THE ROLE OF CULTURE IN LITERATURE, 'AN ADVENTURE OF LITTLE HEROES'
‘An Adventure of Little Heroes’ by Thalatha Wijerathna
One of the most intriguing nuances of the relationship between an author and the reader is the transpiring and conveying of experience of journeys, of a culture that bridges the distance of time and space. Author Thalatha Wijerathna pens a novel reminiscent of her childhood experiences, the childlike wonder of limitless adventure and the concept of a child’s boundless imagination. ‘An Adventure of Little Heroes’ follows its prequel, ‘Little Heroes of Randeniya’ a collection of stories about a group of children shaping the present and future of their village and environment through their choices and exploring the world inside their own. We reconnected with Thalatha to understand not only the thought process and conception behind the sequel but the integral role that culture plays in literature and the representation of particular nuances that symbolize that culture, from language to tradition.
Established children’s author and educator Thalatha Wijerathna pursued her career as a school teacher and has gained an experience of over thirty-six years as a high school teacher. She graduated from the University of Peradeniya and obtained her Master of Arts in higher education after which she became a member of the Translator’s Pool of the Official Languages Department of Sri Lankan. The extensive experience and fervent interest in writing led her to the publishing of two novels dedicated to young adults and children transpiring her own experiences unto her readers.
Q | Where did the inspiration for An Adventure of Little Heroes derive from?
A | I truly had the most wonderful and magical childhood, and it has since been an endless source of inspiration to me throughout my life. My parents were schoolteachers who were so passionate about the pursuit of learning and knowledge, and I treasure the memories I have of them, my two brothers, and the beautiful rural village in Sri Lanka where I was brought up.
Q | In your book, there are narrations of cultural holidays and their celebrations. Why do you think it's significant that they be represented and which cultural aspects were you keen to highlight especially to the younger audience?
A | There is no doubt that the changing times have brought many amazing things into our lives, but one thing I have noticed is that we are beginning to lose touch with our cultural roots and heritage. It can happen so gradually that it is barely noticeable, but it would be such a great loss to the world to lose the cultures and traditions that bring so much diversity and light into our lives. Through my writings, I hope that the younger generation can appreciate the intrinsic value and beauty of their roots, and learn to celebrate everything that makes our histories, ancestors and identities so unique.
Q | Your narration often switches dialects when describing inherent Sri Lankan practices. Why do you think this is important and why is it significant to be written that way?
A | Each language has words that just don’t have a counterpart in any other language. And Sinhalese is such a meaningful language, so when I describe aspects of life in Sri Lanka I hope that those in Western countries can appreciate and understand the intricacies of a language that they perhaps haven’t heard of before. I’ve also made sure that than any Sinhalese words I use are described in the glossary, so it’s a perfect opportunity to learn some new words as well!
Q | What of these adventures and this narration do you hope the readers take from this?
A | Children are so inquisitive and we can learn so much from that – they’re never afraid to pursue their dreams or grasp any opportunities that may come their way. I hope that readers of my work can see why it is so important that we encourage children to always be adventurous and curious, so that they can be this way even as adults and continue to pursue knowledge, learning and opportunities.
Q | Can you tell us about the illustrations in the book and how they have been drawn to characterize and enhance the message behind your stories?
A | The beautiful illustrations are by the gifted Yashodara Kaluarachchi, and they have been digitally painted in a style that is reminiscent of a water colour painting. I’ve always thought that water colour paintings are so ethereal and dream-like, and these illustrations perfectly encompass the wonder and beauty of childhood that I’m hoping to convey. If any of my readers are not familiar with the village setting of the stories, then these colourful illustrations will bring the words, characters and messages to life.
The representation of culture and notions of nativity are especially significant and vital in literature dedicated to children and young adults as it aids in the shaping and moulding of their minds and futures. We believe author Thalatha Wijerathna creates a space not only of childhood adventure and experience but a place that holds a wealth of knowledge about the reader’s culture, connecting to them on a personal degree; educative and insightful while being creative in its conception, ‘Adventure of Little Heroes’ isn’t just a story, it’s a recounting of real life, mixed with symbolic connotations of cultural philosophies accentuated by its beautiful language.