Tongson added another log to the bonfire. Several pairs of children sat watching him, wide-eyed at the man who’d lumbered up to the group as a bear and morphed before their eyes into the human tossing wood into the fire.
“Life hands us many surprises,” he offered, dusting his hands together. “Things are not as they appear. Often our perceptions vary due to our experience or understanding.” Tongson counted the heads bobbing in understanding. The older group in the outer circle surrounding the fire pit knew many of his stories and teachings. Each spring new students from the tribes scattered throughout the region sent their brightest to him for two weeks of lore training. This year more students showed up than anticipated.
Octavia took all of them under her wing. No child or student was turned away. Shifter heritage consisted of oral tales passed down over the ages until a few began recording them. Not many retained their original message or format. Tonight’s tale straddled both. Tongson sat next to Octavia, ruffling their youngest’s hair as she slept in her mother’s arms.
“Many moons ago, wolf and bear prowled the same woods. Enemies as far back as their memories ran. Neither wanted to engage the other in battle. Bear feared wolf’s razor sharp teeth and his fast attack. Wolf feared bear’s height as he stood up, clawing the air and his sharp claws.” Tongson paused noting the reactions of each child. He smiled, taking his daughter into his arms.
Octavia leaned forward, taking a lit branch from the fire, she pointed to the sky. “In the heavens over wolf and bear’s woods, the gods and goddesses watched. They knew the prayers and thoughts of each. Fear and ignorance kept the two at bay. Guesses and supposition replaced logic and understanding.”
Tongson kissed the top of his daughter’s head, settling her into his lap. “For eons wolf and bear feared each other and battled inflating their misinformation until a mutual enemy entered their woods. Coyote loved to steal bear’s food and sleep in his den leaving large messes. Even wolf chased his cousin to no avail. The trickster pitted the two in fiercer battles against the other.”
Octavia tossed her branch in the fire watching the children jump as sparks hissed and flew toward the sky. The older ones smiled and cuddle the scared ones reassuring them. “One day the Gods and Goddesses sent their messenger, eagle to bear and wolf. He waited high in the tree until the two enemies stood beneath him, snarling and growling, ready to do battle.”
Tongson looked around the group. Some watched waiting for more of the tale. Others drooped against each other, yawning and rubbing their eyes. A hand shot up, waving vigorously. Tasha and her younger sister loved to tell stories. Writing them down and illustrating them brought them joy.
“I know how the story ends,” Tasha called out.
Tongson looked to Octavia who nodded as her gaze met his. It was time to see if the next generation understood their place and task in the universe.
“Go ahead,” Octavia encouraged. “Please finish the story for us.” She drew her sleeping daughter back into her arms after she stood.
Tasha stood, pulled her top down, smoothing it over her jeans. She shook her head, licked her lips and spoke. “Eagle swooped down crying out as he unsheathed his talons. Flapping his wings, he circled wolf and bear observing how each forgot about fearing the other. Soon he had them back to back, each defending the other without seeing this.”
“Very good Tasha,” Tongson praised. “Who knows what happened next?”
Roccio rose. His long black hair hid his face until he tucked several strands behind each ear. “Eagle kept circling tighter until bear and wolf touched. Neither worried about their fear of the other. They fought together. On his last swoop, eagle called out his message. Learn from each other. Respect your differences and live in harmony with all.”
Tongson threw up his hands as he stood. “Yes, even now this message is important. Thank you Tasha and Roccio.”
Octavia tossed back her head and screeched. Like calls echoed from the dark woods close by. “Each of us is unique. Like the snowflake, no two are alike. Each brings beauty and harmony. Let us emulate that as we learn about each other and respect our differences for untied we are stronger than alone.”
Happy Weekend Gang!
What a lovely tale Tongson and Octavia used to teach about tolerance, understanding, and respect. If more of this happened in the world, what a peaceful place earth would be.
Spring is in the air. Chill lingers with touches of snow flakes that dance through the air and melt as they touch the warm ground. Be careful as the weather changes. Keep warm, dry, and healthy. While you're at it share a good book or two with your spice and loves. I know I will be!