This is another of those pieces that “wanted to be written,” rather than me planning it… but this one some years ago. I’ve been meaning to make it a stand-alone children’s book, but I’ll also include it in this collection of lessons in moral education.
This one is suitable for a wide range of ages, presuming that the parent/teacher interprets a few of the terms.
The story was striking and meaningful for me, and I hope it is for others too.
* * * * *
There was once a boy who lived in a valley named Y’portne. No one knew how such a pleasant place had ended up with such a strange name, and the people of the place couldn’t even agree how to pronounce it. So, they simply referred to their place as The Valley.
In The Valley were many people, some good and some not as good, but there were also strange creatures, also with a strange name, called Remahs. These were tall, thin beings who always stood much too close to anyone they approached. They looked nearly transparent and almost insubstantial, but their height and closeness made it seem that they were in danger of falling upon you. Regardless of their seeming lack of weight, this still troubled the boy.
But the Remahs had not always existed with the people of the Valley. In fact, their oldest stories made no mention of them at all.
These old stories said that the people of the Valley were, at one time, like the animals. They told that the great creator would visit the Valley from time to time, and one day decided to insert a golden kernel into one animal, to see what would happen. For his experiment, he chose the animal who, among all the others, had the fewest natural gifts. So, he inserted the golden kernel into the people of the Valley, who had no claws, no fur, and less powerful muscles than the other large beasts. Then, once the kernel was in place, the creator saw that they began to speak.
It was then, the story said, that some of the animals, seeing this difference, began to attack people.
* * * * *
There had once been a great man in the Valley, who had taught that by separating their actions into types, the people could accomplish much more than they could by each person living in isolation.
As soon as the people of the Valley began to follow the advice of the great man, music and buildings and metals and tools and special foods like cheeses came into the world. This was why the man was called the “great one” and no other name for him existed.
But a queer thing happened as these great discoveries came into the Valley: The great man left and the Remahs arrived. It seems reasonable that such important events would be explained by the ancient stories, but they were not.
The new stories, of course, explained everything: The Remahs were given the true teachings of the great one before he left, and he entrusted them with continuing his work. The Remahs lived longer than people did, so this was presumed to be why they were given the true message. In addition to this, the Remahs were so certain that they had the true message, and were so fierce in maintaining this set of truths, that everyone followed their words without question.
There had once, however, been a few people who claimed that they had found the true story of the arrival of the Remahs and the departure of the great one. This story was forbidden, all records of it were burned, and the people who told it were expelled from the Valley, but somehow their story remained, and some of the people whispered about it from time to time.
The story said that the great one was never really that great! Instead, it said that he was merely a good man that had discovered useful things and taught them to his friends.
According to the forbidden story, the Remahs only arrived after music and buildings and metals and tools and cheeses came into the world.
It supposedly happened that the great one went off into the wilderness to be alone, and that when he returned, he was shocked to see the first Remahs. He was even more shocked when he saw that one of the Remahs had altered its appearance, and looked very much like him! And that was not all… this Remah was not only repeating his message of specialization, but was forcing people to follow it.
This horrified the great one; he had never forced anyone to do anything; he had only told them about the better way of living. His friends had chosen it freely – because it worked.
So, the great one went to a high spot in the Valley and began telling the people that they should not obey, but to improve on the ideas he had given them. As he did, however, all the Remahs, and especially the one that looked like him, stood between him and the people, and spoke so loudly that the people could not hear the great one. In fact, the voice of the Remahs was so loud that it hurt the people’s ears.
Every day for three days, the great one tried to talk to the people. And every day, for three days, the Remahs hurt the people’s ears. After the third day, as the great one headed back home, people threw things at him, and yelled at him that he should not make the Remahs hurt their ears anymore.
Then, the great one vanished and was never seen again.
But, everyone in the Valley knew that this was an evil story. Why they felt compelled to whisper about it about once or twice each century was just a mystery.