WWP Week 2: Famadihana

In Fiction on October 17, 2012 at 11:31 am

Last week, the Wednesday WikiPrompt was an article on Madagascar, and before I get to my story I’d like to thank Sean Fallon for being the first to join in with my fledgling prompt! You can read his (strange, funny, great) story here.

For my own part, I tried to dive into a specific piece of the article, a reburial ritual it mentioned. I’d love your comments and criticism on this (there are a few specific problems I have with the story, but I’ll wait to see if you can pick out the spots I feel are weakest).

Enjoy and thanks for reading!

Famadihana reburial ceremony, Madagascar


The wrappings were undone and the body lay bare, the flesh blackened and sloughing from the bones. A hellish stink hung stagnant in the heavy air.

“My God, Philip, what are they doing?” Sir Daniel asked. He had clapped a minted kerchief over his nose and mouth, but the stench was overpowering.

“The natives call it famadihana, sir,” Philip replied. “They think it honors the dead.”

Horrified, Sir Daniel stepped closer. There was almost nothing left of the man, nothing but brittle twigs and black jelly, and yet the villagers seemed not to mind. Two middle-aged men went to the corpse, leaned down and scooped it from the wrappings.

“Oh!” Daniel exclaimed, and he found it necessary to step away. The villagers paid no mind to the white men from the island far away.

“Who was he?” Daniel asked, and Philip posed the question to the men in Malagasy as they laid the body in fresh, white linen.

Ikaky,” one of them said. He smiled proudly, and Philip translated:


Sir Daniel passed in a wide circle as the two men wrapped their father anew, as gently as if they were swaddling a baby for sleep. As they worked, a lively but haunting song went up from the gathering crowd, until the whole forest echoed with their cheerful-sad voices.

The men lifted the body from the ground and laid it across their shoulders, and one by one the villagers pushed in. They laid their hands upon the fresh wrappings, clapped the sons on the back and smiled, and all the while they sang.

“They’ll celebrate until morning,” Philip said, “and bury him again at first light.”

“Once wasn’t enough?” Sir Daniel asked.

When the villagers began passing jugs of rum from hand to hand, taking turns dancing with the corpse through the burial grounds, Sir Daniel decided he had seen enough.

“I’m afraid I must excuse myself, Philip,” he said, and the missionary nodded.

“We’ll speak again in the morning, sir,” he said.

A strange feeling crept upon Sir Daniel as he walked away through the trees – a deep unease, a longing that seemed to stalk him through the wilds. As he wandered, the song of the villagers was never far, coming in drifts upon the breeze that had begun to stir the canopy.

At last he came to a clearing and he stopped. The sounds of the forest swelled around him and the moon glared brightly above. The villagers laughed and wailed and sang in the distance.

And then Sir Daniel knelt and thrust his manicured hands deep into the soil.

He dug a hole, and when that was done he reached into his overcoat and removed the watch – his father’s watch – from the place he’d buried it all those years ago, when the old man had died.

(photo source: wiki commons)

And now on to this week’s prompt (as always, it’s Wikipedia’s featured article for Wednesday): The Mercury Dime.

The first week it was just me, the second week we had two, so let’s see if we can get this thing to go exponential and add two more to the mix! I’m sure there’s lots that can be done with this week’s prompt, so if you feel inspired and you’d like to join, just write a story and add the link in the comments below.

If you need some more instructions, just check out the inaugural post from a few weeks back or ask me!


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