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  • Writer's pictureJoseph R. Goodall

The History of Manalak

Updated: Dec 18, 2022

Photo by Jeremy Bishop via Upsplash

I am working on a story set in the fictional seaside village of Manalak. This is a short mythology of their community.

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The seemingly endless ocean, with its green and blue foam-capped undulations, found an end at the black sand shore of Manalak village. Lined with white-flowering palms and speckled gray dunes, the coastline transitioned inland to lush, rocky hills crowned with clusters of thatched-roof huts.

Developed and stewarded by generations of hardworking villagers, the town center of Manalak had been selected for its basin of fertile volcanic soil. In carved out pockets of land, farmers leveled the earth to grow bounties of coconuts, sweet fruits and hearty vegetables. From the market square, there was a clear view of a towering red statue rooted into the glistening black beach. Carved from the hearty trunk of an ancient sequoia, the statue bore the image of a giant octopus pushing itself out of the ocean with its thick, suctioned tentacles. Its eight limbs and rounded mantle guarded their shore, reminding the people of their first ancestor, Manalaki. Regular visits to Manalaki's shrine were a customary, often daily, occurrence.

The Manalak were a dignified people: focused, determined, unyielding, and proud of their industrious, six-armed bodies. Each balmy morning, villagers would walk their terraced rows on their two feet, while sowing seeds with the three arms on one side of their torso and tilling the soil with a tool in each of the arms on their opposite side. Children learned the legend of Manalaki as they set about their daily chores, how he emerged from the vast ocean as a wise octopus, eventually sprouting hair and changing his skin, but maintaining his eight limbs in order to transform their fertile land into a thriving human community. It was said that the Manalak were the most productive people in the known world, intent on using each and every arm for a task, never succumbing to idleness or the shame of being "half-armed." Even from an early age, the children of Manalak devoted themselves to rigorous training in preparation for their "Proficiency Offering," a unique project considered their first contribution to the community's livelihood, to be unveiled on their thirteenth birthday.

Over time, farmers and bricklayers applied their ingenuity to more specialized craft. Ingenious and efficient processes were developed to increase the productivity of the land, so more attention could be given to new creative tasks. The Manalak people honed their skills in colorful and intricately stitched clothing, polished mahogany furniture, asymmetrical, gravity-defying architecture and luxurious restaurants boasting sumptuous flavor. But it was a restless, tireless lifestyle, void of enjoyment in the constant rush to accomplish more. Every hundred years or so, a bitter feud flared up, resulting in the banishment of several families or an entire section of the village, sent over the hills to establish a divergent community based on inferior ideals. These deserters were a pariah to the people of Manalak, forgotten and shunned.

Even so, the faithful of Manalak splintered into their own social strata, vying for positions of influence as elite "task jugglers" or powerful business owners. The most admired—and feared—leaders in the village were lauded for eschewing tools, instead using their bare hands for every possible task. They built elaborate houses and amassed teams of followers and expertly crafted artifacts. Meanwhile, those with menial status, the peons unable to compete with the fastest workers, gathered in the town square to sell their wares or offer humble services. The most frivolous and carefree people of the village were the acrobats. Ever in jeopardy of being banished, they dwelled in the old farmlands and fields near the beach, ironically the closest to Manalaki's looming totem. This group reeked of salt water, dressed in loose black clothing and, most controversial of all, could be seen dancing around lively fires at night after work.

The very idea of moving one's body—with its well-endowed shoulders each sporting three arms—for the solitary pleasure of feeling it move, twist and bend, threatened to tear Manalak apart once again.

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