The Tale of Shikanoko

The Tale of Shikanoko

posted in: Lian Writes... | 20

Dear Reader,

I would like to tell you a little about this book, part epic, part romance, part fairy story.

Five years ago I was in the northeastern region of Japan, a few months before the devastating tsunami of 2011. In Iwate prefecture I saw young men rehearsing dances for festivals – the oni sword dances and the deer dances. Their masks and costumes were striking but the thing that made the greatest impression on me was the resonance of a vanished world, where the lives of people and animals were more closely entwined and where the supernatural was an accepted element of life.

Up until the twentieth century representations of humans in landscapes portray people as tiny compared to the vastness of forests and mountains. Standing next to one of these young men, I had a flash of seeing backwards through time and I knew a novel was going to come into existence. I wanted to try and recreate this medieval world where the human response to both nature and the spiritual world was one of awe and wonder.

That was the first germ, but there were many other elements. For a long time I have loved the great warrior tales of medieval Japan such as Tales of the Heike and Revenge of the Soga Brothers. Around the same time as I met the deer dancer I visited the place where Yoshitsune is said to have committed suicide, and on the same day read Basho’s poem, written at Hiraizumi:

 Ah summer grasses,

All that remains

Of warriors’ dreams

Then, a couple of fans wrote to me and asked if I would ever go further back into the world of the Otori, and relate the life of the hero Takeyoshi who is briefly mentioned in Heaven’s Net is Wide. I’ve also had questions about the origins of the Tribe. As I began to explore and research the medieval world more fully all these strands came together into the Tale of Shikanoko, the Deer’s Child.

I hope you will enjoy everything that lies within its pages,

Warmest wishes,

Lian Hearn.

20 Responses

  1. Sylvain M.

    Dear Mrs Hearn,

    Congratulations for this amazing project ! I really enjoyed reading the Tale of Otori, and I am looking forward to discovering the Tale of Shikanoko.

    I could read a few pages of “Emperor of the eight islands” on your Australian publisher’s website, and discovered sadly that my English is not yet good enough to fully appreciate your text. Is a translation into French already planned ?

    Best wishes,

    • Lian Hearn

      Thank you for your message. Gallimard are going to publish the new books in French but I am not sure of their dates yet.

  2. I just randomly did a search on your name on Amazon to see if there was anything new. I’m so delighted to learn that you are writing the Tale of Shikanoko. I have listened to the 4 book Otori audiobook series twice now. I am looking forward to the April release of this first in what I know will be a fabulous series.

    • Lian Hearn

      Hi Arwen, thanks for visiting the site and for your comment. The first book of The Tale of Shikanoko came out in the US yesterday – it’s very exciting.

  3. Rodrigo

    Hello! I’m a big fan of his work, I read Tales of the Otori, and I looked forward to some new written by you saga, wanted to know if tales of shikanoko will be released in Spanish just as they did with tales of the otori?

    • Lian Hearn

      Thanks for your comment. I am waiting to hear if the Spanish publishers are going to take The Tale of Shikanoko. Keep your fingers crossed. I will let you know.

  4. Chisi Amanda Xiong

    Hello Lian Hearn, I just picked up your novels The tales of Shikanoko volume 1 and 2! I started the first one a few days ago. Loving the journey of Shikanoko. I’m definitely a few fan!

    • Lian Hearn

      Thanks so much! I hope you enjoy the rest of the journey – Book 3 is out today in the US and Book 4 next month.

  5. Ben Nakagaki

    My wife and I have finished book 1 and 2 and are eagerly awaiting the next two. Thank you for your work and the amazing world you have created.

    • Lian Hearn

      Thanks for such a nice comment. Book 3 is out today in the US. (I think Book 4 is my favourite)

      • Ben Nakagaki

        Exciting! Thank you twice. Once for writing back and once for writing the books! Thrilled to see what your fav will bring. Cheers.

  6. Just finished reading harsh cry of the heron again, I love these books they feel like home. I won’t give away the plot but the ending always makes me cry! Are you planning on making these stories into movies?

    • I’m so glad people reread the books! The movie rights for the trilogy were sold to Universal years ago, but they haven’t done anything with them. Very disappointing, but maybe one day someone will turn them all into a series for TV. Thanks for your comment, Lorna.

  7. Ann M White

    I cant find the titles of book 1 & 2 in the tales of shikanoko. Im hoping to get combo in one big fat book instead of parted out like how the Otori series were broken down; for US readers.
    Ive just spotted 3&4 online and want to read 1&2 first. It appears my reading drought since Otori has made me miss a few. Sorry Gillian….it was your fault though (said with <3) xx l've not read a series since Otori that has been as engaging as that. Nothing l tried including blossoms and shadows even cut it x

    • Ann M White

      Im with it now…l think… 1 &2 are in the Emporor of the eight Islands.

      • Lian Hearn

        Hi Ann, hope you have sorted it out now – the Tale of Shikanoko was published in different ways in the English speaking countries, some in 4 volumes and some in two. Confusing! Am writing a new Otori tale at the moment. Thanks for the nice comment.

  8. Tim Cutting

    Hello Lian (or do you prefer to be called Gillian?) – I was thrilled to find the Shikanoko series as I have read and re-read the Otori series at least 3 times – I’ve actually lost count! I don’t think I can say that about any other books and I have been reading voraciously for 6 decades now. Thank you so much.
    I read Emporer first (in about 3 days!) but am a little confused about the chronology of the books. I thought that Lord of Darkwood was the second in the series and have started it, but now see that Autumn Princess is actually book 2 in the series. I am awaiting delivery of it from Amazon so would you recommend that I stop and wait or do the stories not get ‘spoiled’ by reading them out of order – if there is an order of this kind.
    I’m thrilled to hear that another Otori tale is forthcoming and look forward to it and to hearing from you.

    • Lian Hearn

      Hi Tim, sorry I did not see this (among all the spam in the comments it’s always lovely to find such a nice message) Sorry about the confusion over the volumes of Shikanoko. The publishers had different strategies, so that resulted in different formats. I liked the US idea of doing it in four short books over one year (the French are doing that too), but UK and Aus publishers preferred the more traditional two books. Loved the antlered figure, it’s really very powerful. I’ll write more on Fb, Cheers, Lian/Gillian

  9. Tim Cutting

    Hi Lian, I now understand about the different ways that the Shikanoko story has been published, but there is a problem for UK readers that go through Amazon. We see 4 books for sale but are not told that two of them are contained within the other two. We can (and I did) then buy all four. I have just had a long phone call with Amazon UK customer services explaining this and trying to get them to make it clear that Autumn Princess and Tengu’s Game are the second parts of ‘Emperor’ and ‘Lord’. I can see from readers reviews that some others who have bought all of them get annoyed! It’s Amazon’s responsibility – and I hope they will respond.
    I have loved reading them, and learning about the origins of the Tribe, and by accident (!) started reading Across the Nightingale Floor again. Each time I do I gain more from them – your writing is a wonderful achievement – which I continue to share with others.

    • Hi Tim, I don’t engage with amazon so I didn’t appreciate the confusion. It’s an unexpected problem as so many people buy on line now, and amazon is multi-national. I (naively) thought each English language country would only sell the books as published in that country. Thanks for your efforts to get amazon to be more specific. I am sorry readers have been annoyed by it, it’s certainly something to consider for the future. (If I ever finish anything else, that is) As I said before I really liked the quick 4 part publishing idea from the US, but I guess it would have been better if everyone had done that. However I think UK and Aus were being more conservative.

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