In the Weekend Roundup yesterday I listed Marche du Nain Rouge as one of the things to do in Detroit this weekend. The purpose of the Carnival-style event is to banish the Nain Rouge or “red dwarf” from Detroit and to instill a new sense of life and rebirth in the city.
Who or what is this Nain Rouge?
From Nain Rouge by Josef Bastian:
The Nain Rouge is as old as the city itself, maybe older. Legend tells of a devilish creature whose appearance foreshadows terrible events within the city limits. The creature is said to have been attacked in 1701 by the first white settler of Detroit, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac. Cadillac threw him out of the Fort Pontchartrain settlement, only to have the dwarf come back as a harbinger of doom. Ever since that time, Lutin has appeared in Detroit just before an impending disaster.
This may be the first you are hearing of the Nain Rouge but I heard about it a few months ago. Josef Bastian wrote a young adult book about this evil dwarf called Nain Rouge. The book is set in Detroit and mentions many local landmarks and institutions. Mr. Bastian sent me a free copy (full disclosure) to read it and review.
Here is the synopsis:
Evil is afoot in the Motor City.
The times are hard and getting harder by the minute. An urban legend tells of the Nain Rouge, who appears as a harbinger of doom. The sightings are growing more frequent every day.
What will two unsuspecting teenagers do when they come face to face with source of all this trouble? What will Elly and Tom do when they meet the mysterious and dangerous Nain Rouge? Is it too late to save the city and themselves?
The book is aimed at young adults so it’s pretty short and easy to read (for an adult). The characters of Tom and Elly are very likable. Elly is a great role model for girls; she’s the smart one. In fact, she reminded me a bit of Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter books. Tom is described as a free spirit and confident. He gets into minor trouble from time to time.
I have to say what I loved most about the book is that it is set in Detroit. Tom and Elly live in Royal Oak and attend Royal Oak Middle School.
The story starts out with the kids at the DIA where they first encounter the Nain Rouge. Throughout the story they travel to Hart Plaza and down Jefferson Avenue, the Joe Louis Fist is mentioned as well as the Spirit of Detroit. The story ends at the Michigan State Fairgrounds.
Being able to visualize the city and follow the kids on their travels draws you in. These are places I see all the time, they are fresh in my memory and I felt like I was walking right behind Tom and Elly.
When I first started reading Nain Rouge I was thinking to myself that the ending would be obvious. But you know what? I was surprised. I shouldn’t have been, I should have figured it out but I was enjoying the ride so much I didn’t have time to ponder the end.
The story was intriguing and with all the vampire, werewolf, and magical books out right now this little, red, evil dwarf with his “high pitched hissing laughter” might just fit right in with today’s teenage sensibilities.
As much as I liked the story of Nain Rouge, I did feel the dialogue was a bit clunky at times. Keep in mind, I don’t have kids and haven’t been around any teens or preteens lately. I have no idea how they actually talk but the dialogue didn't flow off the tongue.
Some of the timing of annual events in Detroit were skewed. International Freedom Festival (River Days) fireworks on July 23rd? Mr. Bastian took creative license in a few places; it doesn't hurt the story but it won't ring true to Detroiters.
What I find most interesting about the book Nain Rouge is the opportunity it has to open up a dialogue between parents and kids. It’s a great discussion starter not just about places in Detroit but about what is happening right now in our community and what can be done to make it better.
As far as the urban legend that is the Nain Rouge? It’s a good myth but the truth is a red dwarf isn’t the cause of Detroit’s problems. Yeah, it would be nice to blame our troubles on this banshee. But we can’t.
Real live people were responsible for our successes and caused our problems. Decisions were made, good and bad, over the last 300 years. It's up to the people of today to stop bickering over boundary lines, class, race and a million other things and start finding solutions.
I’m all for banishing Detroiters’ fears and doubts and bringing new life and hope to Detroit. That part I really like.