|Translating Untcigahunk and enjoying it!
I’ve recently read, and am currently translating, Untcigahunk: The Complete Little Brothers by Rick Hautala. The book consists of the horror novel Little Brothers and of several stories set in the same world — which would be our own, except that the creatures from the American Indian mythology, such as the “little brothers”, truly exist there. And are quite nasty and hungry.
Here’s the description of the novel you can usually find on the Internet:
It has been five years since Kip Howard saw his mother killed horribly by a blur of “”little brown things”.” Five years of nightmares and a terror of dark places. Five years of struggling to overcome what must have been just his imagination…But the ‘untcigahumk’, the Indian word for “”little brothers”,” are no one’s imagination. hideous forest creatures who feed every five years on human flesh, the little brothers are about to emerge from underground once again.Only this time, there will be no escape for the young boy who witnessed their last feast.
And here’s what I think of the book, as a reader: I enjoyed it.
If I look at it as a horror novel, it works quite well, with the nasty little monsters trying to eat the protagonist and a few other people. It has a bunch of the usual horror elements, nasty monsters, teenagers who have sex and get killed after it, the kid who saw something but nobody believes him, the town drunk who can be so much more… What adds to the value of the novel is that it would’ve worked just fine even without the monsters. If the mother from the beginning of the description died by some more common accident while her seven-year-old son watched, if there were no hungry little creatures, the novel would have still worked as a compelling family drama and a coming-of-age story. The two boys who lost their mother, the man who lost his beloved wife and is trying to keep the family going, the older son who is becoming increasingly like the town teen bully while the younger one is seeing a psychotherapist on regular basis… The younger boy meets an unlikely friend who helps him overcome his troubles… It would be quite a compelling story even without the “little brothers” wishing to eat a bunch of people and perhaps some cattle, too. Although, it is more fun with the little buggers.
After the novel, you get to enjoy three “mythological” stories, about the creation of the untcigahunk, and then some other stories about human encounters with the “little brothers”, with the usual entertainment of the unreasonable, stubborn trouble-makers or the folks who stand and watch instead of running for their lives getting eaten by the monsters.
Now, I would’ve preferred a shorter novel, but that’s just me; I’ve seen people say they enjoyed the length, because that way they got to know the characters better, and they liked their company. What annoyed me a little bit was Kip occasionally turning from a likable boy whose fears and trauma we understood to a sulking little brat. However, it didn’t really spoil the book, it’s just a detail which could have been better.
What can I say, it was fun reading this book, and it’s quite fun translating it.