Monday, September 9, 2013

[Brazilian Folktale] How Night Came

Years and years ago at the very beginning of time, when the world had
just been made, there was no night. It was day all the time. No one
had ever heard of sunrise or sunset, starlight or moonbeams. There
were no night birds, nor night beasts, nor night flowers. There were
no lengthening shadows, nor soft night air, heavy with perfume.

In those days the daughter of the GREAT SEA SERPENT, who dwelt in the
depths of the seas, married one of the sons of the great earth race
known as MAN. She left her home among the shades of the deep seas and
came to dwell with her husband in the land of daylight. Her eyes grew
weary of the bright sunlight and her beauty faded. Her husband watched
her with sad eyes, but he did not know what to do to help her.

"O, if night would only come," she moaned as she tossed about wearily
on her couch. "Here it is always day, but in my father's kingdom there
are many shadows. O, for a little of the darkness of night!"

Her husband listened to her moanings. "What is night?" he asked her.
"Tell me about it and perhaps I can get a little of it for you."

"Night," said the daughter of the GREAT SEA SERPENT, "is the name we
give to the heavy shadows which darken my father's kingdom in the
depths of the seas. I love the sunlight of your earth land, but I grow
very weary of it. If we could have only a little of the darkness of my
father's kingdom to rest our eyes part of the time."

Her husband at once called his three most faithful slaves. "I am about
to send you on a journey," he told them. "You are to go to the kingdom
of the GREAT SEA SERPENT who dwells in the depths of the seas and ask
him to give you some of the darkness of night that his daughter may
not die here amid the sunlight of our earth land."

The three slaves set forth for the kingdom of the GREAT SEA SERPENT.
After a long dangerous journey they arrived at his home in the depths
of the seas and asked him to give them some of the shadows of night
to carry back to the earth land. The GREAT SEA SERPENT gave them a big
bag full at once. It was securely fastened and the GREAT SEA SERPENT
warned them not to open it until they were once more in the presence
of his daughter, their mistress.

The three slaves started out, bearing the big bag full of night upon
their heads. Soon they heard strange sounds within the bag. It was the
sound of the voices of all the night beasts, all the night birds, and
all the night insects. If you have ever heard the night chorus from
the jungles on the banks of the rivers you will know how it sounded.
The three slaves had never heard sounds like those in all their lives.
They were terribly frightened.

"Let us drop the bag full of night right here where we are and run
away as fast as we can," said the first slave.

"We shall perish. We shall perish, anyway, whatever we do," cried the
second slave.

"Whether we perish or not I am going to open the bag and see what
makes all those terrible sounds," said the third slave.

Accordingly they laid the bag on the ground and opened it. Out rushed
all the night beasts and all the night birds and all the night insects
and out rushed the great black cloud of night. The slaves were more
frightened than ever at the darkness and escaped to the jungle.

The daughter of the GREAT SEA SERPENT was waiting anxiously for the
return of the slaves with the bag full of night. Ever since they had
started out on their journey she had looked for their return, shading
her eyes with her hand and gazing away off at the horizon, hoping with
all her heart that they would hasten to bring the night. In that
position she was standing under a royal palm tree, when the three
slaves opened the bag and let night escape. "Night comes. Night comes
at last," she cried, as she saw the clouds of night upon the horizon.
Then she closed her eyes and went to sleep there under the royal palm

When she awoke she felt greatly refreshed. She was once more the happy
princess who had left her father's kingdom in the depths of the great
seas to come to the earth land. She was now ready to see the day
again. She looked up at the bright star shining above the royal palm
tree and said, "O, bright beautiful star, henceforth you shall be
called the morning star and you shall herald the approach of day. You
shall reign queen of the sky at this hour."

Then she called all the birds about her and said to them, "O,
wonderful, sweet singing birds, henceforth I command you to sing your
sweetest songs at this hour to herald the approach of day." The cock
was standing by her side. "You," she said to him, "shall be appointed
the watchman of the night. Your voice shall mark the watches of the
night and shall warn the others that the _madrugada_ comes." To this
very day in Brazil we call the early morning the _madrugada_. The cock
announces its approach to the waiting birds. The birds sing their
sweetest songs at that hour and the morning star reigns in the sky as
queen of the _madrugada_.

When it was daylight again the three slaves crept home through the
forests and jungles with their empty bag.

"O, faithless slaves," said their master, "why did you not obey the
voice of the GREAT SEA SERPENT and open the bag only in the presence
of his daughter, your mistress? Because of your disobedience I shall
change you into monkeys. Henceforth you shall live in the trees. Your
lips shall always bear the mark of the sealing wax which sealed the
bag full of night."

To this very day one sees the mark upon the monkeys' lips, where they
bit off the wax which sealed the bag; and in Brazil night leaps out
quickly upon the earth just as it leapt quickly out of the bag in
those days at the beginning of time. And all the night beasts and
night birds and night insects give a sunset chorus in the jungles at


Barzil, folk tale, lore, fables, Brazilian

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