THE MYTH OF
Welcome to The Myth of El Hawa
To celebrate Tomb Raider's 25th anniversary, here at last is the full story of the long-lost "Lara of Arabia" period between Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation and Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness. The Myth of El Hawa chronicles Lara's escape from the Great Pyramid, her rescue by Putai, and the adventures and discoveries she made deep in the desert.
Here you will find Murti Schofield's original thoughts – penned back in 2001 – about what might have happened to Lara during this period. Since then, Murti has expanded and completed these ideas, transforming them into a full story presented here: THE MYTH OF EL HAWA! Timelines and brainstorming notes accompany the story and flesh out the creative process behind it in more detail.
You will also find artwork and music, specially commissioned for this celebration, by Inna Vjuzhanina, Lara Titova, and Dean Kopri.
Tribal Lara in the desert – OG El Hawa document
"LARA and VON CROY after EGYPT
THIS SHORT BACK STORY FILLS IN THE GAP BETWEEN LARA’S DISAPPEARANCE IN THE COLLAPSING EGYPTIAN PYRAMID IN GAME IV AND HER REAPPEARANCE IN GAME VI.
WE CAN REVEAL AS LITTLE OR AS MUCH OF IT AS WORKS BEST. IT MOTIVATES WHAT HAPPENS BETWEEN VON CROY AND LARA IN PARIS.
CLEARLY LARA WILL NOT BE FORTHCOMING TO ANYONE ABOUT WHY SHE DISAPPEARED. AFTER HER ABANDONMENT BY VON CROY AND NEAR DEATH IN THE RUINS SHE UNDERWENT A PERIOD OF TRAUMATIC REVALUATION OF HER LIFE.
IN GAME VI WE MAY GET NO MORE THAN HINTS ABOUT WHAT WENT ON IN THE INTERVENING TIME.
In Game IV Werner Von Croy had to abandon Lara in the collapsing Egyptian tomb. Towards the end of Game V, haunted by his protégé’s fate he returns to Egypt to try and discover what happened to her. Inside the tomb ruins he finds her backpack and signs that she may have got out of the ruins somehow.
Mystified by why she has not made contact in all this time Von Croy makes enquiries and tracks down a nomadic tribe rumoured to have helped a mysterious lady who appeared from out of the desert. She was in a bad way, far gone, rambling about gods and divine powers. To a tribal, desert mentality she was obviously special, a holy woman of some kind.
They took her in, caring for her until she was able to fend for herself. The mysterious stranger travelled with them along the ancient trade routes of North Africa as one of their own, unremarkable except for her intensity and strength of spirit.
Nomadic life is a hard existence even without the constant hazards from raiding bandit tribes, mercenaries and various warring factions. Somewhere in the vast, arid areas inland from the Mediterranean coastal regions the unnamed lady disappeared back into the wastes.
It was shortly after this that stories of ‘El Hawa’, the Desert Wind, began to emerge. This mysterious figure would appear at opportune moments fighting off aggressors and acting generally as warrior-protector of the nomadic traders. The marauders became filled with superstitious dread. Stories about her began to assume chilling mythic qualities and the nomadic tribes felt themselves blessed with an invincible champion (sort of Lara of Arabia).
When Von Croy, at great personal risk, eventually tracks ‘El Hawa’ down to a remote oasis in the baking desert wastes it is, of course, Lara - but a changed, hardened Lara who can barely restrain herself from killing Von Croy the instant she recognises him.
Lara’s entombment in the Great Pyramid has traumatised her. In her mind, by abandoning her, Von Croy had unnecessarily condemned her to a horrific and lonely death. How she managed to claw her way out of the ruins she has no idea. There are many merciful blanks in her mind of that time.
Befriended by the desert people and learning their ways she has gained an insight into the emptiness of her previous existence. Fate had brought her to the one place where her unique skills could serve some purpose less self indulgent than the mere acquisition of ancient treasures. This was where she belonged. She could protect her adopted nomad tribe from the ravages of desert predators.
Von Croy cannot relate to the changes in Lara and is totally unable to convince her to return to her old life. Her funeral service held in England has declared her dead to the world. But in some deeply fundamental way she really has died to her old life and identity.
LARA’S RAGE AT VON CROYVon Croy is lucky not to be killed outright. He leaves empty handed, not even reassured by the knowledge that Lara is alive because in his eyes she is not fully herself. As he leaves the oasis he places Lara’s retrieved backpack on the edge of the well and walks away.
Some considerable time later Lara turns in England. Her adopted tribal family have been wiped out in a treacherous attack (possible links to The Cabal to be picked up in Game VII ?).
She has brought the battered backpack that Von Croy returned to her. Somehow it is a reminder of something forever out of her reach, like a key to the puzzle of her life.
And then Lara gets a desperate call for help from Von Croy in Paris. He has become involved in some terrible situation and is seriously out of his depth. She refuses at first to even talk to him, still choked with resentment and fury at his behaviour. After repeated calls from an increasingly frenzied Von Croy she grudgingly agrees to meet him at his apartment and arrives in Paris to find a city under siege. The deranged serial killer the Monstrum has the entire capital terrified. Paranoia reins. The streets are patrolled by police squads on hair trigger alert. No one feels safe.
In this darkly grim world Lara finds a mood to match her own. But this doesn’t help the meeting with Von Croy. Her total lack of sympathy at his terrified incoherence spirals into violent verbal exchanges as Lara’s bottled up resentment explodes and Von Croy’s paranoid desperation clash.
The game starts with Lara on the run suspected of Von Croy’s murder and caught up in a world of malevolent creeping evil far worse and more dangerous than anything she has yet encountered."
To read the original document, click the download button.
Tomb Raider: Into the Desert by Dean Kopri
The Myth of El Hawa – FULL
Written spring 2021
"[This begins without Lara’s usual bantering style. The effort to recall what happened in the desert is not an easy task for our heroine. It is painful for her to relate all her experiences amongst The People. The familiar, more assured tone returns as she describes events that are similar in tone to some of her other TR escapades.]
I never get asked about my desert family, the Bantiwa, because I’ve lost contact with anyone left alive who knew them. Their faces still come to me in dreams, on nights haunted by stars and the whisper of familiar voices and laughter, always faint and far away. Sometimes I fancy I can hear the sigh of the desert moving over the chill sands.
[soundtrack of desert winds, low and haunting]
All too often my mind goes back to the chill of another night, in Egypt, when I finally fought my way free of those crushing monolithic blocks. I don’t know how long I lay there in the open or how long I had fought to escape from the suffocating blackness of the tombs. At that moment all I recalled was that I had been abandoned and I felt like the most forsaken person on the planet, little more than a ghost crawling from a derelict grave.
The remoteness cut through me like a knife. There may have been a jackal call, distant in the blackness – or perhaps it was my own parched lungs howling for air. I’d spent the last of my strength digging a way through those shifting landslides of mica dust, the endlessly spilling hillsides of desert pouring into every gap that I scooped out for myself in those tunnels. My lungs were on fire. My arms screamed in protest.
It was a close thing.
Now, years on, I understand the value of dragging those half-nightmares out into the light and confronting them. I need to make sense of all that happened to me in that time. Writing it down is useful, as there is no one I would trust to talk over details of what I know about the Bantiwa people and the great Desert Secret they guarded. Perhaps some day someone will record, more fully, how the Bantiwa served as custodians of the miraculous Sh’mulahl plant with its sixty-year cycle. But it won’t be me.
On a more personal note, I am happy to document my recollections of friends and companions; Hamia, captain of the Moufassi, my dear little Chania, and, of course, Putai.
What to say about Putai – my Sidi, my deliverer, my desert phantom? There is so much. Where to start?
On our first meeting I never saw her, blinded as I was and gasping for air after my desperate scrabble for freedom. I was numb, barely able to support my own body weight, and possibly delirious. Suddenly I was aware of a presence, a touch, and a voice inside my head which whispered soothing words in a language that I did not know but understood. Her hands were cool and dry. Her strength poured into me. Everything she did was assured and deft. I remember water in my mouth spilling down my chin, oil on my face and lips. A sure touch examining my hands, joints, limbs. My eyes being delicately wiped clean of their gritty crust.
Then I was being lifted, carried, propped upright on a saddle. I could smell leather, pungent oils, the comforting breath of an animal. And, of course, there was pain. So much pain. I was wracked with it as we jogged through the starlit emptiness of a chill velvety night. At some point we arrived amidst welcoming campfires, where the low murmur of voices mingled with the sound of water splashing in palm-fringed pools.
Was this a dream? Or some stage of transition out of this world and into another? My mind gropes blindly back into the silt of that terrible night and comes up with little that seems real to me now… apart from the intensity of my outrage at being abandoned by Von Croy.
The scars it left on my body are a different matter. I carry them still, a testament of endurance and the suffering of the tombs. Being trapped underground for so long, it was as if I had been reduced to bones and willpower alone. My intense outrage at being abandoned stoked my fury. Which was probably what enabled me to fight my way clear. I did – but only just.
My rescuer and I had stopped. I was helped down from the saddle. My mind was a whirl as I tried to take note of my surroundings. Voices, no more than a murmur, were speaking low, melodious words that had no meaning for me – yet. Welcoming campfires. The smell of food. Figures wrapped in the concealing layers of classic Bedouin attire. And, most welcome of all, the aroma of strong black coffee. I’d have given my remaining layers of skin for a draught of that coffee, but that wasn’t necessary. A hot beaker was place carefully into my cold and shaking hands.
Clearly, the figures were awed by my rescuer, whom they addressed as Sidi. With me they were cautious, but not unkind. In fact, in the following weeks, they cared for me with great tenderness. And it was their ministering and attentions that overcame my initial resistance to being handled by strangers, without which I would certainly not have recovered. I was rambling, possibly, but I was in good hands. There was no threat here. In fact, these would become my people, my family, my cause – and eventually my greatest loss.
Over the next days, the mists clouding my mind dissipated, and I became more coherent. I took in details of the company I found myself in. The tribe were typical of so many desert people; unassuming, industrious, open faced, quick to laughter, generous of heart, and a little threadbare. What intrigued me most of all, however, was the fact that the women greatly outnumbered the men..."
To continue reading, download the full document.
The Myth of El Hawa Gallery
Murti's bullet-point notes
"MIXTURE OF ROUGH NOTES, IDEAS, JOTTINGS & SCRIBBLES
These typed pages are a selection of first thoughts for a story of Lara’s time in the Desert. The Lara of Arabia episode was hinted at in The Angel of Darkness but essentially left hanging. The narrative possibilities that suggested themselves had the seeds of a saga of serious scope and depth. It soon became clear that this was going to nothing less than an epic.
There was far too much material to write out in full but there were just too many fascinating elements to ignore. So they all got scribbled down in some form or other. After all, who could say no to the idea of Lara as an avenging phantom of the desert. What an image - a living manifestation of El Hawa, the desert wind and protector of the tribes!
And then there was the enigma of Putai! After being abandoned in the Pyramids Lara was badly injured and was taken under the wing of a mysterious shamanic figure of indeterminate age and who was clearly a ‘wise woman’. It need never be actually stated outright but Putai could be some kind of semi-immortal who isn’t bound by normal human limitations. That could be an intriguing notion to play around with.
Her purpose in helping Lara would have far reaching implications for the rest of Lara’s adventuring career. Putai would not just help Lara to recover physically but guide her back towards a purposeful and functioning life, in effect preparing her for the darkness that she was about to face in the coming events of The Angel of Darkness. With a character like Putai it is best to use a light touch; hint and suggest at certain depths and mysteries and let the imagination fill in the gaps.
And so the ideas began to accrue. Nothing was rejected. Everything got jotted down on scraps of paper and thrown (carefully filed) onto a growing pile for sorting out later. The end result was a thick wad of pages crammed with apparently disconnected snatches of dialogue, charts, descriptions, sketches and doodles. I usually make dozens of hand drawn A4 sheets to help keep track of everything but this time I decided to start quite early on typing out a bullet points version because I knew it would save me time later if all this material was going to be shared. And the process might be of interest to fans of AOD.
Finally came the task of weaving it all together - and from past experience I know that that is when all kinds of previously unsuspected connections reveal themselves and a story begins to coalesce, hopefully one that holds together.
Some of this material has been incorporate into a script prepared for performance by Jonell Elliott - and what a treat that is going to be.
Even the fuller, much longer version of this mini-epic couldn’t accommodate all the material that was generated. It is important to bear in mind that there are things that Lara would not be willing to reveal about the Bantiwa and their secrets in a monologue. She actually states this, and so this is where much of the additional background material can be laid out, as a kind of ‘extras’ document, a bullet point scrap book.
Ideas presented here will seem at odds with the very first AOD suggested story outline of Lara in the desert and her meeting with Putai. Sometimes it is more interesting to take the broad strokes of an idea and take if for a spin, boost it and see what comes out.
There were surprises all the way. It would have been impossible to anticipate how fully realised the Bantiwa tribe would become. There were also earlier stories that could be linked to the N African coastal area involving missing Legionaries, established myths and legends of the desert and much more besides. The whole El Hawa concept went into overdrive and it soon became clear that Lara’s desert sojourn was morphing into an epic with its own established pre-history, foreshadowing many elements that would later be encountered in AOD…and beyond!
NB* this collection of jottings is not organised in any special order, chronological or otherwise. Some material has been utilised in the accompanying story documents, so a degree of duplication is inevitable. There will even be ideas that contradict or clash with each other. That is part of the process. There has been only a nominal effort to tidy them up or provide explanations of the more outré possibilities. This is very close to how all the initial first thoughts were scribbled down indiscriminately. It is inevitably a RANDOM process, a rough and ready assembly to dip into and explore..."
To continue reading, download the full document.
The Myth of El Hawa – Timelines
Putai's lines to Lara
"PUTAI’S LINES TO LARA UPDATED VERSION #3 2021
[Putai’s desert name for Lara is Ushani, meaning ‘steadfast’, like her tribal family. Putai has said all these things to Lara at some time or other. This is a summary of some of the most memorable. Some were spoken around camp fires or beneath a canopy of stars with the sounds of the night time around them. Others were private moments whilst walking amongst the endless dunes or in the coolness of an oasis. Lara recalls them all.]
PUTAI: It is time to return to your other world Ushani. When you came to us you were broken in heart and mind. Now you are reborn, stronger than ever.
The breath of the desert moves within you El Hawa. It is the song in your veins, inseparable from all you will do and become..
There is a great darkness ahead of you. A new world order is poised to emerge from the shadows. You must make a stand – for life. The future needs you, now more than ever. Trust yourself and trust your unique strengths. What you have learned as Bantiwa can help you in this. For a heart that is steadfast no single battle is the whole war.
Remember this above all: you are not responsible for the world, Ushani, only for your choices and actions. They are what define you. Your life and how you live it is your gift to the generations to come.
BEING GIVEN THE AMULET
Take this amulet and be mindful of how it might be used. Talismans and trinkets, of themselves, are not an answer. They can serve a purpose; they are useful as a reminder but they are not worth a life. No object, however rare, is the equal of a life, and sometimes you will have to choose.
Being now of Bantiwa soul, Ushani, you are entrusted with knowing the Sh’mulahl’s true nature. Such knowledge is yours to draw comfort from but must never be shared outside of the tribe. This you know. You are true and steadfast, this you have proved.
The amulet will help you remember all that you need in the times ahead. It contains an angel’s breath of the Sixth Oil, to be used only when your need is most dire. You will know when that is. Trust yourself always. You are Steadfast and all Bedouin honour you as kin. Go well.
Farewell Ushani. I will be here for you, where I have always been. In your heart.
EXTRA LINES # various:
Be true to yourself.
The Bantiwa see life as a tapestry, endlessly evolving, and into which we can weave the threads of our own small existence.
This is how a people’s history is made.
What is in your heart is the key to what you seek in any situation.
Trust more in what people do, rather than in what people say they do.
The truth is within yourself, always.
Whatever is useful from the past will come to you as you need it.
Many of life’s lessons are hard won. Do not squander them.
For now learn what you must with each new situation."