A Bride’s Story Volume 1
A Bride’s Story volume 1 is simply astounding. It’s amazing that it’s so beautifully drawn and told by Kaoru Mori; that such odd subject matter — marriage customs among the nomadic tribes of Mongolia in the 19th century — could be so fascinating; that such ornately, beautifully detailed art can be manga; that such a handsome (hardcover, jacketed) volume could be produced for the manga market, which is assumed to want cheap, teen-oriented stories.
Amir is 20 years old, considered “over the hill” in her culture (despite her skills at riding and hunting), so she’s been given away to another tribe to marry a 12-year-old, Karluk. She worries about fitting in with her new family, while her old one saw her as merely a bargaining piece, a way to make a treaty with another tribe.
Her age is a concern because a younger wife can have more children, while it’s clearly going to be several years (until Karluk matures) before these two have kids. He sometimes sees her as a wife, sometimes as a mother figure, given her greater life experience. That’s particularly the case when he gets sick and she goes overboard nursing him. Yet their affection for each other is visible on the page as well.
Mori clearly loves her research, since she draws gorgeous ceremonial clothing and portrays the cultural rituals in a way that feels authentic. This is a story — and a world — to get lost in. Particularly during the impressive wordless sequence when Amir hunts a rabbit from horseback.
The tribe values its textiles, with decorated tapestries serving as wedding gifts, or cloth and thread traded and shared. Another chapter demonstrates the value of another handcraft, that of decorative carving. A formerly nomadic culture needs members who know woodworking (to build posts and doors) and weaving (to create rugs and tents), but it’s the beauty and skill put into the functional elements that make them valuable, even after the tribe has settled.
As the series progresses, I assume we’ll see more about the odd (to us) politics, as Amir’s family comes to reclaim her and roles of others in the family become clearer. A Bride’s Story is well worth reading by anyone interested in unique female characters.