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Tainaron by Leena Krohn, 1998

Mail from another city

© Leena Krohn

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Tainaron - Mail from another city





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Their innumerable dwellings - the eighth letter


Tainaron is full of voices of a kind I have not heard anywhere else. Here I have come to realise that there is no clear dividing line between music and language. For the citizens, you see, secrete their voices from themselves which can be interpreted sometimes as speech, sometimes as music. I do not mean they sing; that is, at least, not very common here. Neither do they play instruments of any kind; instead, their voices are created with the help of muscles, glands and guts or chitin armature.


Their voices may well up from a surprising depth, as if from leagues away, so that it is no wonder that they are often so difficult to locate. For, you see, the Tainaronians' way of life is a very curious one. You will perhaps not have heard that they often have a number of dwellings, but not only in the way that we have city apartments and summer villas. No: the people here are able to live in many dwellings at the same time, as in a nest of boxes. Some of them carry their innermost apartment, a one-roomed flat which fits their dimensions like a glove, with them everywhere. But this has the drawback that one cannot always make sense of what they say, for it echoes and reverberates from the walls of their private apartments. It is also vexing to me that I cannot always tell where the dwelling ends and its inhabitant begins.


Poor things, who never come among people without this innermost shield. It reflects the terrible vulnerability of their lives. Their little home may be made of the most diverse ingredients: grains of sand, bark, straw, clay, leaves.... But it protects them better than others are protected by armour, from every direction, and it is a direct continuation of themselves, much more so than clothes are to you or me. But if it is taken away from them, they die - perhaps simply of shame, perhaps because their skins are too soft for the outside air, or because they do not have any skin at all.


Who would be so cruel as to tear from them this last shield! Oh, I have heard that such things, too, happen here in Tainaron; I have been startled by the moans of death-throes in the deeps of the night.


But I have my own theory concerning why this happens. For, you see, those who constantly drag their houses with them remain unknown to other people. Once can gain only a brief glimpse of them, if that; they are always in hiding.


And then there are those who cannot bear such a situation, those who wish to see everything face to face and to reveal, open, show the whole world the nakedness of things.... Now and then the temptation becomes overwhelming to them, and they split open the house of some poor unfortunate. I awake to shrieking, sigh and turn over - and soon fall asleep again.


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