All around the world there are tales of the cosmos and its creation. Author Laura Somos’ new anthology of short stories, The Necklace of the Sun, like these other folktales, offers various heart-warming explanations for the phenomena of the world around us.
Somewhere, there is a huge river called the Milky Way. Children who want to be born on Earth swim through it; they can all swim very well before they are born.
The water casts a golden shimmer on their skin, mirroring the starlight, and their eyes become all-knowing. Those who look in their eyes may glimpse galaxies and the birth of a universe.
One day, the way to the river was blocked by an infinite black sheet. The entire river was covered by it, and the children who were to be born on Earth were not able to swim through it; their eyes could not become all-knowing, their skin could not mirror the starlight. The children arrived on Earth feeling a stinging cold, not knowing where they were.
In that time there lived a girl who had magical powers. She felt compassion for the many babies who arrived crying and so resolved to help them. She searched for the river on Earth that mirrored the river in the sky. When she found it, she lay on her tummy at its bank and softly, with an almost inaudible voice, she began to speak to the water. She told the water of the trouble in the world and asked for its help, and at length they developed a plan. The girl picked a flower of golden colour and touched it to the surface of the river, and in that exact place a long golden line appeared in the water, as if it had been touched with a paintbrush. Still, the line was nothing to the expanse of water before her. Keen to help the babies, she swallowed the golden flower and placed her hands into the river, and from her fingertips ten tiny golden streams spread outwards. The girl stepped into the water, and ten more golden streams began to pour from her toes.
She shouted aloud and a large flock of greylag geese rose up from the river bank. A group of them flew away. Every goose left behind swallowed a golden flower and began flying back and forth over the water, in places diving at it. Wherever their feet touched the surface, large golden patches spread out. Soon, the group of geese that flew off returned. They had called men, women and children to the river. Every one of them swallowed a golden flower and then stepped into the water. Together they turned the whole river golden. When the last drop of water had turned golden, sparks began to swim on its surface, arriving from a very distant place. The women reached out for the golden sparks with a smile on their faces. They took them home, and soon after they each had a baby: a baby with all-knowing eyes and starlight on their skin. Anyone who gazed into those all-knowing eyes would see galaxies and a newborn universe in them.
And so, the sky river was moved to the Earth, and a new path was been found for babies to be born.
The Cradler Woman
In a faraway village, there lived an old woman. Her role was to cradle whoever came to her hut: adults, children, both young and old. After being cradled, they would have a long and restful sleep in her hut. They returned home happy and relieved. Their relief was profound, and they would bring her gifts for her cradling.
While performing her art, the old woman sometimes hummed a little tune with words that came to her as she hummed.
‘Man and Woman,
Light and Dark,
Fire and Water,
Soft and Hard,
Wet and Dry,
Bad and Good,
Left and Right,
New and Old,
Living and Dead,
Beutiful and Ugly,
Day and Night,
Cold and Warm,
Beginning and End.’
One day, the cradler woman disappeared from the village without a trace. The people had nobody to cradle them. They became very sad, then angry, and finally very sad again. They felt neither cold nor warm, neither living nor dead.
After some time, they could bear it no longer. A young woman with a baby made a decision. She decided she would try to cradle her family. She tried to remember how the cradler woman had been so adept at performing her art. She would make a fire, and she would burn herbs which would produce a beautiful and soothing scent. She would also sing, something like this:
‘Up and Down,
Out and In,
Quickly and Slowly,
Low and Loudly,
Strongly and Gently.’
She first cradled her baby, then she cradled her older children. After she had cradled all of them, she cradled her husband, then her mother and father, her sisters and brothers and their children, her husband’s parents, and his sisters and brothers with their children too. When the neighbours saw this, they decided they would try to cradle their own families. Soon they discovered they could all cradle each other, and their lives became happy again. Now at night they slept so well that the moonlight glinted on their saliva flowing sweetly from their mouths.
After some time, they turned their beds into hammocks, then they started to turn their huts into hammock-huts. Soon they turned their village into a hammock-village, and finally, their whole world became a hammock-world, where they all cradle together gently between sky and earth.
There is a place in the world where a sand tracker lives. The sand tracker understands the sand like no one else; he can see traces left in it even after they have disappeared. He can feel the impressions of everything that has touched it; there is no secret that the sand can keep from him. He is, however, not the only one in the world who is magical – there is also a water singer. With her voice, the water singer has the power to direct the water. Whatever it is that she may wish to know, the waves will tell her. The sand tracker and the water singer live so far apart that they have never met. In fact, they are not even aware of each other. There is also a third, a tree listener who is able to understand the very sap of the trees. He remains under the trees for long days and nights, listening intently to them, almost becoming a tree himself. He is the one tasked with passing his knowledge on to the wise ones; he tells them all that the trees wish to tell the people. The fourth, a stone reader who simply by looking at a stone, is able to see all that has passed from the beginning of time, and is able to feel everything the stone has felt during its long travel from the centre of the Earth to the surface. Finally, there is the wind toucher. She is able to stop the winds, wherever they come from. She is able to extract the humidity they bring. To the wind toucher, the winds bring scents and voices from every part of the world.
One night they all experience the same dream, a dream that was sent by the Dreamer. In this dream they see a tree that touches the sky. The roots are rotting, and the tree falls down. The stars vanish, the Moon falls down from the sky, and the Sun pops like a bubble. The Earth is left in complete darkness. The fallen tree whispers to them, telling them to find one another.
They each begin their journeys, following signs that direct them onwards. The Dreamer can observe their progress throughout their travels and calls to them always.
At last, they find one another and form a circle, each one holding the hand of the next, and fall asleep. In their dream, they are led by the Dreamer. Together they go to the tree that touches the sky, and together they care for it. They pull out the weeds; the water singer and the wind toucher bring water for the tree; they caress the roots and hug the tree together, allowing its sap to run through their veins, directly to their hearts. Leaves suddenly begin to grow from their heads in place of hair; beautiful leaves of gold, red, orange, and a thousand shades of green. Some of the leaves even grow in indigo, purple, silver, and ivory; small, large, round, and long leaves.
Finally, they release the tree. It has become strong and solid. They look at one another one more time before turning and slowly returning to their homes. To this day, they meet in their dreams each night and, led by the Dreamer, they visit the tree to hug and to nurture it. Every night they will continue to share the same dream until the end of time.