The Undiscovered • 1997 • Alternate History novelette by William Sanders

★★★★★

Synopsis: A white man named the Spear Shaker (Digatsisdi atelvhusgo’i in the native language) has been captured by a Cherokee tribe. He befriends the native narrator Mouse and gets trusted after a while, especially after fighting heroically in an assault from another tribe where he demonstrates his proficiency in archery and fencing. He has been scribbling all the time on bark but now he turns his mind again to a amore serious work again, not expecting that anyone would be able to read it or even perform it. Crazy as it seems, the natives get involved in this completely foreign concept of theatrical plays. William Shakespear directs his Cherokee version of the Hamlet tragedy and finds out that the natives don’t react in the expected way.

Review: Most refreshing were the mutual cultural misunderstandings, beginning with William’s demonstration of his name. The author brings down the difference in his wonderful attempt of replicating Elizabethan English in Shakespeare’s notes:

That I an Englishman and Subjeckt of Her Maiestie QueeneElizabeth , did by Misadventure come to this country of Virginnia in the Yeere of Our Lord 1591: and after greate Hardshipp arrived amongst these Indians. Who haue done me no Harme, but rather shewed me most exelent Kindnesse, sans the which I were like to haue dyed in this Wildernesse. Wherefore, good Frend, I coniure you, that you offer
these poore Sauages no Offence, nor do them Iniurie: but rather vse them generously and iustly, as they haue me.

It is difficult to read but quite understandable and gladly there are not too many of those excerpts in the text adding to the wonderful relaxed Cherokeean atmosphere. It was funny and poignant for example in the scene when Shakespeare was shocked that Cherokeean males just wouldn’t act in female roles (in Elizabethan times females weren’t allowed to act). The story had a very good tension arc ending in a nice plot twist. It covers accepting one’s fate, accepting others over cultural misunderstandings and transports extremely well to our times of fugitives. Best of all were the characterizations of the narrator Mouse and of Shakespeare. Truly, a masterpiece and highly recommended.

Meta: isfdb. Available online.

 

 

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2 Responses to The Undiscovered • 1997 • Alternate History novelette by William Sanders

  1. proxyfish says:

    This does sound really interesting and not at all what I was expecting! I haven’t actually read much alternative history so might just have to give this one a go 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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