Mythopoetics: Sustaining the Ecosystem in Ibrahim Al-Koni’s The Bleeding of the Stone

Motasim O. Almwajeh, Shadi S. Neimneh


This article investigates the ecological imperatives of the Sahara Desert in Ibrahim al-Koni’s novel The Bleeding of the Stone (published in Arabic in 1990 and translated into English in 2002) and argues that al-Koni incorporated mythology with an end to preserving the ecosystem and exposing cultural disharmony. Cognizant of people’s greed and recklessness toward the desert, al-Koni brings it to the foreground and mythically evokes it. We use textual and thematic analysis to explore the mythical vision in the novel. The mouflon (called waddan in the Sahara) and the Bedouins become paramount symbols of liberty, reclusive existence, and survival at one with nature. The protagonist Asouf not only guards the waddan (around which humans weave myths of sacredness, magical abilities, ferocity, and superb meat) and ancient rock paintings but is also spiritually united with the desert and its creatures. The result is an ecological fable teeming with mythical and mystical undertones and a celebration of traditional, intuitive practices in preserving the desert and its inhabitants against rationalist systems of corruption instigated by modern (Western) technology. The magical transformations and incarnations of humans and animals, the respectful mystery of the desert, and a belief in recounted stories and spells recur in the novel, giving it a mythical quality. The novel, hence, depicts a cultural gap between the natives of the Sahara and foreign hunters.


Keywords: myth, Ibrahim Al-Koni, The Bleeding of the Stone, waddan, desert novel.

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