Short Story Review: “Qinggong Ji” by Stephen D. Rogers

2 of 5 stars.

The American tall tale centers on a character that’s larger than life in action, such as Pecos Bill lassoing a tornado. A certain amount of absurdity is allowable, but the tales aim to be consistently true to themselves.

This tale hybrids a tall tale with kung fu movie heroics. However, the inconsistencies start from the opening line which ends with “. . . Ji was born an orphan.” Perhaps this impossibility means to state she was orphaned shortly after birth. The tale moves on quickly, with Ji already a young woman flitting from village to village by the end of the next paragraph. This makes it curious that her birth was mentioned at all.

She soon enters a new village in the Valley of Seven Echoes where she is rudely greeted by a guard. She is polite in response, but to the question What do you want?”, she replies “To repay your hospitality.” Since she has in no way been shown hospitality yet, one could wonder whether she speaks ironically and plans to exact revenge. Apparently not–her original treatment is brushed off.

Soon she wins over the villagers with her song of her life. She plays this on her possibly magical musical instrument of extraordinary ability.

Ji played a song that told the story of her life. Her audience wept at the hardships, cheered at her successes, and marveled at her bravery, for her story began with the love of her parents and ended with her love of all living things.

The love of her parents? Just a page earlier, the story states she was born an orphan . . .

This tale appears in Abbreviated Epics, a Third Flatiron Anthology, edited by Juliana Rew.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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