PodCastle 63: Daughter of Botu

By Eugie Foster.
Read by Diane Severson.

When we reached the south entrance, Nai-nai stopped. “An-ying, there is great passion in you,” she said. “A blessing and a curse, I have always maintained, that you were born in both the year and the hour of the rabbit but also beneath the auspice of fire. Fire rabbits are impetuous and brash.”

“But I–”

She bumped me with her shoulder. “Outspoken and discourteous, too.”

“I’m sorry, Nai-nai.” I lowered my head and flattened my ears in a conciliatory manner.

She nibbled my fur. “I’m not angry, granddaughter, but you should know we feared for you, your mother and I. Even your coat is marked by fire, and it is well known that fire rabbits die young.”

Rated R. for frank descriptions of adult events.

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24 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Divya said,

    July 29, 2009 @ 4:36 pm

    What would a fox care about inheritance and wealth? I have never understood why story writers get so carried away with giving human attributes to animals.

    This story kept sounding like some old folk tale.

  2. 2

    Scurvy Jake said,

    July 29, 2009 @ 5:38 pm

    Being fluent in Mandarin Chinese made this unbearable. I know the strange letter combinations can be hard to pronounce (the romanization is not terribly clear no matter which type you use), but to someone that knows how they should sound it’s like the words are being tortured out of the narrator. A+ for effort, but I couldn’t listen to more than 10 minute of the story.

    I would be happy to send wav/mp3 files to explain pronunciation if you ever run in to Chinese names/words you can’t pronounce in the future. Contact information is on my blog.

  3. 3

    Sylvan said,

    July 30, 2009 @ 7:52 am

    This style of fantasy -the immersion of the folklore traditions of a non-Western culture- are rapidly becoming my favorite installments of PodCastle. The reading lent emotion and personality to the characters and I was swept along with the narrative in this Chinese fable. The belief in animals who can take human form is in many cultures and imbuing them with human characteristics reflects both the people of the culture and their philosophies at the time as well as their hopes and fears about themselves as seen in the animals around them. In modern America, our rabbits are Bugs Bunny and Bre’r Rabbit: trickster’s, both. It’s really fascinating to see the Chinese view of the rabbit in this beautiful tale.

  4. 4

    Eugie Foster said,

    July 30, 2009 @ 8:54 am

    Scurvy Jack: Any complaints about the pronunciation of the Mandarin in this reading should be directed at me.

    Rachel and Diane wanted to be accurate with the pronunciations so came to me for input. As I forewarned them, I’m *not* fluent in Mandarin and tend to mangle Shanghai dialect–my folks’ native dialect–into my attempts to speak any Chinese, but so long as they didn’t mind my deaf howler monkey efforts, I was game to try to provide a pronunciation guideline. I did run some of my pronunciations past my folks to see if my inflections were distorted beyond recognition, but they live in Hong Kong, which makes it awkward to phone them up.

    Personally, I think Diane did a fabulous reading of my story.

  5. 5

    Natasha said,

    July 30, 2009 @ 2:16 pm

    The problem for me was less the Chinese pronunciation, but the choppy way the Mandarin was inserted into the English. In more than a few places, it sounded like the reader had simply recited all the Mandarin words in a row, read all the English words of the story, and then just cut and paste the Mandarin words in place.

    What made the story unlistenable to me was Nai-nai’s voice. For the first few minutes of the story I kept thinking, “is the grandmother a robot rabbit?” I couldn’t handle it – I gave it 30 minutes and when I realized that Nai-nai was going to continue being a main character, I had to turn it off.

  6. 6

    phignewton said,

    August 2, 2009 @ 1:44 am

    why yes! this IS like one of those old folk tales… the sort where everything was sorted out in the end by stabbing people!

  7. 7

    Duellist Origins said,

    August 2, 2009 @ 9:55 am

    I’ve recently found myself moving more and more towards the argument that fantasy is for children, and science fiction is for adults. This story by the buddhist sister of Beatrix Potter cemented that for me.

  8. 8

    Rachel said,

    August 2, 2009 @ 10:36 am

    That’s true. Escape Pod never runs stuff that’s aimed for a YA market, and Robert Heinlein recently went back in time so he could stop existing and cancel out all his YA novels, too.

  9. 9

    pinwheel said,

    August 2, 2009 @ 9:31 pm

    This story, while captivating for its well-developed and unusual setting (to my ears), ultimately failed to satisfy me. Like many stories, the ending ruins it. That she returns to rabbit form because life as a human didn’t work out, where does that come from? She hadn’t chosen to be a human out of some childish yearning. She hadn’t wanted that at all. Her impassioned plea had been to save her mother and grandmother, and that was never returned to. I had expected her to die in the end, or for her to be told her son’s death was the sacrifice needed to protect her mother and grandmother. Instead… the story just stopped.

  10. 10

    BrainWyrms » Blog Archive » Podsuming in a day of pain said,

    August 3, 2009 @ 10:29 pm

    [...] PodCastle 63: Daughter of Botu – I listened to the first five minutes of this episode at least 6 times today. Despite that, I thought this was a nice tale and that it was well read. I didn’t quite “agree” with an action towards the finale, but I can totally see how it is an arguable point. [...]

  11. 11

    scatterbrain said,

    August 4, 2009 @ 6:08 pm

    I’ve got to say this was an over-long, overblown and overly generic story. It seems that a lot of writers like Foster have concocted ways to write ten thousand word tracts, describing actions and characters without anything actually happening, and that usual end with the reader being no more enlightened in any way then before he or she read the story. To be honest, I’m sick of fantasy stories based on Sino-Japanese mythology; at present for me, that genre is exhausted entirely…

  12. 12

    SacredCaramelofLife said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 9:25 pm

    I, too, found some of the voicing a bit disconcerting, although not enough to avoid listening to the tale. As a collector of folk-tales and stories from around the world, I have to say I loved this. This had all the motifs of an old-world folk tale: taking an animal as a spouse (mostly wives, there are a few animal husbands, but they are much less common, at least in the stories I have read); the dichotomy of cultures (usually peasant/noble, but animal/human works as well); the scheming step-mother (combined with the western motif of the tricky fox, right out of Aesop); and the tragedy or mistake that causes the animal spouse to return to their nature. This story had me hooked from start to finish, and I thought the ending was entirely appropriate to the philosophy of the tale: being true to yourself is always the best course of action. For me, at least, not every story has to be complicated to be satisfying.

  13. 13

    devora said,

    August 8, 2009 @ 4:42 pm

    I made it thru about 15 mins of this. I admit I don’t like the genre much (way too cute) but what made it difficult was the pitch of the voice: way too high register for comfortable listening. I also agree that the pause before the Mandarin was odd.

    I’m so glad to know that the author thought this was a competent reading of the work. But since the reader likes voice work I might suggest a re-read w/ a low relaxed voice (heck, listen to any female public radio newscaster to get the idea) b/c it makes for easier listening.

  14. 14

    dont know said,

    August 9, 2009 @ 10:42 pm

    dont know why so many people are pissing and complaining about this story.

    I found it no worse than any other fluffy Eastern based fairy tale where the animals can morph into people. Also the ending insight on the condition of human love was insightful enough for me to make the listening worth it.

    Also the voice acting was fine enough for me. If the Chinese Mandarin was off, big woop its a really hard to pronounce language; give the reader a fair go.

    I suggest some listeners that couldn’t finish this story for some petty reason to eat a bag of concrete mixture to harden up a little.

  15. 15

    Kevin said,

    August 12, 2009 @ 11:57 am

    Most fokestory are told of animals as well. Even among the Native Americas which I am, we see the animals as our spirt guides. Animals are what we all are in not our acts but our deeds and how we tend to treat each other.

  16. 16

    Herr Riz said,

    August 15, 2009 @ 12:03 am

    This is the first Escape Artists episode I’ve ever found myself unable to finish. The narration was absolutely awful, as it sounded robotic and awkward. That alone destroyed the episode for me.

  17. 17

    yicheng said,

    August 18, 2009 @ 5:46 pm

    The pronounciation was a little off, but it’s unrealistic to expect a non-chinese reader to get the tonal aspect of the language without lots and lots of pratice. I can understand where it did detract from the story a bit, but I was able to tune it out towards the middle of the story. I think Ms. Severson should definitely get complements for trying, and her efforts are definitely appreciated. I had a hard time figuring out what she was saying, but it completely makes sense now because she was reading them with a mandarin inflection from cantonese pronounciations (imagine someone speaking “southern” english with a british accent).

    The story itself, I felt, was a bit weak, primarily because I found none of the characters particularly likable nor relatable. It also seemed rather meandering in the beginning and middle, and didn’t end in any memorable or satisfying way.

  18. 18

    Snarf said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 9:57 pm

    So what’s the deal with the Podcastle Giants? The last giant from a few weeks ago was 1:05 and this non-giant episode was 1:11. How does that work?

    By the way, Eugie, the story was fantastic, and Diane, your reading was incredible. Don’t listen to any of the haters that are commenting here.

  19. 19

    Rachel said,

    August 20, 2009 @ 5:35 am

    Snarf: Giants are determined based on the word count of the story. A giant episode is one with a story over 10,000 words in length. Sometimes that means that a giant will be 10,300 and a non-giant will be 9,700 — but we had to draw a line somewhere.

    Also, we don’t include some of our regular features on giants, and make an attempt to make sure that introductions are shorter. So that may contribute to making this episode longer than the giant (which is actually a longer story in terms of word count). Also, reading paces differ, which can make a difference.

  20. 20

    Addendum « Craftastrophies said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 7:21 am

    [...] I was finishing Sahara I listened to a lovely Podcastle episode called Daughter of Botu.  It was beautiful, although I guessed the twist of the step mother being a fox far too early.  [...]

  21. 21

    EugieFoster.com Fiction said,

    October 5, 2010 @ 10:57 am

    [...] ♥ ‡ Daughter of Bótù [Listen] [...]

  22. 22

    EugieFoster.com Audio Podcasts said,

    October 24, 2010 @ 9:56 am

    [...] of Bótù” (reprint) in PodCastle, July 2009. FREE [...]

  23. 23

    EugieFoster.com Read/Listen & Buy said,

    January 18, 2011 @ 9:43 am

    [...] “Daughter of Bótù” (in Returning My Sister’s Face, produced by PodCastle, July 2009) [...]

  24. 24

    Support a Writer in Need | If My Thought-Dreams Could Be Seen said,

    October 21, 2013 @ 10:24 pm

    [...] One of my personal favorites is Daughter of Bótù which appeared in both Realms of Fantasy and Podcastle (I’ve embedded the mp3 of the podcast in this post; give it a listen). She has amassed an [...]

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