Omir the Storyteller

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Friday, August 05, 2005

I'm back. Did you miss me?


It may seem as though I've been neglecting this blog lately, but in reality I . . . uh . . . um . . . oh look, shiny things!

I added a couple of my stories to the mix and backdated them to their publication on Daily Kos/Booman Tribune/My Left Wing. I hope nobody minds. Grandmother Cedar is a retelling of a First Nations story that I heard from Johnny Moses, a storyteller born on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It's a lovely story and I hope he doesn't mind if I told it from memory and posted it here. The second, The Frogs And Their King, is from Aesop, and the third, Sometimes What Seems To Be A Curse Can Be A Blessing, is an old folk tale from China, transplanted to the American south during the Civil War.

And now, back to work.

What Seems To Be A Curse Can Be A Blessing


In 1859 in Alabama, there was a farmer who worked a small plot of land with his son. They raised just enough to get buy, and to sometimes sell a little for some extra money.

One day the farmer's son came home leading a colt. Don't ask me how he got the colt. You can't always know everything about a story. The farmer asked around to make sure the colt didn't already belong to somebody else, then eventually told his son he could keep the colt. His son was about 15, old enough to not need the lecture about how he had to take care of the colt and exercise and brush him and the whole bit, but he got it anyway.

His neighbors marveled at the son's good fortune. "Your son was mighty lucky to find such a horse!" the people said.

"Maybe," the farmer replied. "But what seems to be a blessing, can also be a curse."

The man's neighbors rolled their eyes. He was always saying stuff like that! He was like a fortune cookie with a plow.

Well, as the colt grew it needed to eat more and more, as horses do, and the buying of food and gear for the horse took up what little spare money the man and his son had.

"That horse is gonna eat you out of house and home," the neighbors said.

"Maybe," the farmer said. "But what seems to be a curse, can also be a blessing."

The neighbors rolled their eyes again.

The colt grew into a fine horse, and eventually the son took him to the fair in Decatur where the horse won a prize. He made some money racing, and started collecting some stud fees.

"You've got a lucky son there," the neighbors said. "He's raised himself a fine horse."

"Maybe," the farmer said. "But what seems to be a blessing, can also be a curse."

He'd long since gotten used to the rolling eyes.

One day the son was riding back from one of the neighbor's farms when -- again, don't ask me how, because you can't know everything about a story -- the horse fell on top of the son's leg, breaking it in several places. The doctor set it as best he could, but told the farmer the leg would take a long time to heal, and it was likely the son would have a limp the rest of his life.

"That's terrible news," people told the farmer. "Too bad about your son."

Of course they knew he was going to say, "Maybe, but what seems to be a curse, can also be a blessing."

By then war had broken out between the Union and the Confederacy, and it didn't pass by the farmer's little town. One day in February of 1862 a recruiter for the Confederate army came through looking for men to fight for the South. Every single young man from the town signed up, except for the farmer's son, who still couldn't walk.

Every single young man who signed up from that town died at the battle of Shiloh. The only one left was the farmer's son. People knew then what the farmer meant. Sometimes, what seems to be a blessing can be a curse, and what seems to be a curse, can be a blessing.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Frogs And Their King


The frogs have lived in their ponds almost from the Beginning, and as long as frogs have lived in ponds, they have sung a song:

Knee-deep! Knee-deep! Better-go-round! Knee-deep! Knee-deep! Better-go-round!

Well, one day as the frogs splashed happily in a pond made just for them, stocked with their favorite foods, they decided they wanted a king. Now don't ask me why they decided they wanted a king. You can't know everything about a story, even one as simple as this. But for whatever reason, they decided they wanted a king to rule over them, so they changed their song and made it a prayer to Father Io:

Knee-deep! Knee-deep! Give-us-a-king! Knee-deep! Knee-deep! Give-us-a-king!

Now Father Io was in his palace atop Mount Olympus, and he heard the frogs singing Knee-deep! Knee-deep! Give-us-a-king! Knee-deep! Knee-deep! Give-us-a-king! . . . and he thought that was funny. Fall down hilarious! He laughed, and laughed, and finally when he got done laughing, he went over to the corner where he kept the brace of thunderbolts Vulcan had made for him. "I'll give them the kind of king they should have," he laughed in his best Geoffrey Holder voice.

He went out on the porch, took careful aim at the pond far below, cocked his mighty right thunderbolt-throwing arm, and . . . BLAM! Scored a hole-in-one at the base of a tree that overlooked the pond. There was a mighty CRACK! as the tree split from the ground, followed by a mighty CREAK! as the tree's roots tore out of the ground, and finally a mighty SPLASH! as the tree fell into the pond.

All was silent for a moment. If you've ever thrown a rock into the frogs' pond, you know how their singing stops while they all head for cover. But soon it starts again, as it did after the noise of the falling tree had faded away.

Knee-deep! Knee-deep! What-is-that-thing? Knee-deep! Knee-deep! Is-it-a-king? they asked. Knee-deep! Knee-deep! What-is-that-thing! Knee-deep! Knee-deep! Are-you-a-king! they asked the tree, but the tree, which of course had just been through a most traumatic experience and was only now starting on its way to being a log, didn't answer.

Knee-deep! Knee-deep! What-is-that-thing! Knee-deep! Knee-deep! Are-you-a-king! they asked again, but still, the log didn't answer them back.

Then one frog, braver than the rest, decided to go swim out to see what this new king was about. He poked his head up out of the water, touched the log quickly, and dove back in even more quickly. Nothing happened.

So he poked his head out of the water again, and this time he poked the log, but he didn't dive back into the water. Still, nothing happened.

Now a couple of the other frogs joined him. They poked the log, and got the same non-response. Then more frogs came out, and a couple of adventurous frogs actually got up and walked on the log! Soon there were frogs all up and down the log, jumping into the pond and then jumping back onto the log again. I'm sure you've figured out by now that frogs are not the brightest creatures Mother Nature put on the earth, right up there with clams, particularly intelligent beds of petunias, and posters at Free Republic. But even the dimmest of these frogs was beginning to realize that, whatever this thing was, it was not going to rule over them. So, they started up their chant to Father Io again.

Knee-deep! Knee-deep! Give-us-a-king! Knee-deep! Knee-deep! Give-us-a-king!

Now Father Io was getting annoyed and tired of the frogs' croaking, so he sent a stork to the pond. The frogs hailed the stork as their king, but changed their tune rather quickly as the stork began to eat the frogs, one by one.

Better no rule than cruel rule.