In an atmospheric reading that casts a spell on you, “Pahwakhe” by Gord Sellar brings you into the borderlands between magical thinking and ghost stories. The narrator is the chief of a tribe that lives on a shore rich in salmon and blackberries. He is a wealthy man, and his greatest possession, the one thing he won’t give up, is his eldest daughter, Pahwakhe. Which means of course that he must lose her.
The best part was the way the story captures the worldview of the chief. When strangers with brown and yellow hair come playing fiddles and bearing gifts, you understand fully why the chief’s mores leave him no choice but to repay them with his best. Pahwakhe goes with them.
The white men act not just as metaphorical but literal ghosts. People who travel to their lands risk bringing home death. Thus, Pahwakhe’s return can only compound the tragedy.
A moody little story that carries you to a sorrowful land.
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