class, and I was shocked that it had still existed within the time of my life. Up until then, I’d seen racial segregation as something that belonged firmly in the past, with colonialism and concentration camps.

Looking back now, I wonder if it sparked my new interest in “modern-day” Kivailo world stories. After I’d given up on “The Road Is All There Is”, I had concentrated on legends and religious myths for a while, because I still liked the culture and the language I had started to work on, but all the events in “The Road Is All There Is” seemed so stupid.

I think it might have been the South Africa chapter that brought back the question I had been wondering about – could it happen again? All the horrors of the Nazi time, could they happen again in today?

The KNP government doesn’t go quite as far as building gas chambers, but they do manage, bit by bit, to push the Kivailo further and further down, keeping them out of the good schools, taking away their right to vote, forcing them to live in ghettos… naturally, this causes violence and rebellion.

It remains a mystery whether the government was actively stirring up the riots in March 2006 – the worst ones since the Schoolchildren’s Rage ten years previously – but they provide a conventient excuse to “solve the problem” for once and for all. All over the country, Kivailo are rounded up and Kivailo villages turned into internment camps. Some manage to get away… but many don’t, and many die.

I have to honestly say, I still don’t know what the government’s long-term plan is… I should probably find out.

But for now I’ll concentrate on the stories of people who are just as clueless as me…

Emma in “Masks”, who does the unthinkable in falling in love with a Kivailo even though she is a Terne, who struggles to find out what has happened when he and all other Kivailo suddenly disappear.

Jolymella in “Tell Me, Sister”, who survives a year in an internment camp, but loses her husband the same day she is freed.

And Theresa, Julius and Annabell in “Goblins”, all trying to do the right thing in their own small way…

… but that is a matter for another day and another post!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2011 01:50

    You are so wonderfully creative – I love it!


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