The members of a certain West African tribe tell the legend of the Sky Maiden. It happened once that the people of the tribe noticed their cows were giving less milk than they used to. They could not understand why. One young man volunteered to stay up all night to see what might be happening. After several hours of waiting in the darkness, hiding in a bush, he saw something extraordinary. A young woman of astonishing beauty rode a moonbeam down from heaven to earth, carrying a large pail. She milked the cows, filled her pail, and climbed back up the moonbeam to the sky. The man could not believe what he had seen. The next night, he set a trap near where the cows were kept, and when the maiden came down to milk the cows, he sprang the trap and caught her. "Who are you?" he demanded.
She explained that she was a Sky Maiden, a member of a tribe that lived in the sky and had no food of their own. It was her job to come to earth at night and find food. She pleaded with him to let her out of the net and she would do anything he asked. The man said he would release her only if she agreed to marry him. "I will marry you," she said, "but first you must let me go home for three days to prepare myself. Then I will return and be your wife." He agreed.
Three days later she returned, carrying a large box. "I will be your wife and make you very happy," she told him, "but you must promise me never to look inside this box."
For several weeks they were very happy together. Then one day, while his wife was out, the man was overcome with curiosity and opened the box. There was nothing in it. When the woman came back, she saw her husband looking strangely at her and said, "You looked in the box, didn¹t you? I can¹t live with you anymore."
"Why?" the man asked. "What's so terrible about my peeking into an empty box?"
"I'm not leaving you because you opened the box. I thought you probably would. I'm leaving you because you said it was empty. It wasn't empty; it was full of sky. It contained the light and the air and the smells of my home in the sky. When I went home for the last time, I filled that box with everything that was most precious to me to remind me of where I came from. How can I be your wife if what is most precious to me is emptiness to you?"
November 5, 2008
A Story I Like - The Sky Maiden
I first read this story in Harold Kushner's "Who Needs God?" It's what I most remember from the book, and it resonates so much with what I'm consistently going through now:
Labels: fairy tales