“Far, far away is my village!
Where fireflies of my childhood
Still glow in thick folliage
Of Pipal trees…..
…Far, far away is my village!
Where reflections of my first love
Where paths are shrouded
And loneliness laced with secret longings
Peoples fields, ponds, the school
And trees herded together….” – Naseer Ahmed Nasir
Whereas nowadays the image of an idyllic village life can be easily shattered by the realism of everybody knowing everybody else’s business, there was a time when knowing what each inhabitant was up to and what skills they could bring to a small village was critical to ensuring the village thrived in the way it should rather than falling foul of letting strangers in who could potentially damage a village’s reputation.
In Denny Bradbury’s book “Borvo II”, much emphasis is put on how important the role and responsibility of each villager is to the village as a whole and how the introduction of strangers can bring both unease and excitement, depending on the skills and intentions of the new inhabitants. As Denny writes in Chapter Ten, ‘Eldric is reassured’:
“Borvo would talk with Eldric about the status of the healer and how the village recognised him as such. These matters were important to keep the balance of community, with the maturing young leaving for the towns every person in the countryside had to be of value and pull their weight.”
With village life shifting and changing as the younger members of the community grow up and search for further adventure or gravitate towards the prospects offered by the towns, there is the constant need to make sure the ongoing roles and responsibilities are filled by those with the appropriate skillset without upsetting the balance of the group as a whole.
Not only is this the case for the roles of the villagers, but any union between individual villagers would become a talking point within the community in terms of whether a particular match would not only benefit the individuals themselves but the entire village. This is highlighted when Borvo’s sister in law, Hild is considered as a possible wife for Eldric the Elder’s brother, Cenhelm. Borvo says “There is a hint that your brother, who lost his wife last winter would willingly be with her. If you think it is a good match then I can add my encouragement although she is strong willed and I would not take that from her. She must be free to decide…” Eldric stopped and turned to his companion, “Yes I would see the union as a good thing for all parties, Hild, Cenhelm and the village.”
There is also the introduction of strangers to the village that can provoke an unsettled response if the strangers’ roles, responsibilities and relationships aren’t as clear cut as others would like. Alric, the friend and spiritual ward of Borvo, when referring to Borvo’s wards, Mairwen and Yssild, who by Chapter Thirteen ‘Redwald the smith’ were not fully accepted by the rest of the village talks of how he “welcomed them with an open heart and mind. He too had been a stranger brought to this place by Borvo and he understood what they were going through. He knew that at their best the villagers were good people but they were also human with all the insecurities attending that state.”
Redwald’s arrival to the village – another stranger in the villagers’ midst – is greeted with less animosity due to his skillset; being a smith it is a role the village needed filling.
Denny Bradbury writes “ “He (Redwald) would have to persuade the elders that he was willing and ready to settle and that his presence would enhance not detract from the dwindling community….For someone with such skills as Redwald it was as much his choice as that of the villagers, they needed him almost as well as he needed them….Their (the villagers) reaction to the tall muscular man was quite different from that with which they had greeted Mairwen and Yssild, Here was someone who could give them something they lacked…. If he was too good to be true then no-one that night considered it a possibility. Necessity makes men blind to many things.”
As is still the case in many villages and communities today, the aim behind any village committee is something Eldric the Elder knew was imperative: keeping the balance of his village. As Borvo says in Chapter Fifteen ii “This is a good village but they are scared of the war, the fevers, lack of young men and sometimes just the unsettling feeling of not being in control of anything”.
A sentiment that, in many ways, is still in evidence in some villages throughout the world today.