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Tidbits of Inspiration: The Lost Tribes

February 3, 2011

You may have seen in the news lately that photos were released of an indigenous Amazonian tribe that has remained uncontacted by modern civilization.

There’s something inspiring, in a way, about the idea of these pre-industrial civilizations hidden from the eyes of modern society, lost in the jungles and remote islands of the world.  There’s a grand tale, an epic to be sure, woven in that mysterious history.

What would it be like to be the first of these lost tribes to come in contact with a greater world that is both magical and barbaric – so advanced and yet, from your cultural perspective, so backwards and so fallen.  This is the stuff of deep mythology and epic tales.  This is basic Hero’s Journey stuff, the thread of which flows through so much of our story-telling.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. Jeffrey Tang permalink
    February 3, 2011 11:44 am

    It is “Hero’s Journey” stuff, but I think your example points out a flaw in our storytelling – namely, that we rarely go far enough. Our heroes hail from small villages and backwoods communities – tame fare when compared to someone who emerges from a civilization lost to the modern world.

    • February 3, 2011 11:56 am

      Indeed you’re right, this is Hero’s Journey writ extremely large; it’s on a whole other level from what we typically see in our fiction… Reading about this lost tribe really makes me stop and think. In many ways its the alienness of the two cultures to each other that makes it so intriguing… How could a writer capture that degree of alienness in their hero’s story?

  2. BT's mama permalink
    February 4, 2011 8:23 am

    Glad to see this “tidbit”
    I had the writer in you in mind when I shared the news story / photos with you.
    =)

  3. The Knight permalink
    February 9, 2011 1:14 pm

    My uncle is an architect and lived in Brazil for decades. He recently went back to visit and to his surprise he decided to move back to Brazil for the following reason. Brazil is flourishing and is big powerful country. He said, ” What I make in a week in the USA, I make in two days in Brazil!” Wow! Now, that’s amazing current facts about Brazil…$$$

    • February 9, 2011 1:28 pm

      I have indeed heard a lot about the growing prosperity of Brazil. And it looks like Brazil wants to protect the indigenous people who are still secluded deep in the rainforests. I have honestly mixed feelings about this, but I’m glad it’s something they’re thinking about, and that they’re trying to do what they believe to be the right thing.

  4. July 1, 2011 8:33 pm

    What I find intriguing about the photos is the paints they used. It creates very vivid images and something to really consider about how people in other worlds might work (particularly subtropical places where clothing plays less of a role in distinguishing oneself).

    • July 5, 2011 9:39 am

      It does seem to be a common characteristic that people will use some means or measure to mark themselves, either for purposes of differentiation or of self-identification and group membership. In Western European cultures we do use clothing, predominately, for this role: and that makes sense, anthropologically, because Western Europeans come from a colder climate where clothing is not optional if you have survival as a goal. But in more tropical parts of the world, clothing definitely is more optional… which lends itself very well to the idea that tropical and sub-tropical cultures can and probably will use other means for marking themselves – including body paint, tattoos, and body modification. Which now leads me to wonder… what would a world look like where the dominant cultures were these sorts of clothing-optional, paint, tattoo, and piercing focused societies? You know… a world where cultures like this were the most advanced and most widely-proliferated, dominating even those provincial and prudish backwaters where clothing is worn all the time…?

      • July 5, 2011 1:49 pm

        Yep, an intriguing area of inspiration. An alternative history where we might never recognize anything. Although, before I even really do any research to consider, I wonder whether there would have to be differences for natural resources or other aspects before this could become dominant.

      • July 5, 2011 3:09 pm

        Yes, a lot would have to be different about the world for this eventuality to have come about. I guess that’s one reason I write secondary worlds as opposed to alternate history: I can make up the reasons why things are the way they are in a secondary world, instead of having to painfully researching why they are the way they are in the real world, then arrive at a different conclusion through some sort of reverse inductive reasoning or something.

      • July 5, 2011 8:05 pm

        I think your short-changing yourself. Given your recent posts on bibles, I know that you don’t shirk the research even for your secondary worlds and even though it may not be based on our history; economics, physics (and all the other sciences both soft & hard) still apply (except when you explicitly don’t want them to and even then I bet you know why).

      • July 6, 2011 8:28 am

        Well, yes, it’s true I do a lot of research. But I suppose I don’t want to be tied to the rules of the real world. I’ve heard, though I don’t know if it’s true, that fans of Alternate History can be punishing about niggly little things… I guess I can imagine that if I were a fan, I’d probably be punishing about niggly little things, too. I guess that’s not for me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t put in the work to try to make my stories as deep and interesting as possible. I just prefer to work a different way. Thanks for reminding me of that. 🙂

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