Given that she's an OC, I should probably give a disclaimer now that her views are not necessarily my own. After all, she's a Stone Age hunter gatherer from the Mesolithic Era, whose attitudes have been shaped by her culture and environment. My upbringing was a little different to hers. :)
Interview with the
(Yes, that's a manip of the actress - Sharon Ferguson - who played the First Slayer on 'Buffy', without all that white facepaint. The cross-shaped scar on her chest is part of Hiywan's backstory. Hiywan herself is actually younger at the time of this interview - which is set around the time of my most recent story about her, 'Last to Ancient First' - but it was hard enough finding pictures of Sharon now, let alone of her when she was a teenager. Also, for the purpose of this story Hiywan has been brought to the present day by magic, and has learned English the same way, via a spell. In case you wondered. :))
Interviewer: Hello, Hiywan, and thank you for agreeing to come on the show and answer our questions. I'm sure our viewers will be very inter-
Hiywan: Viewers? There's nobody watching us. Except for those three men over there with the big box thing and the stick. What are they doing?
Oh! The, uh, big box is a MAGIC box called, um, a ca-me-ra. It magically takes pictures of us and shows them to people all over the world! By magic. Yes.
I know what magic is. There's no need to speak to me like I'm a child.
Um, sorry. But I have to ask, how old are you?
I'm an adult. I went through my coming of age ceremony three summers ago.
So, in years, that would be?
I don't know! Let me think; I was born the year after Mother got married, which was three or four years after Belaye became chieftain, and last month they said Ariam and he had been ruling the clan for twenty years, which is obviously a very long time so we had a big celebration. So I think that makes me... sixteen? Or maybe fifteen. Or seventeen. Something like that.
Um, right. I think we need to get our lawyers to have another look at the contract you signed. Or, well, marked with an 'X'. Would your parents be able...
"Parents"? How can you have more than one parent? That would be silly. You can't come out of more than one womb.
Yeees. Maybe we should... I know; let's move straight on to the questions!
Fine by me.
Right. What's the worst thing someone could do?
Betray their clan. Anger the spirits, and make them turn their face away from the People and punish us.
What's the worst thing someone could do to you?
I think... I don't talk about this much, but what happened to my sister still haunts me. To be taken away from your family, turned into a monster, a killer. Biftu still had the same face, she still looked like my sister; but she wasn't. Not inside. I still have nightmares about her, about something like that being done to me. It's why I have to be strong, so I can fight for myself, protect myself.
What's the worst thing that could happen to you?
What I said.
What's the worst thing someone could say about a person?
That they were a traitor; that they deliberately tried to hurt their family. Or everybody's family; that they turned against humanity as a whole.
What's the best thing someone could say about a person?
That they're sexy? (*giggles*) No, I think what I should say is that someone is hard working, or good at fitting in, a good member of the clan. But I don't know; I sometimes think that isn't enough. That we should praise people who want to look further, find out new things, who aren't just content with life the way it's always been. But maybe I'm wrong to think that. I don't know.
Are men and women basically different?
Well, obviously. But sometimes I think the differences aren't as big as we all think; I mean, as a Guardian I get to do a lot of men's stuff, but I'm still a woman. I haven't started changing or anything, despite the way Esyete keeps teasing me.
Which is better, to be a woman or to be a man?
I think it depends on what you like. I mean, I kind of like being by myself so I can think about things, and sometimes I just need to get away from everybody else. So I like hunting, and that's a man's job that a woman couldn't do unless she's a Guardian like me. But I know a lot of my women friends think that hunting is awfully solitary and lonely, and they worry about me going off on my own, and they could never imagine doing it themselves. So like I say, it depends.
What can men do that women can't do?
Hunt. Kill. Butcher corpses. Build shelters and dig latrine trenches. Chop down trees. Worship Tsehay the Burning Warrior and embody His power.
What can women do that men can't do?
Give birth to babies. Breastfeed them. Guard the hearth and light fires. I would say go out on gathering parties, but sometimes the men do that too if hunting has been really bad that season. Oh, and of course women can worship Serkalem the Ever-Living and embody Her power.
Is it possible to change genders?
Um, no. I don't think so. Though as a Guardian I'm kind of halfway between men and women, in terms of what I'm allowed to do, though obviously I look like a woman on the outside. I've heard stories of things like that happening in other clans too, even for people who weren't Guardians, where the inside and outside don't match. But I dont think it's a matter of changing; it's who you always were.
How old is old enough to have sex?
Well, you have to be an adult, obviously. We normally give new-adults up to a couple of years to look around and maybe find a husband or wife they like, but they're not supposed to wait too long. They have their duty to the clan, and besides, it's not healthy to be unmarried too long after your body changes.
Is it wrong to have sex if you're unmarried?
You mean actual sex, with penetration and ejaculation? Of course it's wrong! You're angering the gods, and you could end up cursing the woman's womb so she gives birth to demons instead of proper human babies. You can destroy a clan that way. Or did you mean just taking pleasure together, or by yourself, with kissing and caressing and, mmm, licking and sucking and groping and so on? It's confusing that your language uses the same word for both things. Obviously the second sort of sex isn't wrong. I mean, everybody does it. Regularly. It's fun!
Is it wrong to have sex with someone other than your spouse if you're married?
The same applies. Intercourse outside a properly blessed marriage is a big taboo, for good reason. It's endangering everybody. But the other kind of sex; well, I've already discovered that some people get jealous if you're having it with their husband (or wife, I suppose) too frequently; they can feel neglected. We generally think it's more polite, and just generally better to, you know, spread your favours around rather than be too obsessive about any one person. It helps tie the clan together as well.
Is it wrong to have sex with a person of the same gender?
We'e talking about the second type of sex here, obviously? No, why would it be wrong? It's just sex. Though I have to say that personally, I don't enjoy it nearly as much as I do with men. I just feel like I'm going through the motions, so I tend to avoid it when I can. I know a lot of my friends feel the same way, though some don't.
Is it wrong to have sex with a person of a different race (or a different intelligent non-human species)?
By 'different race', do you mean there really are more people out there looking like you, with your bizarrely pale skin, and eyes and hair in all different colours? Really? You're not just... um, I'm sorry if this sounds rude, but you're not just freaks of birth? There are whole clans and tribes who look like you? Wow. But, um, I don't think having sex with you would be wrong at all. I'm kind of curious, actually. Are you the same colour all over--- sorry, was that a bad thing to say?
Is it wrong to have more than one sexual partner at the same time?
Well, it can be difficult to concentrate on what you're doing if you're trying to have sex with more than-- oh, sorry, that's not what you meant?
Well, if you're talking about marriage, it's possible for more than two people to be married at the same time. It doesn't happen often, but sometimes there just aren't enough single people available. Or maybe someone's husband or wife dies, and they have to re-marry and either don't want to or can't look outside the clan for a new spouse. An established couple can take in a new partner; or sometimes you get two brothers or two sisters marrying the same person, or something like that.
Then there's what happened in the Lion's Tooth clan a few years ago. The old headwoman died, and they wanted to choose Masresha as the next one. The problem was, Masresha's husband Bereket was a nice, easy-going kind of guy who would make a dreadful chieftain, and everybody thought Ayele would be much better at the job - but Masresha loved Bereket. So in the end they agreed that Masresha would formally marry Ayele so he could be chieftain, but she'd stay married to Bereket too. It seemed to work well, although naturally there was a lot of gossip and giggling in the clan about how their sex life worked - Haymanot filled me in on all the details. I felt kind of sorry for Ayele, though since as a Guardian I'm not allowed to have that sort of sex at all, my sympathy was a little limited.
Is it wrong to have sex with someone you don't love?
Why would it be? I mean, obviously if you hated them it would be awkward, but it doesn't cost anything to be friendly.
What are the responsibilities of a mother toward a child?
To bring her into the world, care for her and feed her when she's still too young to fend for herself. And while an older child is the responsibility of the whole clan, I still think it's nice when a mother carries on showing an extra interest in her own child: helping to teach her how the world works, being there to comfort her when she's upset, that sort of thing. I'm glad my own mother did that for me.
What are the responsibilities of a father toward a child?
What's a father?
If you're talking about a woman's husband, then when she becomes a mother it's his special duty to protect and care for her and her child, while she's too busy to look out for other things.
What are the responsibilities of a child toward a parent?
To do as she's told, learn her lessons and grow up into a responsible adult member of the clan.
Which should be more important to you, your parent or your child?
Your child, of course. They're the future of the clan. Though elders of the clan also have to be respected because of their knowledge and experience and wisdom; they can help guide everybody else. Even if sometimes they're annoying and stubborn about it.
Which should be more important to you, your parent or your spouse?
I don't mean to be rude, but you do realise that for a lot of people, by the time they're old enough to get married, their mother is already dead? But apart from that, I'm not really sure how to answer. They're both members of the clan, so they should be equally important to you.
Which should be more important to you, your child or your spouse?
Your child. Obviously.
Is it wrong to have a child if you're unmarried?
As far as I know, the only way to have a child outside marriage is if you've had taboo sex, breaking all the laws of the gods. The child would probably be a demon or monster; the headwoman would have to examine it carefully, and expose it outside the camp for the scavengers if there was any hint of blemish. The man would be severely punished, the woman would have to go through a series of cleansing rituals to re-purify her womb.
Is abortion wrong?
Is contraception wrong?
Is there one true religion?
The Spirits are powerful, and protect the People if they're worshipped correctly and not angered. But there may be other spirits who watch over tribes of their own. They're probably evil, I know. But some might not be; I'm not going to say those people would be automatically wrong to worship their own protectors.
Does a deity or deities exist?
I've met Teferi face to face, and learned how to call It down to fill my heart and limbs with Its strength. I've felt Tsehay's warmth on my skin, felt Serkalem's gentle rain cool me. I've lifted up my eyes to Father Tiruneh's sky during a moonless night, when the blackness is filled with a hundred hundreds of glittering points of light. Of course the gods exist.
How important is it to believe in a deity or deities?
How important is it to be able to see, or hear, or speak? Not believing in the Spirits would be like cutting off your senses.
How important is it to actively practice your religion?
You mean, obey the taboos and follow the rituals? As important as breathing. Although.... I must admit, some people do seem to be a little lax with some of the more trivial rituals, and nothing bad happens to them that I've seen. I'm afraid I've even skipped a few myself sometimes. I think the Spirits are forgiving; at least, I hope They are.
Does magic exist?
Is practicing magic wrong?
Only if you do it for evil purposes. Or call on evil spirits. Or mess up and get things wrong; that can be deadly dangerous, as Grandmother is forever reminding me.
Is killing always wrong?
Life and death are two sides of the same stone; without killing, the clan wouldn't survive. Though of course killing has to be done for a purpose, and you must praise the spirit of the animal you've slain and give thanks to the Earth Spirit for allowing you to take Her child. And some people say that Death clings onto someone who's killed and brings bad luck to those around them, until it's driven away by the powers of Life. I'm not sure if that's true or if it's just an excuse for a big sex orgy when the men come back from their hunting trips; but then, why would we need an excuse?
Or wait, did you mean killing humans? Killing a member of your own clan is... is... it's completely and utterly disgusting and vile, is what it is. The whole idea is just... brrr. You'd have to be sick in the head to even think about it, let alone do it. People from outside the clan... it's sort of different. Unless they've proven themselves and negotiated fire- and shelter-right with you, they're potentially enemies, and you might have to kill or be killed. But it's still icky.
Is war always wrong?
What's a war? You mean fighting between two clans? We have stories that tell about that; they always seem to end in disaster for everybody. It starts out with a quarrel, or an argument, or maybe a kidnapping. Then the other side retaliates, and the first fights back, and then it escalates into murder and torture and rape and burning and everybody on both sides is dead. It's much better to come to an agreement. Or if you can't, simply walk away; the World is wide, and there's room for everybody. Luckily, it's never happened in my lifetime, nor my mother's.
How old is old enough to fight in a war?
Once two clans start into a full-scale feud, everybody becomes a target, according to the tales. But generally, we only let men who've come of age use proper spears or axes with flint blades. Children get to practice with pointy wooden sticks.
Is rape always wrong?
Of course; though if two clans are at war it's a weapon like any other. A powerful one exactly because it's so horrible, and has long-term effects. But wait, did you mean inside a clan? Between clan members? That would be... yuck. I don't know how you can even suggest it! You must have a sick mind. Now, okay, obviously someone who never wants to have sex might get teased or mocked. Or concerned friends might ask them what's wrong and urge them to get involved again, and sometimes the pressure can get too much and you might agree just to shut everybody up. That might be kind of the thing you're talking about, perhaps? And of course everybody has to get married, unless they're a Guardian; you don't get to refuse if you want to be regarded as an adult. And when you're married you have at least to participate in the First Rains ceremony; you can't avoid that. But actually forcing someone or threatening them with violence, to have sex against their will... if anyone ever, ever did that they'd deserve the worst punishment. I just can't imagine anyone being that sick.
Is torture always wrong?
Like rape, it's something that happens when two clans go to war and are trying to destroy or drive away the other. It's wrong, and that's why it's done. I hate the idea myself, though I can see why you'd do it.
Is theft always wrong?
You mean, taking more than your share of the food, or going off with something that was supposed to be used by someone else? Yes it's wrong, although it's not necessarily a big crime depending on the situation. Stealing an extra hunk of meat when the hunting party just got back laden with prey is trivial. Stealing the same meat when the rains have failed, the hunting is bad and people are starving is treason against the clan. That food might have made the difference between someone else living or dying; stealing it is almost the same as killing them yourself.
Is slavery wrong?
I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Someone could be taken in by a clan and given fire and shelter, but not full clan-right. You hear stories of people being kidnapped to be wives, or sometimes husbands, and treated badly until they agree to the marriage. But you couldn't do that for a long time because everybody in the clan has to live and work together, and trust each other. Sooner or later the newcomer would have to be adopted into the clan, or leave it and go back to their own.
Is lying wrong?
I hate it, myself. People say it's for the best; that there are some things that must remain secret, and that it would be dangerous if the wrong people found out about them. I think that too often that's just an excuse; the only danger is that people would be embarrassed if their secrets came out, or wouldn't be able to make people do what they want as easily.
Is swearing wrong?
Swearing? I've noticed that you modern people seem all reluctant and embarrassed to talk about sex or excretion and stuff; but then when you're angry or upset you just say the names of the actions or body parts in the middle of conversation and everybody acts all shocked. I think it's stupid, myself.
Yes, well. Thank you for answering my questions so frankly. I'm going to throw the interview open to the audience now, so if any of you watching at home have any questions for our guest, Hiywan of the Five Trees Clan, please feel free to send them in. Lines are open now!