Bonus Story: Perspectives – Three Tales

on March 30, 2008 in Other Tales

I felt like doing something a little bit different this week. There’s been quite a bit of human (myth/the)ology slipped into the story so far, but not a lot of the other races’ perspectives. Here’s a selection of folk tales collected from the other races of the MUniverse.

The First Men
A Tale From The Dawning Tides

In the dawning tides, there were few folk in the ocean and so the folk of the First School always had enough to eat, whether it was shellfish, jelly, or fish.

The folk’s fortune increased and the deeds of their heroes impressed both Father Ocean and Mother Above, and their numbers grew until it seemed that the Father’s bounty was not enough to sustain them. Many delicious kinds of fish which only existed in the dawning tides were harvested to the point of extinction, and it seemed as though the folk would have to consume the entire ocean to feed their children.

Then came the tide when the Father and Mother’s favorite son, the Windy Air, dipped beneath the waves in curiosity and became tangled in a net. Mother could not see him, for he was hidden beneath the water, and Father could not find him, for his body was too vast.

Then as now, it fell to the female folk to hunt and gather food for their families, and so it was Lanai, the youngest daughter of the king, who found Windy Air as she checked her family’s nets. She exclaimed forcefully, and her sisters swam to her to see what had prompted such an outburst.

“It is a strange fish you’ve caught,” said Lehua.

“It will taste as good as any other,” said Nihoa, and their other sisters agreed.

“Wicked sisters!” Lanai exclaimed. “Can you not see that this is a son of Father Ocean, as our own grandparents were?”

She set him free, against the protest of her sisters, who reminded her that the folk were starving and suggested that she should take his place in the net.

“Fear not,” the Windy Air said. “I would not have you suffer for your good deed, and will speak to my mother on your behalf.”

The sisters did not believe that Windy Air would do any such thing, and they teased their sister mercilessly and pelted her with urchins and reef stones.

Tides turned, and when the sky next brightened, there came word from the east that a strange thing had been sighted: a pod of huge creatures swimming westward. They were said to be huge as whales, but hard-shelled. Though they were reported to be as dumb as common fish, they had somehow managed to harness billowing clouds with their dorsal spines, and these propelled them along in advance of a raging storm that was also heading across the school’s territory.

The strange creatures could not outpace the storm forever, and when it caught up to them—right as they passed over the huddled and curious school—such was the storm’s fury that one of the hard shells was broken apart, spreading splinters across the roiling surface of the ocean and sending heavier chunks down to the depths.

And scattered among the debris was something none of the folk had ever seen before: something soft, pink, and meaty… thrashing deliciously in the waves… and just as delightful to eat as they were enticing to watch.

The storm spent its destructive powers quickly and then departed as storms did, leaving the sisters to realize that Windy Air had kept his word. The pink things, which they came to call “men”, were a gift from Mother Above, carried to them by the Windy Air himself. Repenting their error, they apologized to Lanai and rallied the folk to pursue the rest of the pod.

There was more food to be had that tide, and it was many turnings before any of them knew hunger again. Mother Above sent more men-shells, sometimes singly or in mated pairs and sometimes in vast pods. The folk of the first school learned to take care in how they harvested this precious resource, and with the permission of the king, some families swam away to form their own schools, and soon there were folk in every corner of the watery world.

As skillfully as the folk hunted, there came a tide when one of the man-shells slipped from one school’s waters to the next until it ran up against the land. Not knowing what else to do, the men inside it kept going, and formed their own sort of school on the shores. Without any folk to feed, they grew and multiplied and soon filled the land as the folk filled the seas.

They never forgot what Mother Above had made them for, though, and so from time to time they would still grow the vast shells and head across a school’s waters so that Mother Above did not have to make any more men herself. Even though the folk were by now in no danger of starving, they still accepted this gift gratefully in the spirit it was given, and in honor of Mother Above who had made the first men for them to eat.

As for Lanai? The Windy Air never forgot who had released him, and he took her as his bride. Their descendants can be recognized by their feathery wings and voices which sing as beautifully in the air as they do beneath the water.

Death’s Woolen Stockings
A Tale of Bill Springstep

In the beginning, of course, there were gnomes and there were men, fashioned from clay and from brick, respectively, by the wise Owain the Elder and his grasping, greedy brother Owain the Younger.

Men were pretty much of a kind with gnomes, for Owain the Younger had tried to copy what his brother had done except for making them bigger and using brick instead of clay. The chief differences were that men were somewhat rougher-looking, and they were forever roaming and wandering, unable to rest, for Owain the Younger had made them too big to fit comfortably anywhere, even inside their own skins.

The other difference was in the feet. While Owain the Elder had understood the importance of making sturdy little feet that could carry his humble gnomes anywhere they bothered to go, Owain the Younger had despised such lowly organs as being beneath notice. As a result, his men could not take two steps without injuring themselves and had to invent boots and stockings to protect themselves from harm.

When the younger brother saw how much better his brother’s creations fared, with their sturdy feet and their ability to be comfortable no matter where they found themselves, he was incensed, and he made Death to vex them. In this, at least, he had some success, for the gnomes did find Death quite vexing… and worse, this put men at an advantage, for Owain the Younger’s Death came only for gnomes. The gnomes dwindled in numbers as the men flourished, and soon the gnomes were pushed into the smallest corners of the world.

But Owain the Elder saw that gnomes were dying and men were living on, so he fashioned a Death for men, as well, and for a time things were equal once more between the two races, though gnomes would never again number as many as men.

That was how things stood when old Bill Springstep, the hero of so many stories, at last grew old and lay in his bed, awaiting the last visitor he would ever receive. Death came for him at last, on a rainy Tuesday.

“It’s time, old Bill,” Death said. “Put on your hat and traveling cloak, for you must come away.”

“Why, but you’re soaked to the bone,” Bill said. “Why not sit by the fire and dry off? We can go when the rain stops.”

“You have outwitted many enemies in your days, Bill Springstep,” Death said, “but you shall not outwit me. Come along now, and no excuses.”

“Enemy?” Bill said. “You are a guest in my burrow, and I must insist. Hang up your cloak and let it dry a little, at least.”

“I cannot,” Death replied.

“Let me serve you a spot of warming tea,” Bill suggested.

“I cannot,” Death replied.

“Then at least take off your boots and stockings and put them by the fire to dry,” Bill said.

This was a greater temptation than Death could withstand. You see, Owain the Younger had not learned his lesson, and had created his Death with weak feet. He could not take two steps without boots and stockings, and these things were terribly uncomfortable when they got wet.

“Very well,” Death said. “But you must give your word that you will not hide my boots and stockings, or try to escape from me.”

“On my honor,” Bill said. “Besides, it’s raining, and there’s nowhere left that I’d want to go.”

“Swear to me that you will not leave this burrow unless it’s in my company,” Death said.

“I swear I will not leave this burrow, except in the company of Death,” Bill said. “Does that satisfy you?”

It did, and so Death took a chair by the fire and Bill helped him pull off his boots and stockings. He put the boots by the hearth and carefully hung up the woolen stockings to dry in the heat of the fire. Death allowed Bill to serve him tea, and they chatted amiably for a time. Bill being as old as he was, they had many acquaintances in common to talk about.

The rain lasted all through the evening and on into the night, and Death dozed off. Bill, true to his word, did not flee or play tricks with Death’s things. In the morning Death awoke, refreshed, and announced that it was time for their journey.

“I look forward to it,” Bill said.

But when Death tried to pull on his stockings, he received a rude surprise.

“You’ve changed my stockings with some of your own!” Death said. “These are far too small for me!”

“On my honor, I haven’t,” Bill said. “I don’t have any stockings, nor do any other gnomes.”

“Then what trickery is this?” Death asked. “They have shrunk to half their size. Have you ever heard of such a thing?”

“I tell you honestly, I have never heard of shrinking stockings,” Bill said. He knew all about woolen sweaters shrinking, of course, but he could honestly say he had no similar experiences with stockings. “But, I suppose you must proceed with your business, stockings or no.”

“Yet, I cannot take two steps without my stockings,” Death said.

“I suppose that you are stuck here, then,” Bill said.

“You must go and fetch new stockings for me,” Death said.

“You will come along with me, of course,” Bill said. “For I have sworn not to leave this burrow except in the company of Death. I have gone my whole life without breaking a vow and I will not now.”

“I release you from that vow!” Death said.

“You cannot,” Bill said. “The word of a Springstep cannot even be broken by Death.”

“Then we must wait for one of your relations to visit and send them for fresh stockings.”

Bill shook his head and said, “I have said my last goodbyes to kith and kin. You are the last visitor I expect to see.”

They went on like this for some time, with Death proposing remedies and Bill sweeping them off the table. Finally, Death admitted that he could see no course of action before them, but one.

“You must put on my cloak and become Death,” he said. “Then you can leave the burrow in your own company, and fetch me stockings.”

“Oh, now,” said Bill. “How do I know you’ll take your cloak back when I return? I’ve had a lifetime of hard work already. I don’t fancy being stuck doing your job.”

“I promise to take my cloak back,” Death said, and Bill was satisfied, for Death makes no promises it does not keep.

“Very well,” Bill said. “But what of my salary for this job?”

“I don’t have time to quibble over salary,” Death said. “Do you think you’re the only gnome I’m slated to see today?”

“So let us waste no more time quibbling,” Bill said. “Surely you can’t expect me to do you a service on the last day of my life, without something in return.”

“What if I offered a reprieve?” Death asked. “Another lifetime for you to live.”

Bill shook his head.

“It won’t do,” he said. “I’ve done more than any twenty gnomes in the life I’ve already had, and there’s nothing left for me to do.”

“There’s nothing else that I can offer you,” Death said. “I have no gold or jewels, and you will shortly have no need of such things.”

“I hate to leave you in a fix like this, so suppose you offer me a lifetime, then,” Bill said. “A good, longish sort of one. Only, instead of giving it to me, suppose you give a little bit of it to all the other gnomes.”

So Death agreed, and Bill took his cloak and became Death for the day. There are other stories of what he did during that time, but in the course of things he came to a human village and purchased a pair of thick woolen stockings which he judged would suit, and then returned to the shire and his own comfortable burrow, where Death had dozed off again.

Death kept his promises. He took back the cloak, and he took a good, long lifetime and divided it among the rest of the gnomes. Thus it was that the race of gnomes were able to enjoy a slightly longer life than their larger, cruder imitators, the men.

Of course, one lifetime only goes so far, but the Death of Owain the Younger found that he quite enjoyed being able to take his boots off and put his feet up by the fire from time to time. So, when the store of years is running low, he hunts up old Bill Springstep, and offers him another lifetime if he’ll take up the mantle again for a while.

Though Death has learned to be careful about hanging his stockings too near to the fire.

The August Radiant Disk And Her Most Favored Son
A Tale of Yokan’s Founding

In the beginning of all things, three illustrious divinities were created in the Floating Plain of the Heavens, and they became known as the Divinities of Heaven. Beneath them were created seven times seven lesser divinities, the Divinities of the Sky, and to them were born all the eight million Divinities of Earth, whose names are all listed in the Divine Genealogies.

Most august of the Divinities of the Sky was the Divine Illuminator of Heaven and Earth, the Radiant Disk of the Sun. Where her radiance shone upon the earthly sphere, all things blossomed and were given to life. In those days, her augustness hung lower in the sky over the whole world at once, for everything was new and she longed to see all of it up close. The intensity of her light was such that all creatures grew in wisdom and beauty and there was no animal that walked the earth except that walked on two legs and spoke with intelligence and elocution, and all gave most just admiration to the Radiant Disk.

Seeing how she was venerated, her brother, the Illustrious Raging Storm, called up great black clouds to cover the whole of the sky so that they would block her view. The world was cut off from her radiant light, and the animals forgot how to walk on two legs and how to speak, and the plants withered into dust and the rivers froze and all was dark.

The Divinities of Earth saw what was happening but were not powerful enough to challenge Raging Storm, and so the world suffered in darkness for many years, and the Radiant Disk wept. From her tears was born the deity Divine Swift Justice, who took up a sword forged by his uncle the moon and drove Raging Storm off. He was not able to force his divine uncle from the sky, but he battled so fiercely that the Divinities of the Sky feared their home would be ripped asunder.

They appealed to the Divinities of Heaven, who ordered a cessation to the fighting while they heard all sides of the account. For the sake of the world, they ordered that the Radiant Disk must no longer hang low in the sky over the whole of the world, but instead restrict herself to viewing a portion of it at a time, and from a distance more suitably removed, as befitted a divinity of her dignity.

So likewise could Raging Storm no longer block the whole of the sky at once, but only small portions at a time, always moving.

In time, Divine Swift Justice went down to the earth and settled upon an island there, called Yokan. His august mother still favored him greatly, and so each day she made sure to shine down first and brightest upon this land, blessing it with the greater portion of her radiance. The creatures which dwelled upon this island once more grew beautiful and wise while the beasts of the rest of the world remained downtrodden and dumb, and Divine Swift Justice ruled over the wise creatures as their first emperor.

In time, seeing that the rest of the world was empty of intelligence, lesser deities whose names are not listed among the Divine Genealogies undertook to create other races of beings with which to populate it, though no people would ever approach the most blessed Yokai in beauty, grace, learning, or skill.

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6 Responses to “Bonus Story: Perspectives – Three Tales”

  1. pedestrian says:

    These stories are very clever retellings of humanities jungian myths.

    I must complement you AlexandraErin, on the quality of your literary style.

    Current score: 6
  2. Anthony says:

    So, in the MUniverse, Yokan is still the Land of the Rising Sun? 😉

    Current score: 6
  3. Hoopla says:

    My favorite is the Gnome one. It’s interesting that conceitedness is even built in to the youkais’ mythology. It makes me feel like there is no hope for Sooni. 🙁

    Current score: 7
  4. Daniel says:

    Above, pedestrian says these are retellings of our universe’s stories; could somebody provide a link to those?

    Current score: 0
    • tordirycgoyust says:

      The only one I recognise well enough to help is the Yokano one. It is a retelling of the Shintou myth with Amaterasu, Tsukiyomi, and Susano’o as the Sun, Moon, and Storm.

      Current score: 6
    • Jechtael says:

      tordirycgoyus is correct about the Yokano myth being bazed on one of the clashes between Amaterasu and Susano-O. The Bill Springstep is pretty much a direct adaptation of various British (and by extension, American) myths about Death being outwitted by an honest man, though since shirefolk aren’t around in our workd/our time, the prize varies. I like imagining the Death created by Owain the Younger as some sort of shepherd-looking guy, like a clean-ish shaven version of the Gordon’s Fish sailor only dressed in an outfit that wouldn’t be amiss on a dock worker or a lumberyard worker with a black raincloak on over it. He probably looks like the generic representation of the Ankou, though.

      I don’t know about the origin of the man-shells, though. The speech patterns seem like a translated Native American (plains indian or Eastern seaboard) story, which would put it in line with the coming of the Buffalo, but if it’s based on a story of the Lakota (my ancestors), or of any other nation, it’s certainly based on a version I’ve never personally heard.

      Current score: 5