Su Tong, Published the novel Binu and The Great Wall in February 2008 by Random House Canada. The novel features a myth of the girl, Binu, whose ears collapsed the great wall; it is the seminal myth of the Chinese culture. The author follows the life of Binu, who is described as never learned to hide her tears and therefore was shunned by the villagers until she met an orphan, Qiliang, who asked her hand in marriage and he one day disappears. The book then follows how Binu tries to bring her husband back; who she later learns was transported very far away and forced to labor on the building of the great wall. The novel tells of the famous Canongate myth series which has been told many times by various Chinese writers, but what captivated me was the way the author provided a different perspective about the myth. She told an old Chinese myth to a modern audience and she did it in a way that the modern audience can understand and relate.
The first thing I noticed about the passage was the passion that came from Binu herself and the second thing I noticed was the hardship that followed her in pursuit to find her husband. The two works hand in hand since when one has passion, they are willing to endure whatever it is to be with their loved ones.
Vocabulary and diction
On the cover of the book, the word Fairy story is used and most readers would expect a very innocent story and the blind frog that is mention would have a different role to play. On the contrary, the story is grittier, Binu herself goes through a lot of trials and tribulations and a happy ending isn’t guaranteed.
The main Characters
Binu is the main character and she is the protagonist in this novel. The author takes us through her plight on finding her husband who has been transported forcefully to go build the great wall. We are taken through her trials and tribulations as her journey progresses, she is robbed, molested, sold and bought several times and even jailed at some point. All these describe a very enduring character that is not willing to give up on her mission
At the beginning, she is described as a very determined and dedicated wife who will do anything to get her husband back even if it means her life. She eventually makes it to the great wall with a stolen coat only to find him dead (Tong 2012). The character at first is of a dedicated and devoted wife but halfway through her journey her faith waivers and she gives a rather moronic character where she wishes to just die and be buried but her unending hope makes her reach the great wall though too late.
Qiliang is Binu’s husband, since Binu could not learn not to cry, she was alienated and the only person who was willing to have her hand in marriage was Qiliang and they are happy together till the day he was transported forcefully to go work in the Great Wall of China.
This is the only character that goes with Binu to find her husband; it was believed that the frog was reincarnation of a blind woman who had gone to find her son. The frog retreats along the journey but resurfaces to support her when she needs help.
The village wives who discourage her from going after her husband and during her journey, Binu meets a few characters who don’t bother to help her such as; a carter with no hands who uses his feet to drive his team, Captain Jianyang who hears Binu cry from a distance and doesn’t bother and a herd of deer boys.
Binu has one characteristic that stand out throughout the journey, Tenacity, her stoicism when facing harsh judgments when she sets off by herself to find her husband, she meets a few characters on her way that shows her no sympathy but it is the trials that makes her stronger and determined to reach her destination.
The frog disappearing at some point in the book is a symbol of human experience as the book strives to stresses that Binu is isolated, a person of no status, an orphan with no one to lend a hand and a woman who is entirely vulnerable. All the above is a true reflection of the human nature.
The writing style in the story contains both bleak events as well as poetic imagery. The presence of death is as constant as the presence of the blind frog. The story is not an ordinary happy ever after fairy tale as most fairy tales hence has points of utter bleak.
What stood out most in this novel is the fact that the author took an old tale and made a modern rendition out of it where even the non-Chinese cultures can find intriguing and adventurous.
Binu and the great wall is a novel that struck me as serious though has a few dry humors occasionally in the writing. It makes its point on the ways in which a saddened and repressed citizenry can come about in the event of utter Beauracracy. Despite the warnings and discouragements of her fellow village women, Binu with her single mindedness sets out on a symbolic journey to take necessities to her husband, which can be a laughable matter to those in power. We see how she moves from a rather remote area in the south to a more complex urban society in the North and even though she can’t succeed her individual devotion to a perceived duty is what that brings about change. The novel is strangely hopeful even though it does not have the traditional romantic happy ending.
I found the book quite intriguing and the installment of the Canongate myth very worthwhile and thought provoking, it is a good read and I recommend the lovers of Chinese myths and those that love adventure to have a read.