The Sun Spirit is entirely set in the Navajo Nation. Of course it is impossible to write a novel about a stunningly beautiful and intriguing country without going there yourself. In the summer of 2006 I set up my writer’s residence in Chinle, Arizona, in the very heart of the Navajo Nation and at the entrance of magical and sacred Tséyi or Canyon de Chelly.

Dinetah – © map Hannah Janssen

First I needed to know how it was to kayak or raft down a waterfall, as that is the way my protagonist Tom gets pulled into the mythical world of the Diné. That was quite a thrilling event. Tom’s story is based on this and on the memory of a time long ago, when I nearly drowned.

Going under

The first sighting of Shiprock, that fascinating monolith in the midst of a rock desert! The Diné call it Tsé Bit’Aí or the Rock with Wings, for they say these are the petrified remains of the giant bird that brought them to safety.

Tsé Bit’Aí – The Rock With Wings

Getting closer to Tsé Bit’Aí to test its amazing echo’s.

Tsé Bit’Aí – The Rock With Wings

I met the gentleman in this picture at a festival in Flagstaff. He was friendly and communicative and very curious about why a Dutch writer would want to write about the Twin Warriors. I explained my love for myths and legends, and how the emphasis always seems to be on the Greek and Roman ones, where there is such an abundance of First Nations’ stories. He was happy that I wanted to bring their stories to the Dutch public and encouraged me to write the book.
He comes back in the novel as Begochiddy, the messenger of the gods, who bonds Tom and his new friend Jay by a chant that strengthens their powers to fight evil:
Watch over me
Protect me with your hand
Keep guard over me, defend me
Speak for me, like I will speak for you
I will speak for you, like you will speak for me

I traveled over the Chuska Mountains to Tséyi or Canyon de Chelly, the sacred canyon, to view the cliff houses where Tom, Jay and their friend Yazhi find refuge from a flash flooding.

Tséyi – the Navajo Nation

Cliff houses in Tséyi

A Diné guide took me deep into Tséyi, only hours after a thundering storm had washed over the Dinetah and flooded the canyon. We would try and reach Tsé Na’ashjé’ii or Spider Rock, the monolith that is the home of Spider Woman, but he wasn’t sure if the weather spirits would allow us to get that close. He was right. We got stuck.

The writer, the guide and a writer’s son stuck in Tséyi after a flash flooding

We got out, but we didn’t dare to move on and returned to Chinle without seeing Tsé Na’ashjé’ii. I tried again that afternoon from another direction and was rewarded with a splendid view on that tall rock, where Spider Woman lives.
If you look closely you can see bleached bones on top of the rock. It is said that Spider Woman takes away bad children from their homes and families. She devours them and leaves the bones on top of the rock that is her home to scare other children.

The writer looking at Tsé Na’ashjé’ii – Spider Rock

The Twin Warriors: Tobadzischini or Child of the Water and Nayenezgani or Monster Slayer. These are the petrified remains of the two warriors that were to rid the world of monsters and demons.

The Twin Warriors – Tobadzischini and Nayenezgani