This is the story of Santiago the warrior and Santiago the little chick, a seven-year-old boy on the road to Santiago de Compostela, on a journey of almost 1,200 km. Accompanied by his mum, Céline, he has decided to walk the route to complete his rite of passage to become a little man. His mother Céline, a photographer and writer, is behind the book, which takes us on a beautiful journey along this spiritual path.

You don't get called Santiago by chance, and you don't make the Camino de Compostela at the age of 7 by chance. His mother is a regular on the Camino. From her Peruvian roots, she knows the intimate bond that unites every being with Mother Earth, the Pachamama, and the importance of rites of passage. In Peru, at the age of 7, Indian children undergo a ritual to become little men. For Santiago, Compostela is the obvious choice. A journey that starts in Nogaro in the Gers and ends in Fisterra, the most westerly point on the Spanish mainland, the end of the overland route and the beginning of an inner renewal for many pilgrims. It is said that the journey begins the moment you decide to take it. "The Way is life and as Santiago says: "I'm only at the beginning of my life.

Santiago in the land of Compostela

This book recounts this unusual experience, which is not just about the kilometres swallowed. The sometimes childlike tone that emerges from the text, through the use of a minimalist lexicon, gives the illusion of a children's repertoire, but the words, while all familiar, take on multiple, sometimes esoteric meanings for the mother and the reader. This gives the narrative different levels of interpretation. Children will remain within the ordinary meaning, while adults will perceive a mystical and initiatory dimension through the restrained lyricism.

Each chapter deals with its own theme. It is almost like an independent fable with symbolic, allegorical or metaphorical value. As the journey is taken by the child, we are placed at his level and at his pace. The book itself has its own rhythm: pages of photographs punctuate the reading, texts where the dialogue leads on to a message... the pages turn and turn away to return to a moment of innocence, joy, play, discouragement or overcoming.

"Can't we take a break, Mum? I'm tired, I can't take it any more.
- No, my darling, we have to move on.
- But it's too hot!
- I know, that's why you have to keep moving forward. Today you have to surpass yourself and find the strength of the little warrior deep inside you.
- But I can't take it any more!
- Well, on the Way you'll learn that even when you can't do it any more, you still can!

Santiago in the land of Compostela

And, just as for children, it's a book with images that tell the story of life in the present, and reflections on the past. "A mother who has to learn to let her child grow up".. At times, you get the impression that she is talking to herself through this journey: "In the end, walking the road with your child is like walking the road in everyday life. We want to mould them in our own image, to make them take the road we ourselves have travelled. But he has his own history and his own path. I have to stand back and let him find his own path.

Who actually accompanies the other, the mother or the child? "A pair who have to find their own rhythm so as not to destroy each other?s steps.
There is purity and emotion in this book, which asks us to open our hearts and look at the world through children?s eyes.

"Mum, what's the best present in the world?
[The friendship of oneself".
reveals Santiago

The book ends with a wonderful surprise that awaits the child at the end of the journey. Once Santiago?s belongings have been burnt - a final nod to the ancient tradition whereby pilgrims who reached Fisterra burnt their clothes and sandals as a sign of death and rebirth - and he has had a well-deserved swim in the sea, the author offers us one last image: sitting on a rock, Santiago contemplates the sea. A Little Big Man is born.
1,118 kilometres, 1,500,000 steps, 42 days of walking.

Text: Capucine Ferry and Brigitte Postel
Photos: Céline Anaya Gautier

Santiago in the land of Compostela. A little man?s journey of initiation.
Céline Anaya Gautier. Editions de La Martinière. 192 pages. 25 ?.
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