Golden Blood

Over the past few weeks, I have been hard at work on my Burmese language. I am feeling like I am beginning to make progress, and so I have moved on from textbooks to some basic reading materials. In particular, I’ve been working through back issues of the well-known weekly comic Shwe Thway, which translates as “Golden Blood”. It is an odd name (does anybody why it is called this?), but then it is a deeply odd publication. For language learning, however, it is excellent: the language is simple, for many of the comic strips there are English and Burmese texts in parallel, and all the sections are relatively short. But this on one side, it is also a curious and instructive read, because Shwe Thway contains everything from high-minded educational content…

“Accordingly let’s carry out wildlife conservation…”

… to baffling tales of alien intervention…

The torch that can turn something into its origin

… to bizarre casual homophobia.

U Myo Myint Aung — confirmed bachelor.

In case the reader is left in any doubt about the last of these, or suspects I am over-interpreting “confirmed bachelor” (in Burmese လူပျိုကြီး, or ‘great bachelor’), the following frame should dispel this suspicion.

U Myo Myint Aung has a menstrual disorder…

Yes, you read that right: the term in Burmese is “menstrual illness”, thanks to which U Myo Myint Aung feels the cold.

It is a deeply peculiar thing to have in a children’s comic. But at least readers can take consolation from the fact that the hooligan kids get their comeuppance at the end of the piece (thanks to the intervention of a fierce bulldog (ခွေးဘီလူးကြီး, since you ask…). And however unsettling the content, I’m going to persevere, because reading material like this can tell you a lot about a culture—both good and bad; and besides it does wonders for your vocabulary.

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