curse Condition in The River | World Anvil
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Adulthood in women's culture is granted only to girls who have given birth to female babies.  Until then, a girl is treated as a child no matter how old she is.  Full-belly, believed to be caused by eating a certain kind of nut, is the means by which a girl learns whether she is a woman. It is well known that a girl can only have full-belly while her body makes blood to fill the nut and make it a baby. If she is still a girl when she reaches the age when the blood stops, she will be a girl for the rest of her life, a condition the women call "cursed".   The curse can take one of two forms:
  1. Empty-belly curse
    A girl who never has full-belly exists in a state of uncertainty.  She might be a woman or she might not--it is only the results of full-belly that determine one or the other.
  2. Trash-belly curse
    This is the fate of the girl who gets full-belly in her, but every time it results in a trash birth instead of a baby.  This is the more feared manifestation of the curse, because it is a clear sign of a bad spirit inhabiting her body.
Some women consider boys to be a third type of cursed girl.  After all, by their rules a boy could be a woman too if he ever gave birth to a girl, but because of his deformity it is not possible.


A persistent belief about the curse is that it can spread from girl to girl, and some believe even from boys to girls.  Orphaned girls are at particular risk of being cursed.  A girl without a mother, who has to live in Woman Woman's extra house, is often treated as if she is already cursed.  She is not as welcome to join games with her peers and is more often set to work taking care of the youngest girls, who are believed to be not in danger of the curse until after their Feast of First Blood.

Cultural Reception

Having a girl is a woman's entry into adulthood, but having that girl become a woman is proof of adulthood's fulfilment.  Therefore cursed girls are feared most by women who still have a first girl in their homes.  But cursed girls play a critical role in a village's survival.  Most of the work of growing food and gathering resources is done by women, and their success depends on having this pool of grown girls available to keep their children occupied.

View from the future

By the time the radical exiles and their descendants settled in the lower river basin, they had learned the contribution men make toward pregnancy and recognized the curse for the fraud that it is. From then on, adulthood was granted based on physical maturity rather than parenthood, and the childcare problem was solved by making it a traditionally male occupation.

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