AUKHAWK LASI AS A GOTHIC FICTION
Gothic fiction is a genre of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance. The word “Gothic” originally referred to the Goths, a Germanic tribe to signify “medieval”. “Gothic architecture” denotes the mediaval type of architecture. Gothic fiction emerged in the late eighteenth century as a sub-genre within the larger field of the novel. It was initiated Horace Walpole with The Castle of Otranto (1764) and reached the height of its ‘popularity towards the end of the century with such novels as Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and Matthew Lewis’ The Monk (1796). It was called Gothic because it employed settings and plots that were associated with the medieval period, when the Gothic style of art and architecture developed (crossref). Gothic is characterized the elements of fear, the supernatural and darkness, as well as characters such as vampires, demons, heroes and villains. It is the forerunner of the modern horror genre, although the Gothic style continues to have many practitioners.
There is a widely accepted definition in regards to gothic novel. Which, in the words of Marion Wynn is a genre of novel dealing with tales of the macabre and supernatural, which reached a height of popularity in the 1790s. The term Gothic originally implied medieval or rather a fantasized version of what was seen as medieval. Later Gothic came to cover all areas of the fantastic and supernatural and the characteristics of the genre are graveyards and ghosts (GEL). According to AN Gupta the setting of these novels was medieval and often a gloomy castle full of dungeons and underground passages; they were replete with ghost, mysterious disappearances and other sensational and supernatural occurrences, and violent incidents, in a pervading atmosphere of gloom and terror..(DLT). The novelists of this period therefore used ghosts, evil forces and portents in order to arouse pity, emotion and mystery.
Gothic fiction has some unique elements which are not found in other kinds of fiction. Firstly, the setting is vehemently influential. The action often takes place in an old castle or in some time abandoned or occupied place, and at times, even in caves with branches of trees. Secondly, it consists of an atmosphere of wilderness, gloom and the unknown horror based on supernatural and it also depicts the decline of its world. The whole atmosphere of the story is pervaded fear and anxiety. Thirdly, the Gothic novel deals with tales of the past and with fearsome stories with supernatural elements. It is in fact a fantasizing of what was seen in the past. Fourthly, the setting of the plot in a castle or some other place, lends an air of mystery to the form because the setting already appears to have a secret of its own. Fifthly, the gothic novel generally deals only with the hero and the heroine, but they never fulfill a married life. Some times they are overcome with anger, surprise and sorrow. Sixthly, as for an appeal to the readers, the female characters are beautiful and often sat lonely, in anguish, sorrow, suffering and grief. Then there is one male character who control the female character. Finally there is an appropriate use of language and this creates the atmosphere of the gothic.
Summary of Aukhawk Lasi:
Aukhawk Lasi was written Lalzuithanga during the last part of 1950. But due to the lack of printing press it was lately published in 1980 with his others fictions under the title of Aukhawk Lasi. This fiction centres round a young Damsel or Fairy and the lover Thuama. The setting of the story begins at the outskirt of Aizawl called Ngaizel. On a fullmoon night the hero Thuama reaches the place called Aukhawk (Echo point ) and he heard the strange voice of a woman laughing. Thuama stopped immediately and saw a very beautiful young Damsel sitting on the branch of a tree called Ngai kung. The young Damsel smiled at the hero. She softly requested him to join her but Thuama was initially reluctant to join her. He at last he approached her and through their conversation he learnt that the young Damsel was Rautinchhingi.
Then they flew to the abode of Rautinchhingi. Her house was well constructed and beautifully decorated. In fact her house was beyond human comprehension. Rautinchhingi offer him a cup of rice beer which immediatly transported him and his lover to another world. He soon forget about his home and his travel destination. He was enchanted the beauty of Rautinchhingi and spent the entire night with her. But in the morning, he was transported back to the real world.
The following night, he again visited the Aukhawk at Ngaizel and sat down upon the branch of Ngai tree. After a few minutes Thuama took out the clod of Earth from his bag which Rautinchhingi had given him and it transformed into an ivory mug full of water. Thuama drank the water and was again transported into the house of Rautinchhingi. They hugged each other happilly. In fact, the beautiful Fairy also loved him very much and she wished to spend her whole life with Thuama, but she clearly knows that it is impossible for her to marry a man of real life.
While enjoying their last night together, they travelled to the secret land of Rautinchhingi and it was a beautiful land situated on the river bank, filled with exotic flowers. Besides, there was no one else and no house to be seen there.They sat upon the rock on the river bank enjoying their moment. However, her brother soon appeared in the form of a cloud indicating that she was no more allowed to be with her human lover. Rautinchhingi understood that the time for their separation was near and she wept bitterly and hugged Thuama tenderly. After a few moments, Rautinchhingi and her brother flew up high in the air, and the two lovers separated forever.
Aukhawk Lasi as a Gothic fiction:
We find some elements of gothic literature in Aukhawk Lasi. Even though there is no horror scene in this story, and no villians or cruel and tyrannical aristocrats that always appeared in Gothic fiction. Still Aukhawk Lasi has some kinds of elements of Gothic fiction.
Gothic fiction is usually set in a remote country and in the past. As the genre developed, it began to employ more modern settings, as in The Adventures of Caleb Williams (1794) Mary Shelley’s father, William Godwin (ibid). The initial setting in Aukhawk Lasi is not in a remote area as it begins at Ngaizel, the outskirt of Aizawl town, but it soon shifts to an unknown place or world of the spirit which seems to be the remotest area for human beings. It described events that were often fantastic or super natural.
Secondly, the setting of Aukhawk Lasi is of course not a castle as we have found in the Middle Ages. But the abode or house of Rautinchhingi is well constructed with lovely decoration and it is beyond human understanding. The author’s narration goes like this:
“Chhun ang deuh mai hian a engin ka hria … tunlaia sap milian tak in chhung nen hian inang ta riauvin ka hria a” (Aukhawk Lasi 5)
It was as bright as day time. It was well constructed, and I feel that it was actually similar to houses that are constructed today in the style of western architecture. (my translation)
Thirdly, the atmosphere of the fiction is gloom, of the unknown, wilderness, fear and anxiety as we have found in other Gothic literature. The story commenced on a full moon night but the atmosphere was very strange and fearful in the Ngaizel area. When Thuama reaches Aukhawk (echo point) he heard a strange voice of a girl laughing. Then he immediately saw a very beautiful girl sitting on the branch of a ngai tree. Because of fear and anxiety, Thuama was reluctant to join her. Invited the girl called Rautinchhingi, they enter her abode. After they fell in love they were transported to the unknown world somewhere in wilderness. They travelled to the sacred land situated on the river bank.
Fourthly, the Gothic describes events that are often fantastic or supernatural, the Aukhawk Lasi also depicts matters relating to super human beings. Its setting, characters and events are exotic and fanciful.
As Gothic fiction often deals with tales of the past, this fiction also deals with an element found in the tales of the Mizo, the Lasi or Fairy. According to the Mizo traditions and tales, the Lasi are the creators and guardians of all animals. They are very beautiful girls with long hair, showing kindness to human beings, to the young hunters in particular and the hunters they blessed would easily kill wild animals. Here in this fiction, Lalzuithanga reflects Lasi as kind and accommodating enough for a man like Thuama and others, hunters in particular. But somehow, Lasi or ghosts are always regarded as objects of fear the general public.
As we have mentioned earlier, Gothic novel deals only with the hero and the heroine. The same style is exercised in Aukhawk Lasi. We have the hero Thuama and the heroine Rautinchhingi. Besides, the heroine is exquisitely beautiful and no words can express her beauty. Like in other Gothic novels, the hero and the heroine were not married and eventually parted bitterly. Inspite of differences, there have been some resemblances with the elements of Gothic novel.
We have seen Rautinchhingi in massive distress. After enjoying life to some extent with her new lover, the ironical fate of Rautinchhingi come to be. She was in a greatly anxious and pensive mood because she really understood that the two lovers of distinct worlds or life could no longer be together in their paradise. While they sit together upon the rock on the river bank enjoying their moment, her brother soon appeared in the form of cloud which indicates that he no more allowed her to be with her human lover. Rautinchhingi also comprehended that the time for their separation was near, and bitterly wept and hugged Thuama tenderly. After a few moments, Rautinchhingi and her brother flew up high in the air, and the two lovers separated forever.
Aukhawk Lasi is full of romance and fantasy but without horror. Lovers seem destined to be struck misfortunes, and the little happiness they are able to enjoy is very short lived. As these kinds of undesirable predisposition may be a channel for the authors to express their hidden fear for the loss of a loved one, story after story, Lalzuithanga beautifully designs the fate of the two lovers. In Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte makes perfect use of Gothic elements in evoking within the reader’s mind a powerful sense of dread, apprehension and pain (glyph:1). The author of this fiction also makes use of the same technique in some way or another provoking the mind of the audience through the ending scene with the sentimental detachment of the two lovers.
It is interesting to know that Lalzuithanga, one of the first three fiction writers in Mizo, beautifully employs Gothic techniques in his creation. Out of his four fictions, Thlahrang and Aukhawk Lasi have hauntingly Gothic elements throughout the stories.
Gothic is less popular among the Mizo at any time. Infact, Lalzuithanga does not have followers and such kinds of genre has not come out in Mizo fiction for nearly half a century. However, with the dawn of twenty first century, the Gothic reincarnates itself in the contemporary Mizo fictions through Ruamrai Thuruk C.La1nunchanga (2007); Lungpuk Huai (2009) and Ṭaunu Zawlaidi (2011) Lalpekkima (2009), and Zoramthari Rauthla H.Ramdinthara (2009). Henceforth, Lalzuithanga may be regarded as Horace Walpole of the Mizo.
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Lalzuithanga. Aukhawk Lasi. Aizawl. 1980.
Marion Wynn, Guide to English Literature. Bloomsbury Publishing Limited. 1994.
*R.L. Thanmawia – Professor, Mizoram University, Mizo Department.
(This paper is presented at the National level Seminar on Mizo Novel organised Department of Mizo, M izoram University, Aizawl and Mizo Language & Literature Teacher Association, Aizawl during 9th – 10th November, 2011 at Aijal Club, Aizawl.)