A Mountain Tale
Once upon a time, a traveller lay down to rest beside a mountain.
The traveller came from a town where people lived in houses, bought their food in shops, and wore clever shoes on their feet, and so he did not know about the ways of the wild. He did not know about the fairies and trolls, and the listening, watching trees. He did not know that mountains had stories to tell and toes to tickle.
Ignorant indeed, the traveller lay down to rest on the mountain’s big toe. After travelling all day long, he was very tired, and fell quickly asleep.
The mountain began to laugh, and his deep, rolling laughter shook the earth for many miles on end. Oh, it felt so good to laugh! The mountain could not remember the last time he felt his toes – why, had almost forgotten he had toes!
The sleepy traveller woke up. The earth was moving! He jumped to his feet and quickly took hold of a tree to keep himself from falling.
Seeing the frightened traveller down below, holding desperately onto a tree, the mountain stopped laughing and took pity on the little fellow.
“Hello there!” boomed the mountain. “Sorry to frighten you like that! It’s just that you tickled my big toe.”
Instead of soothing the traveller’s fears, the mountain’s booming voice only managed to spook the traveller more than ever. The earth was moving, trees were crashing down and a strange voice called down from the heavens. The traveller did not know that mountains could speak, laugh, or do anything at all, and so he was convinced that the world was coming to an end – or maybe it was all a bad dream?
“Help!” he called. “Help!”
The mountain laughed. Poor little fellow! Look at him down there, all worked up for nothing! He tried again to get the traveller’s attention.
“Hey there! Calm down! There’s no need to panic, I’m not going to hurt you.”
“What?” said the traveller. “Who’s speaking?”
“The mountain is speaking, and you are standing on my big toe!”
“But mountains can’t speak!”
The mountain let out a deep sigh, and the sigh swept through the woods down below like a tidal wave. The traveller hugged his tree with all his might and which bent over so far it looked like it might topple over completely.
“Now, you listen here,” said the mountain, losing his patience. “I am Stargazer the Mountain, Storyteller, Astrologer, and Mountain Elder of the Ancient Grandfather Council. The place where you now stand has been my home for thousands and thousands of years. We mountainfolk are an ancient people who have watched and guarded the earth throughout all of history. We stand and we watch. We see far out over the lands and high up into the skies. We have all the time in the world to watch and learn. We are the Wisdom Keepers and Storytellers of Old!”
“Please, forgive me, Mountain Elder Sir!” stammered the traveller. “I didn’t mean to be rude. It’s just – I never knew that mountains were alive…”
“Well, you know now,” said Stargazer the Mountain. “And please make sure to spread the word! It disturbs me greatly to hear of your people’s ignorance.”
“Oh, of course, I will!” said the traveller, privately thinking that everyone would think him mad. “I had better be going now, and I’ll make sure to tell everyone about your Grandfather Council and all of that…”
“Did you know that many mountains were once men like yourself?” said the mountain, warming up to a story. “I was a man once, a long time ago…”
“Wait – what? You were a man?”
“Yes indeed! Would you like to hear about it? This is a good story, you know, and it is all about the history of man and woman…”
The traveller changed his mind, realising that he might never get the chance again to hear a mountain tell a story, and so, finding a nice soft patch of green moss, he sat himself down and began to listen to Stargazer the Mountain’s story.
There was a time, long ago, a time so lost, so forgotten, only the stars and mountains still remember. It was a time when man and woman saw themselves not as separate from nature, but as a part of it.
Man and woman lived together with the trees, the mountains, the stars, the earth and all her creatures big and small. The creepy crawlies, the birds in the sky, the great trees, the tiny green buds, the flowing river, the smooth grey stones and the brown bear – all were family.
When Sister Rainfall fed the earth with her tears, she gave life not only to man and woman, but also to the frogs, the starflowers and the fairy folk in the woods. All of Mother Earth’s creatures drank the same water and breathed the same air.
Man and woman saw all things as blessed, and they gave thanks for the gifts given. They need not always thank the Creator by word or ceremony. Their gratitude was present in the way they lived and appreciated all things. Thanks was given in the way they drank the water, felt the wind, and kissed the earth with their feet.
Together they lived close to the earth and they gathered in circles. Man, woman, young and old – everyone had a place in the circle. The people believed in the healing power of the circle. The circle had a way of easing all conflicts and bad feelings. Everyone was welcome into the circle and no one was left out – no one, that is, but for one woman who lived alone in the woods.
Ama was her name, and she had fled from her people with a broken heart. It was her first love, and he had chosen another woman.
Ashamed, she had fled deep, deep into the woods where it was very cold and dark. There she lived alone for many years. There she buried herself in pain and suffering. There was nothing but darkness and solitude. Instead of soothing her wounds with the love and warmth of her people, she only had herself to talk to and depend upon.
Born in love, and raised in love – Ama was like all her people. Without love, she was like a flower torn from its roots and thrown into the darkness. Without love, she grew bitter and hateful. She grew to hate the very things she most longed for. She hated the light. She hated her people – and mostly, she hated herself.
Alone in the darkest part of the woods, nothing could satisfy her hungry heart. She had all the time in the world to think, and her thoughts drove her mad. She thought about the people she came from. She thought about the man she once loved and now hated. She thought about her life and her own unfortunate destiny. Why was she destined to such suffering?
In secret, she watched the people as they went about their daily lives. They were happy and did not know anything about her miserable life in the woods. Ama hated them, and she wished that all of them could know her suffering.
One night, overflowing with hate and fury, Ama cried and howled at the moon.
“Pain and suffering I send down on them! May all my people know the sorrow of a broken heart and a life spent in solitude! May all lovers be split apart and all babes torn from their mother’s breasts! Let them cry! Let all circles be torn apart and let all days of peace become a memory so lost and forgotten only the stars and mountains will still remember.”
The cries of one woman echoed throughout all the heavens, oceans and lands.
In truth, all she really wanted was love. All she really longed for was her family, her tribe. If you looked deep into her heart, buried under all her pain and all her fear, you would find a little girl full of love. A little girl who had lived too long in the dark, all on her own.
The curse of Ama tore all circles and families apart with a power the people could not control or understand. What was happening? The women and children looked on in fear as their men left without any word or explanation. A strange spell had hypnotised the men, turning them cold and unfeeling. They left their homes, their women and children. They left without looking back and nothing could stop them. The women tried to stop them, they cried and they screamed, but it was no use. It was like talking to the dead.
The men left their homes and set off in different directions. Some went high up into the mountains, and others went deep into the woods. Some travelled for weeks and some travelled for many years. Finally, they buried their feet in the earth and watched on in wonder, and fear, as their feet grew roots deep, deep, down under, into the very heart of Mother Earth.
They could not move. Their roots chained them to the earth. With time, weather and wind, the men grew old and hard, finally turning into mountains. Some wasted away into rocks and dust, while others grew higher and higher into great grandfather mountains.
The women never knew what happened to the men. They never returned. In time, the peace they once knew became a memory so lost and forgotten only the stars and mountains still remember.
Stargazer the Mountain finished his story and all was still.
It was as if every bug, on every leaf, on every tree was listening. The very earth herself was listening. The traveller looked up and thought the mountain looked sad. Was it even possible? Or was he only imagining it? In any case, the traveller thought it was a good thing that a few mountains still remembered that time of peace so long ago. On his way back to town, the traveller thought about the story and told it to himself over and over so that it might plant a lasting seed in his heart.
They might think him mad, but the traveller decided to tell them anyway.
Story by Stina Gray