Searching for Peace and a Mythical Bird in Robbie Arnott’s The Rain Heron

At the end of its life, the phoenix bursts into flames and a younger bird rises from the ashes. The roc is large enough to carry an elephant in its claws. The caladrius absorbs disease, curing the ill. The rain heron, which can take the form of steam, liquid or ice, controls the climate around it.

Unlike the first three mythical birds, whose legends are hundreds or thousands of years old, the rain heron is a new entry in the library of imaginary beasts, introduced in the novel bearing its name by Tasmanian author Robbie Arnott.

Set in an unnamed country beset by a military coup and climate disruptions, The Rain Heron is a story of survivors searching for peace but finding violence in both nature and society. The characters are tested and exposed by the titular creature, which exacts a price from those who dare covet it.

Read excerpts from my conversation with Robbie Arnott on Literary Hub.

“What I was really trying to do was create a mythical creature that embodies both the beauty and the savagery of nature,” Arnott says. “I wanted something that is totally captivating, the way many natural environments and phenomena can be, but also is really, really dangerous.”

Arnott’s descriptions of nature are inspired by the beauty of his Australian home state of Tasmania, where he has spent long stretches hiking in the bush and fishing in the cold waters. “It always comes through in my writing a lot. There’s lots of descriptions of natural places because that’s generally where I’ve been and what I’m interested in. I tried living in a big city for a while and I just I just couldn’t do it.”

Robbie Arnott is the author of the novel Flames, which won the Margaret Scott Prize, was short-listed for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Prize for Fiction, the Guardian Not the Booker Prize, and the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction. In 2019, he was named a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelist. The Rain Heron was one of LitHub‘s Most Anticipated Books of 202.



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