Friday, November 17, 2006

The Ice Man

This story was heard, and written, at a time long ago when the mountains quaked and smoke issued from chasms in the granite.

The people were burning the woods in the fall when a poplar tree caught fire. It burned and burned, and as the roots burned a great hole in the ground grew larger and larger. Frightened, the people thought it would burn the whole world. They could not control it, for it had gone too deep and they did not know what to do.

At last, the suggestion came to find a man living in a house of ice, far to the north. He was a little man with long hair hanging to the ground in two plaits. Messengers sent to seek his help watched him unbraid his hair, take it up in one hand and strike it against his other hand, creating a gust of wind. A second time he struck his hair across his hand, a light rain started to fall. A third time brought sleet mixed with raindrops, and a fourth time, hailstones fell as if from the ends of his hair. "Go back," he told them, "and I shall be there tomorrow."

The messengers returned to find their people gathered helplessly around the burning pit. The next day, a wind blew in from the north. But it only made the blaze burn higher. Then a light rain only seemed to make it burn hotter. Then the sleet and hail dowsed the flames with smoke and steam rising from the coals. The people fled for shelter as the hailstones covered the embers, and put out the fire at last. When the people returned, they found a lake where the fire had burned, and from below the water came a sound as of embers crackling.

So, I wonder now: what did this story mean to the ones who told it and have now gone on? And what does it mean today? Why do these mountains not rumble and burn as they did in those days?

1 comment:

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