Oral Literature: The colours of hope

On the heights of a remote village at the bottom of a valley lived a melancholic girl who had not known her parents, who had died at her birth. Unaware, however, of their end, and thinking of them on the road, she kept hoping that one day she would meet them.

In her illusion, the girl shone with grace like a fairy. She ran through the wild meadows, as free as a sea wave. And the wind, blowing through the branches of the trees and bushes, made her long-braided hair sway.

Far away, an emerald green landscape glowed placidly under the scorching sun. The grave moan of the savannah rose like a last breath of life, a last hope.

Evening came, beautiful and silent, the shadows of the trees vibrated in the moonlight like human beings. Thinking back to her loneliness and to her parents, the tender, sensitive girl wistfully contemplated the sky flooded with falling stars. And because she believed the words of adults, when she returned home to her aunt, her guardian, she wanted to know where all those stars were going.

“The stars, – the woman answered her -, are the souls of our dead. And those wandering in space are the spirits of our loved ones long since departed on their journey.”

So, the young girl, in order to find her loved ones, was convinced that she had to follow the stars to their resting place.

That very evening, her gaze full of promise, she gazed intently into the firmament. In the moonlight, she saw bats flying. And at times, in the distance, she perceived the mirage of a city she imagined to be that of her parents. All was calm and the cloudless sky bestowed serenity.

Every night, from the window of her small room, the girl contemplated the constellations. As she gazed in wonder at the stars, she thought that in them, as the old people used to say, were really the souls of the absent. “I wish I were a star too! Then I would travel alongside my parents” she told herself.

So, it was that the need to know the truth grew in her. And one night, gazing at the countless falling stars in the sky, the girl felt her heart swell. She absolutely had to follow them. But as the stars faded away at dawn, she burst into sobs.

A long sorrow. She felt abandoned to herself and suffered from loneliness. She did not stop thinking about her departed loved ones, she longed for the day when she could hold them and snuggle up in their arms. Every time she looked at the stars, she felt a strong desire to travel to the country where, according to legend, the shooting stars went.

That idea became a true obsession. Meanwhile, her days were laden with work. With her neighbours, she helped her aunt hoe the fields, sow the seeds and harvest the ripe fruit, always patient and hoping for a miracle.

Until once, tired of waiting, the girl decided to follow her instincts.  She left the house and walked towards the place where her heart yearned to realise her great dream. Some birds sang in the sweetness of the twilight.

Others, on their way back to the nest, were wedging between the foliage. The trees darkened progressively in shadows. The last rays of the sun, imprisoned in the clouds, gilded the landscape on the horizon. All the beautiful colours of the sunset were concentrated in the girl’s gaze.

It was a strange evening. In the sky strewn with twinkling stars, some stars seemed to fall to earth like meteorites. Spotting one heading towards the sea, the girl thought to join it. And so, hoping soon to have the answer to her riddle and to arrive quickly at her parents’ house, she let herself be guided by the star that bounced from wave to wave on the agitated sea and headed towards the secret place where, one after the other, all the falling stars came together.

The magic of that unknown world astonished her. But unfortunately, it brought no answer to her question. So, she cried out: “O star, my beautiful star! Will you take me to the village where my mother and father live? I would be so happy to meet them.”

Suddenly, the star clutched the girl’s chest and carried her across the sky to the place where everyone lived, waiting to meet their loved ones. They arrived in a village inhabited by strange people, intrigued by the sky and its mysteries.

Lost in the middle of a confused, chattering, noisy crowd, gathered to contemplate the firmament, where the shooting star had disappeared, the girl looked in vain for the figure of her dear mother. But all was but illusion. Her heart took fright. Tremors invaded her body. She cried out to passers-by, hoping that the echo of her desperate voice would reach the ear of a valiant being.

A smell of rotting leaves floated in the air. Torches lit in the deepest darkness illuminated the paths. Stubbornly, the girl wandered through the palm trees in search of the stars that had fallen into the grass.

Suddenly, in the distance, she saw another beautiful star land. And thinking she recognised in it her missing mother, she hastened to join her on the deserted shore of the sea.

Advancing on that trail, the little girl was seized by a terrible anguish. Her body shuddered. She cried out for her mother, but only the echo of her own voice returned.

Her soul wounded, the girl was still crying desperately when her mother appeared to her. Still crying, moaning, the little girl was moved. And the mother, majestic and tender, surrounded her with all her affection: it was the first time her heart throbbed with love for her creature.

The woman, slim and upright, was wrapped in a golden pagne knotted on her chest; her head encircled by a golden crown adorned with rubies, emeralds and diamonds, and surmounted by a crystal flower. She sat down beside her daughter on the fine sand of the beach and held her in her arms. The father, also sweet and tender, approached. The little girl’s heart began to beat fast. He was the man of her dreams. Thrilled, all three remained together until the girl, reassured, fell asleep.

But when she awoke to that newfound serenity, her parents were no longer there. The girl stared at the horizon. And reaching out her arms towards the distant void with the colours of hope, she saw the star of happiness twinkling.

She thought then that her life was a miracle, for with the power of the love she devoted to her parents, they could appear to her in dreams in moments of despair, and in absolute secrecy.

She never spoke to anyone about those visits. She felt happy and enjoyed the profound sensation of being able to live an eternity of stillness and absolute peace. Now he knew why the elders said that the stars are the souls of our departed ones.

(Photo: 123rf.com) – (Folktale from DR Congo)