The wilderness experience. Every hero’s journey seems to include one.
Whether it’s Neo in The Matrix, Harry Potter at Number Four, Privet Drive, or Cheryl Strayed’s hike from California to Washington in Wild, I think the wilderness experience is a necessary part of character transformation. Especially in visionary fiction. It takes the main character away from familiar comforts, support, and surroundings. It challenges his or her power.
In (upcoming) book two of my trilogy, Halfkin, Moojie, now an impetuous, half-alien eighteen-year-old, and his unreliable guide from Pleiades, Abu, and are on a perilous journey to find Babylonia, Moojie’s lost love.
This scene takes place after Moojie impulsively befriends a vagabond in the desert. Despite Abu’s warnings, Moojie shares a meal with the scruffy stranger, who turns around and steals the horses and rifles.
Moojie thinks they will never get to their destination on time. He also believes they won’t be able to feed themselves without hunting rifles.
Undaunted, Abu leaves the campsite and returns with a burlap sack full of small game.
“Where’d you get those?” Moojie spoke in a tone of disbelief.
“Did I not tell you? Creatures in the wild sacrifice themselves willingly to feed hungry saints,” Abu said.
Moojie scratched his nose.
Abu opened the sack and presented two dead poorwills and a gila monster, as if performing a magic trick. Ta-da! He asked, “Did you hear about the angry magician?”
Moojie cocked his head. “What?”
“He pulled out his hare.” Abu held up a dead jackrabbit.
“Very funny,” Moojie said. “Is that an original joke?”
“I didn’t think holy men had time for jokes,” Moojie said.
“Saints are stretched thin these days,” Abu said. ###
The vagabond experience causes Moojie to question his way of thinking. It challenges him to pause before acting, to listen to his intuition. It is a small step toward trusting life itself to guide him forward. A lesson for every hero.