Category Archives: Stories and Legends

With Lips Gone, Teeth are exposed to Cold

With Lips Gone, Teeth are exposed to Cold

(From: Spring and Autumn Annals)

 Re-written by BoSt

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Long ago, Duke Xian of the state of Jin wished to expand his realm and power; the Duke hence, bade Xun Xi to launch an expedition against the powerful State of Guo. The great distance however was of some concern and the campaign’s success depended on traversing the State of Yu. At the time there was a tentative alliance with Yu so Duke Xian asked Xun Xi for his counsel on this matter.

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“In order to secure Duke Yu’s promise to let our army pass …. Hmm…” Xun Xi remained hesitant for a moment, before resuming, “The surest way My Lord, would be to present Duke Yu with our Chuji Jade and good number of Quchan steeds.”

(Note: Xhuji in Xhanxi Province was famous at the time for producing excellent jade stones and Quxhan in Shanxi Province was renowned for its fine breed of horses.)

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“Is there no other way?” The Duke Xian was displeased with the suggestion. “The stone is an inherited treasure and should remain so for the next generations. And the idea of losing my steeds to that loathsome, pompous Lord is quite unacceptable. “Duke Xian grumbled, “Perchance, what if Duke Yu accepted our gift but refused our request, what then?”

Xun Xi braved Lord’s fury with this quick riposte: “Well my Lord, if Lord Yu refuses the fine gifts, we can be certain of his veiled hostility and look elsewhere for the safe passage. If however, his Lordship does accept it, we’d only be allowing his Lordship temporary custody of the treasures. What is there to be worried about?”

Duke Xian nodded with approval and soon after sent Xun Xi to the State of Yu to negotiate the army’s safe passage.  

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Xun Xi was quick to gain admittance to the Yu court.  He presented a splendid figure in his fineries holding the large precious stone before him.  Many courtiers gasped witnessing the magnificent steeds that were corralled into the courtyard, dazzling everyone. 

Duke Yu greedy for the fine gifts, was about to make the emissary of Jin Xun Xi a rash promise when one of his loyal subjects, Gong Ziyi, came forward to protest: “My Lord, I beg a private council with you, if you please.”

“What, now?” Duke Yu was annoyed.

“How preposterous an intrusion! Has propriety and good sense left Gong Ziyi” Many courtiers grumbled under their breath.

Nevertheless Guo Ziyi was a well respected, loyal minister and Lord Yu was bit intrigued. He signalled Guo to advance and gave him permission to speak his mind.

Guo Ziyi was most direct. “There shall be no promise of any kind, your Grace.” His strong, resounding voice simply ripped through the stone cold silence that had enveloped the court.

“What Yu is to Guo is like gums to the cheeks. Gums are closely related to cheeks and cheeks to gums; which is exactly the present situation of Yu in relation to Guo. As the old ancestral saying goes, ‘If the lips are gone, the teeth will be exposed to cold.’  The fact that Guo is able to exist depends on Yu while Yu’s ability to survive hinges on Guo.  This inter-dependency will be jeopardized, if we make way for Jin army, allowing Guo to perish.  Their demise will transpire in the morning to be followed by Yu in the evening.”

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Guo again spoke in good strong voice: “Why should we ever let Jin pass?  Why seek a small gain, only to harm vital interests?”

Duke Yu, however refused to listen to reason and, blinded by greed, in the end still gave the Jin army convenient access to Guo.

Thus Xun Xi attacked Guo and conquered it, and on the way back attacked Yu and conquered it too.

Xun Xi then triumphantly returned to Jin. The jade and the horses were once again restored to Duke Xian who, greatly pleased, said in good humor: “The jade remains the same, but he horses have got some more teeth!”

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Fin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Tulip’s Tale

A Tulip’s Tale

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The word tulip was first mentioned in Western Europe, in the context of “Turkish Letters” of a diplomat Ogier Ghiselin de Busbercq in about 1554.  This was the time of Ottomans wore typical Turkish tülbend (“muslin” or “gauze”). The correlation between turban and the Tulip flower came about because the tulip in full bloom resembled a turban.  The name Tulip is derived from tulipa or tulipant, tulipe by French and tulīpa in modern Latin.  

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Did you know that the Tulip can be given as the 11th wedding anniversary flower?  It is said that the tulip’s velvety black center represents a lover’s heart, darkened by the heat of passion.  

Tulips as you well know come in various colors and each carry an important meaning:

Yellow tulips once were associated with jealousy and hopeless love. Lately however, yellow tulips have gained a sunnier disposition; it now represents hope and cheerful thoughts. You may give a yellow tulip bouquet to a good friend as a caring get-well gift. Yellow is also the color of friendship, which makes it great for a just-because floral gift.

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White conveys forgiveness. White tulips are the flowers to pick for an apology bouquet. You may also include with it some chocolates as a worthwhile gesture to elicit a favorable response.

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Multi-hued tulips, being the most versatile, can express varied messages to that special someone.  For instance, striped tulips may symbolize a lover’s beautiful eyes, as do tulips with blotched, multicolored petals.

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Purple represents loyalty. If you want to let her know that she is your queen, choose an arrangement of purple tulips. Purple can also be used to express admiration for a loved one’s accomplishments.

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Pink flowers express happiness and confidence. This makes them a very good choice when congratulating a friend on a new job or promotion. The flower meaning of pink tulips is the awakening of love. Pink tulips remind me of the lovely little girl in one of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales: Thumbelina.

Thumbelina is a story about a girl who is born from a tulip flower. One day this thumb-sized girl is kidnapped and was carried far, far away. When the destination was finally reached she was then forced to marry a toad.  While in the Toad’s abode however, she comes upon a wounded swallow and with tender loving care, saves him. The ever so grateful swallow, fully recovered, rescues her from her harsh circumstances in return. He then takes her to the Kingdom of Flowers and there she falls in love with and marries the handsome prince of the kingdom. She lives happily ever after.

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And finally, Red means perfect love and as well, evokes passion and romance. Did you know that in Persia, people give red tulips when they propose? Red tulips have the meaning of eternal love; therefore it’s an ideal choice for expressing deep affections to that someone special.

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Here’s a Turkish legend that may have contributed to this belief. As the tragic story goes, once a handsome prince named Farhad fell madly in love with a beautiful a maiden named Shirin. Capricious fate however saw to it that Shrin met her untimely demise during the digging of a new replacement well for her village.  When Prince Farhad learned of this he was so overcome with grief that he rode his horse over the edge of a cliff. It’s said that a scarlet tulip sprang up from each droplet of his blood, giving the red tulip the meaning “perfect love.”

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 Then there is this legend that is told in the Netherlands.

Three knights are enamored by a beautiful girl. Each in turn proposes and presents her with a gift. One gives her a crown which indicates fame. The second one presents her with a mighty sword indicative of power. The third gives her gold which is indicative of property.

The beautiful girl remains in a quandary.  As she cannot choose one over the other, she seeks the Queen of Flower’s help. She pleads with Her Majesty to change her into a flower, and being granted this request, the lovely girl is transformed into a Tulip. Here, as one can see, the crown is the flower, the sword is the leaf, and the gold is the eventual transformation to a bulb.

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One of the Greek myths is about tulips:

Once, there was a pretty girl named Tulip. One day, the god of autumn while he is about, spotted this enchanting beauty and fell deeply in love. His infatuation grew with each encounter even though she blatantly resisted his declaration of love.

When yet again chancing on her while she was picking flowers he accosted her. She in desperation ran off and sought help from the God of Virginity. Kneeling before Artemis, she pleaded with the Goddess to rescue her from the pesky lover, which the Goddess did … by changing her into a tulip.  

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Last but not least, here’s a lovely English Folk Tale:

The Tulip Fairies

Once upon a time there was an old woman who lived by herself in a little house. She grew a bed of beautiful multi-colored tulips in her garden, which she would cut and bring into the house, to cheer herself up.

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One night she was woken up by the sounds of sweet singing and of babies laughing. She looked out of the window and the sounds seemed to be coming from the tulip bed, but she couldn’t see anything.   The next morning she walked among her flowers, but there were no signs of anyone having been there the night before.

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On the following night she was woken up again by sweet singing and the sound of babies laughing. She rose and stole softly through her garden. The moon was shining brightly on the tulip bed, and the flowers were swaying to and fro. The old woman looked closely and she saw, standing by each tulip, a little fairy mother who was crooning and rocking the flower like a cradle, while in each tulip cup lay a little baby fairy laughing and playing.

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The old woman was a kind-hearted soul, and so she stole quietly back to her house, and from that time on she never picked another tulip, nor did she allow her neighbors to touch them.

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The tulips grew brighter in color and larger in size day by day, and they gave off a delicious perfume, like that of roses. They began to bloom all the year round too. And every night the little fairy mothers caressed their babies and rocked them to sleep in the flower cups.

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Eventually, the day came, as it must, when the good old woman died, and the tulip bed was torn up by people who did not know any better, they didn’t know about the fairies, they didn’t know about the babies, and instead of tulips they planted parsley, but the parsley withered, and died, and so did all the other plants in the garden, and from that time on nothing would grow there.

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But the good old woman’s grave grew beautiful, for the fairies sang above it, and kept it green – while on the grave and all around it there sprang up tulips, daffodils, and violets, and all the other lovely flowers of spring.

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The End.

WHY THE CHIMES RANG

WHY THE CHIMES RANG

 (Adapted from Raymond M. Alden-   Re-written by BoSt)

01

 

All acts of kindness however minuscule do not escape the notice of Heaven, even though they may go unnoticed here on Earth.

Once upon a time in a far off land there was a magnificent church set on a hilltop. Tall stained glass windows, placed specifically to catch best angles of the sun’s rays, depicted brilliantly executed religious scenes praising God Almighty’s power and extolling the virtues of the saints. Pious carpenters had painstakingly carved magnificent wooden reliefs above and to the sides of the main entrance. The Church’s most prominent feature however was the gray stone tower with ivy growing over it as far up as the eye can see. In the steeple an array of Christmas chimes was housed.

 

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Every Christmas Eve all the inhabitants of the city, re-enacting an old tradition, flocked to this church bringing with them many offerings to the Christ Child.  Legends told of a time when, after the greatest and best offering was laid on the altar, there arose above the voices of the choir a beautiful sound, emanating from the top of the tower the most divine music of the Christmas Chimes.

 

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Some claimed it had to be the wind that rang them, while other more pious ones believed in their heart of hearts, and exclaimed loudly so,  that it had to be the angels that set the bells  swinging to produce that heavenly  sound.

 

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Then came a time when, however great the offerings were, the chimes never again created blissful melody. As a result people were saddened, feeling there must be something amiss. Yet many Christmases came and went and no chimes were heard.

It so happened that there was an old man living modestly with his wife Madonna, in a ramshackle hut not far from the notable church. This kind old man recalled a time when his mother had spoken to him of hearing the chimes when she was but a little girl.  In her waning years she mourned the fact that people had grown less generous in their hearts with their gifts for the Christ Child.  Love and compassion for their fellow man had diminished; pomp and ceremony, hand in hand with greed and ambition taking root instead.  As a result, when an offering was made without the purest heart and intentions and it became only a show, it did not move the angels and justly did not merit the music of the chimes.  If the old man voiced this mournful insight it unfortunately fell on deaf ears. Everyone dismissed him as a senile old man. When he died some years later his poor old widow Madonna was left to fend for herself in a cruel, cruel world.

 

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In a remote country village a number of miles from the city there lived a boy named Pedro and his little brother Pepito. Their parents had been dead for more than a year and Pedro as the sole provider had done his best to support them.  Pepito had overheard so much about the city’s Christmas celebrations that he pleaded and pleaded with his elder brother to take him to the church.  Not having the heart to say no, Pedro bundled some dry rations, mainly hard bread, a clump of hard, moldy cheese and some grain, in a cloth then tied its ends and slung it over his shoulder. They set out at dawn, both dressed in several layers to escape the bitter, bone chilling cold and skins of water hung at their waists. The day before Christmas was bitterly cold with frigid temperatures plunging below zero and made worse by thrashing winds that whipped and punished any wayward soul who dared venture outside.

 

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For untold hours the boys trudged to cover the great distance to the city. Huddled together, they walked hand in hand bending their backs to brace themselves against the strong winds. The icy drizzle mercilessly chilled them to the very marrow of their bones.  By dusk they were tired, famished and exhausted, almost unable to take another step, yet the lights of the big city now visible just ahead, egged them to soldier on.

 

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Panting, they at long last approached the gates of the city. Fortunately the gates were still wide open, expecting more visitors. As they were about to enter, Pedro spotted something dark on the snow off to the side of the road, and so veered off to take a closer look.   It was a poor beggar woman who had obviously suffered a mishap and fallen into the shallow ditch.  Stranded, she lay there half-dead, too sick and shivering with cold to rise up or call for help. Rushing over, Pedro helped her to sit up and draped his threadbare coat over her shoulders to bring her some warmth. She looked so pale and had difficulty speaking. He helped her take some tentative sips from his water skin. Then, looking up, he addressed his little brother, “It’s no use, Pepito. I can’t leave her in this condition. You go on ahead to the church.”

“Alone?” cried Pepito in a fearful voice.  “No, I can’t.  I can’t let you will miss the Christmas Festival.”

“You are brave, just go on by yourself. I’ll be here when you come back.  I can’t leave her.” Pedro answered sternly. He looked at her face and smiled encouragingly. “Poor old lady, her face looks like the Madonna in the chapel window.”

“Madonna” the old woman opened her tear stained eyes slightly and smiled at Pedro.

 

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“Go on. I can’t leave her in this state; she will surely freeze to death if nobody stays with her.”  Then Pedro reached deep into to his inner pocket and withdrew a treasured object for his little brother to take. Then with the choking sound of disappointment he added: “If you get a chance, little brother, to slip up to the altar without getting in anyone’s way, please take this little copper piece of mine and lay it down as our offering when no one is looking. That way it will be the same as me going there. “

 

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Pepito reluctantly left Pedro with a heavy heart.  The great church was truly a magnificent place that night. The decorations, lights and glitter, all the displays, riches he’d never seen the like of before simply took his little breath away. A small urchin like himself was virtually invisible amidst the procession as they took their gifts for the Christ Child to the altar.

 

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Some worshipers laid down wonderful jewels; some gave baskets with massive amounts of gold so heavy they could scarcely carry them down the aisle.  A famed author laid down his prized work, a book he had, after many years, just completed.  

 

 

Then the King appeared in all his majesty hoping, like the least petitioner, to win for himself the music of the Christmas chimes. A great murmur rippled through the church as the people witnessed the King taking his priceless golden crown, set with diamonds and rare precious gems, from his head and laying it to  gleam on the alter as his offering to the Christ Child.

 

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“Surely, “They intoned in unison, “Surely we shall hear the bells now.” But the chimes did not ring. Not even a whimper was heard.  When the gifts were all on the altar, the choir began the closing hymn.

 

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The disappointed crowd grumbling under their breath slowly began to disperse. Suddenly the organist stopped playing, and everyone looked aghast at the old Priest, who was holding up his hand for silence.  

“What’s this?”

 

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When the people strained their ears there came resonating through the air, softly but distinctly, the heavenly music of the chimes in the tower!

The divine music seemed so far away and yet so clear.  The notes were so much sweeter than any sound they had ever heard.  Melody rising and falling in the sky was so entrancing that the people in the church held their breath and stood perfectly still.

 

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Then they all stood up together and stared at the altar, wanting to see what great gift had awakened these long-silent chimes. But all the nearest of them saw was the figure of Pepito, who had crept softly down the aisle, perfectly unseen and placed Pedro’s little piece of copper on the altar.

The End

 

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Merry Christmas  Everyone

 

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Besting the Ghost

Besting the Ghost

By BoSt

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To fall in love with someone special and then plan to share a life time with them through a bond of marriage is ideal. Often however considerations other than love come into play in marriages.  In fact, it is still the custom for families in many countries to have an arranged marriage in order to augment political or economic status.  But I digress.  Let us just say, in the olden days this arranged marriage business was often the norm.

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There was once a young couple who, after pomp and ceremony, settled in to live comfortably in a fine house with lots of land at the edge of town. As beloved children their families had seen to it that the couple would be compatible before they were married. Unfortunately many hidden vices surfaced after the marriage to disrupt their harmony. In time they were no more than two strangers barely speaking to each other but still living under one roof for the sake of appearances.

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They thought they would be miserable forever, if only there were children to bridge this growing gap. But fate had other designs and before long, the couple’s strained but seemingly mundane life was seriously rocked with the onset of a grave illness that beset the young wife. Finally, after failed attempts to cure her, on the verge of expiring, the wife whispered to her husband in his feigned distress: “Dear husband, despite all your bad characteristics I still love you very much… Alas our time together was so cruelly interrupted.” She gasped a painful breath before resuming, “But marriage should be forever, here and in the hereafter…Promise me, after I leave you do not hasten from me to another woman. If you do, I shall find no rest and shall certainly return as a ghost and cause you endless trouble.”

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Soon after this implied threat, the wife passed away. The husband at first respected her last wish and stayed celibate for some time, three months and two days to be exact.  But then the loneliness drove him to seek the company of another. Chancing on an exquisite beauty at a small gathering, he became smitten at once. At first he observed her from afar in other social gatherings, and then he pushed for an introduction and gained a chance to converse with her. She was every bit as intelligent and artistic as she was beautiful. He could not help but fall deeply in love with her.  This time through his own will they became engaged to be married. Immediately after the engagement party however a ghost appeared in his quarters that very night and continued on every night after that, with accusing words and gestures, blaming him for his breach of promise.  The ghost was determined and angry as she related exactly what transpired between him and his new fiancé. Whenever he gave his new beloved a present or a token of their love, the ghost would describe in detail the particulars.  She related, word for word all their private conversations. This so perturbed him that he suffered from a persistent case of insomnia. One of his close confidents advised him to take this problem to the local priest who lived in a seminary close to his home.  He resisted this notion at first but as the problems persisted, he at long last went to the Priest seeking his help.

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“Your former wife became a ghost and knows everything you do,” thoughtfully commented the Priest. “Whatever you do or say, whatever you give your fiancé, she knows of, you say? Hmm. She must be a very wise ghost.  Really you should admire such a resourceful apparition.  Here’s an idea; the next time she manifests, try bargaining with her. Tell her that, since she is so knowledgeable, you can obviously hide nothing from her and that if she can answer you one question, you will promise to break off the engagement immediately and content yourself thereafter to remaining single. “  

“What is the question I must ask?” inquired the man.

“The Priest smiling replied: “Take a large handful of rice and ask her exactly how many grains of rice you hold in your hand. I she cannot tell you, you will know that she is only a figment of your imagination and upon this realization your trouble with the ghost should be no more.”

On the subsequent night, when the ghost again manifested, the man at first flattered her and told her that he was overawed that she knew everything.

“Indeed,” replied the ghost,” and furthermore, I also know that you went to see that Priest today.”

“I relent; but since you know so much,” demanded the man, “pray tell me how many grains of rice am I holding in my hand?”

There was no answer. The apparition simply vanished and from then on he saw no more ghost.

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The End

THE LOST DAUGHTER LEELINAU

THE LOST DAUGHTER LEELINAU

 

(Original story: The Indian Fairy Book

From the Original Legends

Author: Cornelius Mathews)

 

Rewritten by BoSt

 01

 

A long time ago a mighty hunter and his family lived in a modest dwelling alongside the lake near the base of the lofty highlands called Kaug Wudjoo. His favorite daughter, named Leelinau, was a beautiful girl who from the earliest age seemed sensitive, thoughtful, and imaginative. Being rather introverted, she unfortunately, passed much of her time in solitude, preferring nature and the company of plants, birds and animals to that of humans.

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Whenever she could, she snuck out of the lodge and sought the remotest recesses of the woods. There was one particular section that had an irresistible draw and, oftentimes, she would sit in lonely reverie there upon some high promontory of rock overlooking the lake.  Manitowok (otherwise known as the Sacred Wood) was truly an enchanting place.  Resting there amid all the leafy haunts of forest pines, she lent an ear to the melodious ripples of the waves lapping against the open shore.  This hallowed ground was of course shunned by all others who feared they might fall under the spell of its mystical inhabitants: the little wild men of the woods, the turtle spirits, or plant fairies that were believed to be consistently frolicking in mischievous revelry.

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So fearful were some of the common folk that, whenever they were compelled to make a landing on this sacred coast, they always left behind an offering or token to appease any ill will and ward off malevolence from the indigenous fairy folk.

Leelinau, being the pure spirit of youth, had no such fear or adverse experience despite the many times she visited this place. She had no qualms visiting this enchanting place that welcomed her and made her feel as though she belonged.

 Leelinau began finding her way here from a very young age.  She would often go missing for many hours at a time as she gathered strange flowers and plants.  Upon her safe return, she presented these delightful gleanings to her parents along with intriguing accounts of all her adventures that had transpired in her rambles.

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 Although her parents harbored a secret worry about her frequent visits to this sacred ground, they were unwilling to prohibit it to her, or even in any way deter her from going there. She’d always been very gentle and delicate in temperament and nature; therefore, they could not openly articulate their opposition for fear of making her sick; and so her visits to Manitowok persisted as she grew up in years to early teens.

Oh, but  how she loved sitting in her favorite spot with her face turned upward, gazing at the sky or at the languid, shimmering ripples on water. Often she would linger long in contemplation, as though in communion with her guardian spirit seeking divine guidance and solace.  Sometimes she would beseech the spirit to lighten her soul and alleviate the sadness that seemed of late to grip her heart. On other visits she would solicit the spirits to procure pleasant dreams or other innocent maiden’s favor.

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On occasion, when her father remained afar on the hunt later than usual, and it was feared that he could be overwhelmed by a tempest, or encountered some misfortune, Leelinau would fast and then spend time in contemplation and a prayer in Manitowok while she implored the spirits’ help to speed his safe return.

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As the years advanced, she, now an exquisite beauty in her mid-teens, frequented the fairy pines at greater length and, on her return appeared even more absorbed by it. Her increasingly strange detachment from the accepted norm greatly concerned her parents who began suspecting that some evil spirit had enticed her into its clutches, and had cast upon her a charm which she had not the power to resist.

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This belief was confirmed when, one day, Leelinau’s mother, rising at dawn, secretly trailed her daughter into the woods.  There, concealed by a huge trunk, she overheard her daughter, quietly seated at a rock, murmuring to some phantom companion, with appeals such as these:

“ Oh spirit of the dancing leaves!” whispered Leelinau, her heart palpitating with intense emotion. “Dear, sweet and gentle specter of the foaming stream. do not forsake me but visit thou my nightly pillow once more, shedding over it silver dreams of mountain brook and pebbly rivulets. Spirit of the starry night; lead my foot-prints to the blushing, burning passion-flower that shines with a carmine hue. Spirit of the greenwood plume,” she concluded, turning with passionate gaze to the beautiful young pines which lightly swayed their green leafy limbs over her head, gently brushing her face “ embrace me, your Leelinau, with thy intoxicating perfume, liken to the ones spring unfolds from its sweetest flowers, or hearts that to each other show their inmost adoration. I entreat you to hear this maiden’s prayer!” 

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Gradually with the passing of each day these strange communions with the phantom beings stole the heart of Leelinau away.  Now she appeared detached and walked among her people in quiet melancholy, as though she was a passing spirit not belonging to that world. And this was not all, for she grew gradually more remiss with her daily routines, failing to complete even the simplest tasks of the lodge.

Before this time she used to frolic and engage in joyful interactions and play with her young companions as the girls of the neighboring lodges all assembled as usual before the lodge-door to participate in their favorite games of block and string.  In contrast Leelinau would sit vacantly, dismissing these pastimes as trivial, unworthy of her attention, or she would feebly make the effort to join if only to articulate her thoughts that this activity was rather irksome to her.

Moreover, on those warm evenings when she was compelled to join in the group of young people as they formed a ring around the lodge and the leather and bone passed rapidly from one to the other she handed it along offhandedly with dispassionate indifference about winning.

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Eventually summer turned into autumn and there came the joyful time of the corn harvest. The air was permeated with excitement as all members of the tribe congregated to participate in harvesting the ripened maize from the fields. They had not been at this long when one of the girls, coincidentally the one noted for her beauty, joyfully cried aloud having found a red ear. Everyone rushed over at once to congratulate her for this rare and most fortunate find; for it foretold a brave admirer who would soon be on his way to her father’s lodge.  The girl blushed as crimson as the corn and, tucking the trophy to her bosom, awkwardly intoned her thanks for their well wishes then inwardly offered her sincere gratitude to the Great Spirit that the red ear was straight and true rather than being crooked and bent.

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Just then one of the young men noted Leelinau’s unease as she stood aloof off to the side and, on looking more intently, spied in Leelinau’s hand another red ear she had just plucked, but this one was crooked. At once the word “Wa-ge-min!” rang out from him and the whole gathering gave a loud roar. 

“The thief is in the corn-field!” shouted the young man, whose name was Lagoo and who happened to be a mischievous person well-known in the tribe for his mirthful powers of story-telling. “Beware all! Watch out for the old man stooping as he enters the field. Watch out for the one who crouches as he creeps in the dark. Is it not plain enough by this mark on the stalk that he was heavily bent in his back? Old man, be nimble or someone will take thee while thou art taking the ear.” Lagoo continued in his exaggerated tones, accompanying his words with the mimicked action of one bowed with age stealthily entering the corn-field.  “See how he stoops as he breaks off the ear. Nushka! He seems for a moment to tremble. Walker, be nimble! Hooh! It is plain the old man is the thief.”  He turned abruptly and, facing Leelinau as she sat in the circle, pensively regarding the crooked ear which she held in her hand, and then loudly screeched, “Leelinau, the old man is thine!”

Rounds of laughter rung merrily through the corn-field, but Leelinau, casting the crooked ear of maize down upon the ground, simply walked away without a word.

The subsequent morning at dawn the eldest son of a neighboring chief called at her father’s lodge. He was quite advanced in years; but he enjoyed such renown for his aptitude, dexterity and courage in battle, to say nothing of his expertise in the hunt, that Leelinau’s parents accepted him at once as a suitor for their daughter.  They also held the firm belief that it must have been the chief’s son whom Lagoo had pictured as the corn-taker.  Their decision was also based on the dire hope that he, with his proficiency as a warrior, would perhaps win back the affections and thoughts of Leelinau from the harmful phantoms in the spirit-land.

Leelinau did not express any objections to his age or give any other plausible reason; she  simply shook her head in the negative, clearly rejecting his proposal. Her parents spent the night arguing the point between them. By the following day, with their mind set, ascribing the young daughter’s hesitancy to maidenly fear, they went ahead anyway and fixed the date for the upcoming nuptials.

Knowing her daughter’s whims better, Leelinau’s mother harbored a secret worry that she kept from her husband. She chose to busy herself for the next couple of days with the customary preparations, refusing to deal with the nagging question that haunted her peace: The marriage-visit to their lodge, when the old warrior would present himself at the door was arranged and the day was fast approaching.  What if Leelinau refused to admit him? She’d already definitely informed her parents that she would never acquiesce to this match. Would she relent?

They had no way of knowing of course that in her heart of hearts Leelinau had already avowed fidelity to another. 

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When she was much younger she had confessed to her mother some, but not all, the details. The fancies that filled her young mind during all those absentee hours spent under that broad-topped young pine whose leaves whispered in the gentle murmur of the air in the evening hours when the twilight steals by with night on its heels.

12

During one of those times while reclining pensively against the young pine-tree, she’d fancied that she had heard a voice addressing her. At first it had been scarcely more than a sigh, but gradually it had grown more pronounced: 

“Sweet maiden,” Said the melodious whisper. “Pray think of me not just a tree; but as one who is fond to be with thee; I, with my tall and blooming strength, with my bright green nodding plume that wave above thee. Thou art leaning on my breast, Leelinau; lean forever there and be at peace. Fly from men who are false and cruel, and quit the tumult of their dusty strife and instead embrace this quiet, lonely shade. Over thee my arms I will always spread, sturdier than the lodge’s roof. I will breathe a perfume like that of flowers over thy happy evening rest. In my bark canoe I’ll waft thee o’er the waters of the sky-blue lake. I will deck the folds of thy mantle with the sun’s last rays. Come, and on the mountain free rove in bright Fairy with me!”

13

These riveting, enchanting words were drunk in with an eager ear by Leelinau and in time the tiny buds of love in her heart transformed into full blossoms.

14

Her mind made up, she’d sworn then and there to forsake all other. Returning to the spot time after time, she’d listen with intent to hear more but the voice became only an inaudible murmur and then it had ceased altogether. Even so, she felt such solitude and peace there. Meanwhile in her heart the hope persisted and flourished with a sure conviction that one day, one day, it will be so.

15

On the eve of the day that was fixed for her marriage, Leelinau donned her best garments. She arranged her hair according to the tradition of her tribe, and wore all her maiden ornaments in beautiful array.  With a smile, she then came forth and presented herself to her parents.

“I am sorry to have caused you so much worry,” She said, “It is time for me to now to take my leave of you. My place is with the chieftain of the Green Plume, who is waiting for me at the Spirit Grove.”

Her face was radiant with joy, and the parents, taking what she had said as her own fanciful way of expressing acquiescence in their plans, and of her intention to have a clandestine meeting with her intended suitor, wished her good fortune in their happy meeting.

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“I leave you with some trepidation in my heart,” she continued, addressing her mother as they left the lodge, “Joyful as this event is, my heart is beset with sadness for I am going from one who has loved and nurtured me since my infancy; one who has guarded my youth; who has given me medicine when I was sick, and taught me to cook and sew.” Turning to take one last teary eyed look at the lodge, she added. “I am going from a father who has ranged the forest to procure the choicest skins for my dresses, and kept his lodge supplied with food and warmth. He kept us all safe from all danger.  I am going from a lodge which has been my shelter from the harsh storms of winter, and my shield from the heat of summer. My gratitude is boundless for all that you’ve both done for me. But now I must leave you. Farewell, my beloved mother, my respected father, farewell!”

17

So saying, she sped faster than any could follow to the margin of the fairy wood, and in a moment she was lost to sight.

As she had often thus taken her leave of the lodge with such sentimental and solicitous words, her parents opted not to worry but instead confidently awaited her safe return. Time passed.  Hour followed yet another hour, as the clouds of evening rolled up in the west; darkness came on, but no daughter returned. 

18

They jumped from their seat at a loud knock on the door and rushed to open it. But instead of Leelinau, they came face to face with the forlorn and decidedly angry face of the bridegroom who demanded an explanation for this insult. Soon, armed with torches, they hastened to the wood in search of Leelinau. Although they lit up every dark recess and probed each leafy gloom, their search was in vain. Leelinau was nowhere to be seen. In lamentation they called her name, but she answered not.

19

Many suns rose and set, but nevermore in their light did the bereaved parent’s eyes behold the lost form of their beloved child. Soon they had to come to grips with a harsh reality: their beloved daughter was lost to them forever. Wherever she had vanished, it was to a place no mortal eyes could see and no mortal tongue could tell.

20

Some years later however, it chanced that a company of fishermen, who were spearing fish in the lake near the Spirit Grove, saw an apparition. Back in the village they excitedly descried their encounter as they sat by the fire under the moonlight night; how they had spotted, only for an instant, an enchantingly beautiful apparition resembling a female figure clad in flowing, flowery garments standing on the shore. As the afternoon was mild and the waters calm, they had cautiously pulled their canoe in toward the bank, but the slight ripple of their oars invoked alarm. The phantom beauty had fled in haste, but not before they recognized in the shape and dress as she ascended the bank, the lost daughter, and they saw further her most handsome fairy-lover, green plumes waving over his forehead as he glided lightly through the forest of young pines.

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The End.

 

Portrait of a Stingy Squire

Portrait of a Stingy Squire

01

 

There was once a wealthy landowner named Daner, who acquired his wealth through illicit means, such as manipulation, extortion and loans with unreasonable interest rates advanced to fallen gentry.

As he amassed incredible riches, he then set himself up in a lofty mansion in the country and proceeded to surrounded himself with all the trappings of the rich.

02

As all his former opulent lineage had done he wished to have his portrait painted and hung over the fireplace in his great reception hall, so as to invoke awe from every invited guest.

03

A renowned Artist was subsequently approached and a portrait was commissioned.  As rich as he was however, Daner plied the artist with wine then argued the price relentlessly in the end forcing the artist to accept a paltry sum for the portrait.

The Artist returned home with a severe hangover and fell into a troubled sleep. Upon waking the following morning and recalling the last night’s events he was infuriated beyond measure. Unfortunately he could not invalidate or revoke the iron clad agreement. Looking at the paltry sum he ground his teeth and then burst into laughter.

04

On the subsequent day the artist showed up as arranged to paint the portrait of the miserly landowner. His assistant carried all the supplies and set it up for him. Squire Daner took up his lofty pose standing by an impressive fireplace with an impressive wall library.

These were the books Daner had acquired over time through many auctions of the gentry he’d ruined; rare books he’d not read a single page of. The artist made the necessary sketches and returned to his studio to complete the work.

05

Squire Daner was called to the artist studio several days later, to take possession of the completed work.

Grinning from ear to ear, Daner sized up the covered huge canvas then, in eager anticipation, asked the artist to uncover the masterpiece.

The artist did as he was asked.

But what’s this?

There, standing before Daner, in uncanny detail, was a life-size rendition of his back facing an open window with light streaming into his impressive library.

06

“What’s the meaning of this?” He barked at the artist.   “A portrait should show a person’s countenance. Why have you drawn the back of my figure? This will not do, no sir, it won’t do: I want my money back!”

“Here’s your paltry sum. “ The artist plumped the few coins into palm of Daner. “My advice to a person as stingy as you, sir, is not to show your face to others. Now I shall ask you to leave these premises as I have other pressing appointments elsewhere.”

He’d expected the miserly landowner to storm out of there with a huff and with curses on his lips, but he did neither. Instead with a grim face he pondered on the few coins in his palm then on the portrait weighing out the bargain.

In the end he said, “No sir, a deal has been struck. I shall take the painting.” as he pompously dropped the coins onto the table.

His servant carried the canvas out and it is said it hung in Squire Daner’s private sturdy where only a few were privy to view.

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The end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Blue Hoax – The Willow Legend

The Blue Hoax – The Willow Legend

01

Most of us have grown up with treasured memories of eating at grandma’s house on plates with a blue willow design. They were special ware, an heirloom set treasured by our beloved grandmas. And many of us share similar memories of grandma and grandpa seated by the fire after a sumptuous meal, relating the romantic tale of the design on the dishes, the story of “Blue Willow “, to an eager audience of grandchildren.

02

 Incidentally, the Willow refers to the pattern. The design is applied via transfer or a stamp. The background color is always white, while the foreground color is most often blue but can also be pink, green or brown depending on the preference of the maker.   Its appeal is unremitting.

03

Blue and white pottery, collectibles, figurines and tableware were all the rage in England and Europe in the 1700s and 1800s. And it was only a matter of time before someone would take full advantage of this fashionable Chinese trend to further the sale of domestic wares.  

Having created this blue white chinaware in England, they needed a promotional story and fabricated one to resemble a Chinese legend.  Now that’s where this harmless hoax comes in.  It so happens that a very popular tale of “Blue Willow” depicted on porcelain was created in England around 1790 by Thomas Minton. Other references give alternative origins, such as Thomas Turner of Caughley porcelain, with a design date of 1780.

04

The popularity of the willow pattern from 18th century England, with its everlasting appeal, has led to its continual production for well over 200 yrs. 

Many find the romantic story of the blue willow particularly appealing and that is why it comes as no surprise to anyone to find new productions of this pattern that are now dishwasher and microwave safe, manufactured in many countries including, ironically, China.

05

The various stories are all based on the elements of the design but the most famous romantic version of this English fable went something like this:

 

The Willow Legend

(My version)

Long, long ago in ancient China, there lived a very wealthy mandarin. He had a beautiful daughter named Koong-se.  The mandarin had in his employ a secretary named Chang. While Chang was attending to his master’s accounts one day a chance encounter with the beautiful maiden Koong-se caused him to fall deeply and hopelessly in love with her. As he was most handsome and charismatic she also had fallen in love with him after this brief encounter.

06

Unable to keep away; the following day at dusk they met clandestinely in a magnificent garden with rare and exotic fruit trees and professed their love for each other and exchanged vows of fidelity beneath a large Willow tree.  Unfortunately this breach of conduct came to the attention of the Mandarin who was greatly incensed and dismissed the young man at once, banishing him from the state, for he regarded the secretary most unworthy of his high born daughter.  In an angry reprimand the Mandarin then virtually imprisoned her in her private quarters and had her activities continually monitored to make sure his orders were carried out.

07

Koong-se spent the following days engulfed in a miasma of hopelessness, as she remained imprisoned in the pavilion.  She watched the construction of a high zig-zag fence that was to ensure the lovers remain apart in dismay. After a time, because of health concerns the restrictions on Koong-se were gradually eased and she was permitted a leisurely walk in the gardens and by the water’s edge. The love struck maiden however, could not forget the handsome young man she’d fallen in love with and, with longing heart, her thoughts often reverted to the happier times they both had shared. Sometimes she would sit beneath the Willow tree that had once been a place of joy and quietly weep.  Months went by but Koong-se still longed to see her handsome, young Chang.

08

Then one day her eyes caught sight of a shell fitted with sails containing a poem, and a bead which Koong-se had given to Chang. It had floated to the water’s edge.  Koong-se’s heart jumped for joy as new hope sprung anew, for she knew then that her lover had not forsaken her.

Her elation was short lived and joy turned to consternation when that evening she was summoned by her father where she learned of her betrothal to Ta-Jin, a very powerful, warrior Duke. Worse still, the Duke Ta-Jin was many years her senior and was renowned for his malice. Her heart sank in despair when it was announced to her that her future husband would be arriving in a few days time, bearing gifts of jewels to celebrate their betrothal. The wedding was to take place on the day the blossoms fell from the willow tree.

09

Then came the dreaded day when the Duke arrived by boat with all pomp and ceremony to claim his young, beautiful bride, bearing box of jewels as a gift.

On the eve of Koong-se’s wedding to the Duke, when all grew sleepy with the wine in their cups, Chang, disguised as a servant, slipped into the house unnoticed. At the banquet the Mandarin, the Duke and the quests, totally inebriated, failed to take any notice of the disguised Chang, who easily passed through to the interior garden. 

Earlier, Chang had sent a message to Koong-se via her personal maid, in order to arrange a clandestine meeting by the Willow tree.  Koong-se therefore had also fled through the hushed rooms, carrying the casket of jewels. Now in the inner gardens, as Chang drew near, he saw his beautiful Koong-se sitting beneath the tree.  Chang rushed to embrace her. They were so much in love that no words needed to be spoken out loud: they would brave all dangers, not wanting to face the future apart. They would elope and get married or die trying. 

10

The Mandarin, the Duke, and the invited guests even some of the servants had consumed so much wine that the couple almost made it through to safety. But unfortunately, just as they reached the outer gate the Mandarin awoke saw his daughter and Chang fleeing with the jewels and in a drunken rage pursued them with his whip in hand across the little bridge that spanned the river.  

Koong-se was carrying her distaff, a symbol of virginity while Chang was entrusted with the jewels. The couple raced across the bridge to an awaiting boat and sailed away.  The alarm was raised; and it took the lovers and their helpers a harrowing effort to eventually outrun the Duke’s ship.  Chang, Koong-se and her personal maid, who’d been dismissed for conspiring with the lovers but who had snuck back in to aid her in her escape, took refuge on a far off island. The mandarin official of this small island hated the Duke and so welcomed the lovers with the maid into his home. He was willing to harbour the refugees for however long was necessary until the danger abated. After a private ceremony with the Mandarin’s blessings, the lovers officially became husband and wife.   For a period of time Chang lived happily as the Mandarin’s gardener with his wife and the maid.  When the Duke discovered their whereabouts however, Chang and Koong-se was forced to flee once again.

11

They poled a tiny boat down the Yang-Tze until they came to a remote small island. Here, they thought they would be out of harm’s way. Selling the reminder of the jewels, they purchased this island and built a lovely pavilion on it. Chang tilled the land until it blossomed with every kind of fruit and vegetable. So successful were his agricultural ventures, Chang wrote a book about how to cultivate the land and published it under an assumed name. Over time Chang became renowned for his brilliant work and this, unfortunately, came to the attention of the vindictive Duke Ta-Jin.  Guessing who the author was and still hungry for vengeance, he immediately dispatched armed guards to the island to capture and kill the lovers.

12

Ta-Jin’s soldiers came upon Chang as he was working his fields and slew him. Koong-se, who had watched the entire scene from afar, rushed into their pavilion and set it afire, determined to be with Chang in death as she had been in life. Thus they both perished. The Gods looking down on the tragedy could not help but be moved by Chang and Koong-se’s plight and their undying love and devotion to the end.  And so they transformed Chang and Koong-se into two beautiful white doves.  These immortal lovebirds can still be seen today flying high above the Willow Tree where Koong-se and Chang first pledged their love for one another.

13

(Note: This is, in all probability, a later addition to the tale since the birds do not appear on the earliest willow pattern plates. Nevertheless, the story lives on forever through the Willow-pattern plate and now has come home to roost as China has joined the fray and are producing  plates with same design. )

The End.

14

 

………………

And here are two poems written about the Blue Willow subject:

The Willow Pattern

by B. L. Bowers

Whilst we sit around the table,

Please allow me to relate,

The entrancing ancient fable

Of “The Willow Pattern Plate.”

 

Every picture tells a story,

Like the Willow Pattern Plate,

Where two lovers dwelt in glory,

And defied paternal hate.

 

By elopement from the castle

You observe upon the ridge,

Where the violent old rascal

Chases them across the bridge.

 

Tries to catch the rogue and whip him,

‘Ere he steals the daughter fair;

But the loving pair outstrip him,

Let him languish in despair.

 

Thrown upon their own resources,

In a junk they emigrate,

To a splendid little oasis,

Near the margin of the plate.

 

Dwell in peace, whilst unmolested,

In most perfect harmony;

Till at length they are arrested,

by his Nibs’ gendarmerie.

 

Then the tyrant lord appeals to

Law and lucre, with their pow’r;

Caught, confined, they have their meals too,

In that horrid little tow’r.

 

When the pair are executed,

To appease their lord irate,

To a pair of doves transmuted,

Still they fly upon the plate.

 

Every picture tells a story,

Like the Willow Pattern blue,

And true love will reign in glory,

To infinity! Adieu

 

15

The old poem:

(Unknown source)

Two birds flying high,

A Chinese vessel, sailing by.

A bridge with three men, sometimes four,

A willow tree, hanging o’er.

A Chinese temple, there it stands,

Built upon the river sands.

An apple tree, with apples on,

A crooked fence to end my song.

 

16

Have a good Day.