In Medias Res | Creating a Myth

Midnight Robber

So I’m now reading Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson. And within the first hundred pages is a startling turn of events.

The story starts off with Antonio, a mayor of a town on the planet Toussaint, who discovers his wife has cheated on him. In his humiliation, he moves out of the house leaving his wife, Ione, and their daughter, Tan-Tan to fend for themselves.

Antonio tries to win back his honor by duelling the adulterer on Carnival, a festival period on Toussaint during which such challenges are allowed. In order to win against his younger opponent, Antonio arranges for him to be poisoned just enough to weaken him. A mistake is made though, and the poison kills his adversary, sending Antonio to jail.

Tan-Tan follows her father to the jailhouse, unknowingly carrying an override to his cell lock. Together, they escape using the transporter used to exile criminals. They land on a strange planet, with no way to return.

But the really exciting part is how this story becomes a myth.

Midnight Robber operates on the fact that Tan-Tan, the famous Robber Queen, is now a thing of legend, and we are being told her origin story.

Thing is, we don’t learn about the fable retelling until we finish the “real events” of Tan-Tan’s origin.

It makes it quite a surprise when the legend states that Tan-Tan came of her own free will to the other planet, intent on saving it from pollution. Or how Tan-Tan is exceptionally clever at sneaking and weaving grass baskets without prior experience. Or that Tan-Tan was given an eternally shatp blade from her maid mother Ione.

Or that the planet Tan-Tan has travelled to is Earth.

It’s this set up that makes the story really interesting, and I’m curious to see how the other aspects of the legend come into play. I’m obsessed with myth. I love how stories change over time, in terms of plot, meaning, and character as oral tradition passes it down. So I’m really excited for this book!

Until next time!

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