grew up in a village without Story.
Because the village was without Story,
it did not even have a name. But if it had, the name might have been—Survival.
It was as if there was no color in the village,
and there were no smiles.
People did what they had to,
and that only. They grew crops and they hunted and fished. They cooked
and they sewed rough animal skins together to wear as clothing.
When it grew dark, they went to bed.
Kulu never thought of himself
or the village as either happy or unhappy. Why? Because he had never
been anywhere else, and he did not know there were any other ways
day when he was about eight, Kulu was in
the jungle gathering fruit. His bag was full, and it was time to return
to the village.
But this day, unlike every other time
he had gathered fruit, he could not find
the way back. And as he tried to find the path, he got farther and
farther from the village, until he did not even recognize the part
of the forest he was in.
Kulu called out as loudly as
he could. But the only response he heard was the loud cackle of a
cashinaw bird, mimicking his own cry, and
the whisper of the breeze in the branches, that seemed to say, “Come,
come, come, we are waiting for you.”
Who was waiting? Kulu realized that he had not even been looking where he was
going, he had been so fascinated by the spirit
voices in the wind. Now he
suddenly came to his senses, looked around, and then looked down.
A few feet away from him, a wide, cleared path ran through the dense
And on the path, his back slung with
a bag filled with ripe nambo fruit just
like the bag Kulu himself carried, was a
boy who looked a lot like his twin! Only this boy…why,
he had on bright trousers and a shirt like a rainbow, and a hat that
shone with tiny mirrors like stars sewn into it, and golden embroidery
on the hat! And the boy…what was the boy doing?
Why, he was blowing into a stick that
had holes. And out of the stick—it must have been out of the stick—came—what
was it?—sounds, like a swift river, that dove deep into Kulu’s ears and swam all around inside his head till they
made him feel like jumping around!
His feet started to step in skips and jumps, all by themselves!
Kulu had never done this before.
Was this boy an evil sorcerer? But before he could think about that,
Kulu’s feet shouted up to him, “No, he’s
Kulu called to the lad, who
stopped in his tracks and turned around. The boy took the stick from
his mouth and waved his hand at Kulu. Then the boy made a face with the corners of his mouth
up and teeth showing. Kulu had never seen
a smile before, but it made him feel good.
“Come on,” the lad motioned with
his finger, and Kulu walked over to him.
The boy pointed down the path. Then he turned to Kulu,
pointed to his chest, and said “Mano.”
Kulu pointed to himself, and
The two walked silently down the path for a long, long time.
Mano made more sounds blowing into the stick
with holes. Sometimes it felt to Kulu like Mano’s soul was laughing
in the sound-river that came from his stick. Sometimes it felt like
the jungle was alive with happy spirits. Sometimes there would be
fearful sound streams, but joyful ones would always chase them away,
or else dance them till they shared in delight.
they came to Mano’s village. Kulu’s
mouth opened wide in amazement, and every time it started to close
he would see something new and it would open again! The tents in the
village were all as colorful as Mano’s costume.
They had bright pictures painted all over them. People sat in the
doorways on multihued, woven rugs, cooking soup and other dishes on
open fires. Everywhere, there were painted wooden birds and animals,
as well as creatures that looked partly like a bird or animal, and
partly like a human.
“Kulu, this is the village
of Story, ” said
Mano, and except for sharing their names,
that was the first time either of the two had tried to speak. Both
were surprised that they easily understood one another.
The boys arrived at Mano’s
family’s tent. “These
are my mother and father,” Mano smiled,
outstretching a hand.
“This is Kulu,”
he told his parents, outstretching indicating his new friend with
his other hand. Kulu
felt soft light flow toward him from the eyes of Mano’s
“Kulu, it is told here in Story,"
Mano’s father said, training his kind eyes
on Kulu’s face, “That long ago there was only one village in
this great jungle. But there were two different kinds of villagers.”
“Some loved the earth and all things
and creatures on it, and felt grateful for all—for the Sun that came
to light their days and the moon that lit their nights—for the clear
waters that flows in our streams, and the fish that swim in them and
give themselves to us for food—for the fire that lets us cook our
food, the trees that give us their fruit, and the animals and birds
who are our friends and neighbors.”
“The grateful ones had a story for
everything. We knew who the great snake, the anaconda, was, and where
he came here from and how he came to be. We knew how we came from
our gods, who sailed down from the stars on boats. And we knew that
when one of us dies, she or he can make the journey back to the gods
without a boat, for the spirit is light and can fly. A good spirit
flies up, up, to heaven and the stars.”
“These wise ones knew that everything
is holy. Life was a festival of love and worship. They were known
to stay awake all night to hear the elders tell—and dance,
and sing—stories, and the “youngers”
make up and share their
stories, too. All have stories.
This life is endless stories! There are so many, we
could never tell them all.”
“But there were those who did
not share our joy at life. They did not love Story. They were always
“And one day they all
left the village and never returned.”
“ We have heard that they formed another village, far away
in another part of the jungle, but none of us has gone there. None
of us would want to. For what is life without Story?”
“You, Kulu, are the first from that village who has ever found us.”
“Welcome, Kulu. Welcome to Story.”
Kulu looked at Mano
and at Mano’s father and mother, and he looked around the village
at the lovely tents and painted wooden figures everywhere. The tents
were painted with stories, he now realized. He thought to himself,
“I don’t ever want to leave here. I did not know the words ‘happy’
or ‘unhappy’ before, but now I do. I am so glad I got lost today.”
And he never did leave.
© by “Mr. Max” (Max Reif)
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