Volume 2 Issue 21 | October 27, 2007 |


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From the Galpoghor Series:
Children of the Wind

Have you noticed how the Wind grows still as twilight falls? All day long he runs over seas and islands; he hunts within the forest and scours the desert, driving herds of timid deer towards the waterholes. Through all the hours of daylight he refreshes the mountain, supports, the bird's wing and brings to all lands tidings of the changing seasons.

Such are the duties of the Wind.

But of an evening, when he is tired of traveling, he folds his wings and sinks down as the red Sun sets. He floats below the clouds, hovers just a moment as he chooses a sand-dune or a clearing, then settles down.

The great bush land knows the Wind's close secrets; she knows that every night Wind takes the form of a bird or wild beast, so as to slumber undisturbed. Asleep, he looks so beautiful.

'Hush, the Wind is sleeping,' the bush land whispers to her children.

The green parrot on the bough -- that is the Wind.

The silver lizard coiled in a strip of moonlight on the
hillside -- that is the Wind.

Over by the Niger at Lake Debo you may see just above the pale horizon a flight of pink flamingoes -- that is the Wind alighting on the water.

It sometimes happens that he goes to sleep close by a village; he stretches out tall and handsome in the grass and slumbers with his head cradled on one arm.

So it was one time when Aminata, a young maid of Maca, who had gone to fetch water, found Wind sleeping beneath a tree and stopped to look at him. She took him for a traveler, a stranger from some other land: he was the hero of her dreams, the very man she had sought since love awakened in her breast.

Dust and sweat streaked his head and eyelids, and on his body were scratches and open cuts. His tired mouth puckered softly as he slept. With gentle, timid hands the girl cleaned his wounds and bathed his eyes and forehead.

It was a beautiful night for the mysterious meeting of Aminata and the stranger with the copper-colored hair; the full Moon shone brightly down. So overwhelmed with love was she that the maid did not hear the old fisherman Abbege poling his way back from Gorom and then grumbling as he staggered up the path, bent beneath his bundle of nets and lines.

The old man used to listen to the Wind and hold conversations with him. 'Frish. Frish!' he would call.

But that night the fisherman had no reply. As twilight fell, at the time when White Eagle's call down in the mangrove swamps is the signal to the tides to change the currents, Abbege had shouted to the Wind as usual on his journey home.

He put up the sail of his dhow and shouted loudly, towards the south, 'Frish. Frish! Come to me, my little breeze.'

He called again on a bamboo whistle whose notes carried far and fell with a dull sound like beads. But the river rose and Abbege's sail flapped against the mast. Chewing his tobacco quid, he poled his dhow down to Maca against the full force of the tide.

'The Wind must be getting deaf,' he grumbled.

At that very moment the Wind, clad all in blue, was still lying sleeping under the tree of Maca where the River Senegal meanders through the sand-banks and rests before flowing out to the sea. Aminata sat fondly watching over him. Here he was to return for several days -- and those were days which the Lebu fisherfolk in their round huts and the Pulo shepherds in their oxhide tents were to remember for a long, long time to come.

Out of a tree dived a toucan at dawn's first light; the parrot's eye blushed pink, and a guinea-fowl stretched its neck and went in search of seeds. There was a rustling in the trees as all the animals woke up. With a sudden sigh of surprise the wide expanse of open country awoke to morning. The turtledove's first cooing expressed the thrill of the new day in clear and limpid notes.

Wind opened his eyes and saw above him a maiden's face with such a tender look. 'What is your name?' he asked.

'Aminata,' the girl replied.

'And your village?'

'Maca on the river,” said.

'And who was the first boy in your village to tell you are beautiful?'

The girls was silent.

'You do not reply, Aminata.'

'I love to hear you speak my name,' she sighed.

'It is as fresh as the water in your pitcher.'

She lowered her eyes and held out the jug for him that he he might drink. He took a long draught.

She dared to address him now since he was no longer looking at her face. 'I have long awaited a stranger sleeping beneath this tree,' she murmured. 'A stranger such as you.' For a moment he was pensive. Then Wind gently said, 'Aminata, in my wanderings, I too have often dreamed. My dream was of a beautiful daughter of the People who was just like you. But I am a wanderer; I never halt. I am from here and there and everywhere where I am not. Yet, somehow I long now to stay with you. I often grow tired of running to and fro about the world.'

'But who makes you do so?' Aminata asked.

'I have to do my duty. You do not understand.'

The morning rhythm of the pestles beat out as the women pounded millet before their huts. Abbege mean-while unhooked his nets and set off towards the river once again.

As he passed by the couple he was still muttering like the night before, 'Wind is getting old and deaf.'

When he reached the end of the path they heard him calling Wind as he unfurled his patched white sail. Then the stranger rose, as light as dandelion fluff, gazed long into the girl's deep violet eyes, as if making a promise to her, and said, 'Frish. That's what they call me.”

(Retold by James Riordan)


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