The Tiger’s Paw Print: A Memoir of Myth and Desire in the Himalayas

In 1994, the year I turned thirty, I settled into a Himalayan village to do research in anthropology and folklore. I knew that I would be living with a family I had met ten years before; that I would be immersed in a world of oral poetry, myth, and song; that I would live without electricity, plumbing, and outhouses; and that I would go weeks or months at a time with no communication from home—I was ready for all that. What I didn’t anticipate was that I would fall in love, conceive a child in a cave above a river, and be forced to make choices that would change everything I thought I knew about who I was and who I would become. 

As I navigated the terrain between my personal and professional lives, the myths I studied seemed to tell my own story as well—from family rupture (the daughter who turns into a bird and flies away) to impossible love relationships (the feral female yeti who fails to keep her human husband).

The village (foreground), c. 1994