By HOVSEP MELKONIAN
Nara Ekhsigian is on a momentous journey that is as important as the proposed destination. Love for the written word is embodied in the pages of a fantasy novel that came as a result of a simple question. “Did Armenians have a mythology like the Greeks”?
The answer is a resounding yes. Amazon has just published Nara’s new book, a fantasy novel, entitled “Tales of the Myths”.
This is not Nara’s first attempt at writing and publishing. A few years ago, and within a very short span of time, she published “Math and Outer Space” (2018) and “Planets and their names and the solar System” (2019) that constituted the initial steps of a child, literally and figuratively speaking, engaged in the contemplation of the magical universe that surrounds us, eager to share her findings and discoveries with the rest of us.
How did this journey come about?
“I found writing through reading” says Nara. “I read a lot of books all my life so it was only natural for me to explore writing. I was inspired by the stories I read”.
Nara is currently a high school student, attending W. T. Woodson High School in Fairfax, Virginia where she lives with her parents Raffy and Nathalie Ekhsigian and younger sister Lorie, and is scheduled to graduate from high school only in 2025!
In “Tales of the Myths” thirteen-year old April undertakes an adventurous and perilous quest to save her beloved dog, Teddy. Teddy was once a dog-god known as Aralez. “Despite his divinity Teddy is fading away and dying soon to be turned into a constellation for eternity” announces the book. Therefore the dramatic question we are faced with is summarized simply as follows: “Can April save Teddy and the gods before they are conquered by the ravages of time”?
The fantasy novel has its rules, standards and terms. It is a literary genre that is set in a magical world, involving traditional myths and magical creatures . It borrows ideas or events from the real world, especially from ancient and medieval times, to create its own unique world. Fantasy writings transport readers to fictional realities ranging from primitive lands ruled by dragons to familiar spaces inhabited by superheroes to futuristic visions where aliens vie for supremacy in a strange world. This imaginary world is populated by exotic creatures, characters, societies and environments that flourish as the story develops . While the plot is central to the story, character building takes center stage. The common themes and features of this genre are built around the struggle of good vs. evil, the heroic (or villainous ) quest for power or knowledge, the emergence of unlikely or reluctant hero, and the clash between the individual and society. While the heroes are not technically humans , the very core of the narrative is about humans. So we share in their challenges, we rejoice at their victories, we grieve with them over their defeats and failures, we empathize with their flaws and admire their courage.
Nara has spent the last three years researching and creating the physical world of her imagination to place her characters and heroes there.
But what about the Armenian connection?
“I wrote this book because I saw a gap in the market. A lot of fantasy children’s books had mythologies like Greek, Roman, Mayan, Egyptian, Korean, Indian, etc., with characters of those backgrounds but no Armenian. I decided that I could be the one to introduce Armenian mythology into a fantasy book and write young characters of Armenian heritage. I was inspired by information I’ve come across, documentaries I’ve watched, my friends and family, but no one thing in particular”.
Nara’s “Tales of the Myths” is a broad scene of myths where characters of the Armenian pantheon and mythology mix and interact freely with “odar” gods and figures, engage with them in intelligent skirmishes, and often resort to Armenian expressions that add color and verve to the general atmosphere. “My writing involved deciding what story I wanted to read. I wanted to read a very specific story and so I began to research. I came across many interesting pieces of information on Armenian history and mythology and chose the ones that I thought would work well with my plot. I did my research through books that my dad had and the internet”.
Nara has fun introducing in her narrative family characters, common daily activities and routines, as well as Armenian expressions. We can see and hear the Armenian family talk, discuss, argue, and different members of that generation champion their own perspective. It is a sort of battle of wits with no victors in sight while the story evolves through them and with them. This is the magical glue that holds the edifice and structure of the novel.
Purely from that perspective “The Tales of the Myth” constitutes a giant step forward in creative writing for Nara . One can unmistakably see how her narrative style, dialogue construction and the processing of observations has evolved and reached a maturity belied by the age of the young author. “I’ve been influenced by a lot of writers but one that stood out to me was Rick Riordan, specifically with his “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series, says Nara.
Nara’s ability to keep the narrative tight and constantly developing in the 250 pages of the book through the use of imaginative language and dialogue is simply astounding. Her writing is crisp and full of imagery and the book bristles with observations, thoughts and feelings that hit you unexpectedly with their sharp relevance. She has the knack for introducing and weaving into her narrative unexpected mini-stories that at times may sound as if she is taking a fanciful side trip while in fact she is exploring new avenues to keep the story going and enrich its fabric.
Behind her shy smile of a high school student Nara is a determined person with a strong mind, will and confidence. All these attributes will serve her in good stead as she tackles future challenges as a writer to achieve her dreams and aspirations..
“My future writing plans is to write a sequel to “TALES OF THE MYTHS” and see where it takes me. I have many more stories that I want to tell and hope that I can work my way to a point where I can comfortably live off my books”.
Like many people I am partial to fruit tarts, and I enjoy the sights of a well- crafted pastry with a rich buttery crust, delicious creamy filling topped with colorful bounties of nature. Reading Nara’s “Tales of the Myths” was indeed a delight akin to the sight of an inviting tart that bedazzles the eye, sharpens the anticipatory taste and provides a feast to the … mind.
Houston, June 25, 2023