An Arrow in the Throat

Once upon a time there was a man and a woman who hoped to have a baby boy but got a girl instead.  As she grew older, she didn’t seem to care enough about anything.  Her parents tried to make her learn how to be a seamstress but she was too lazy to be good at it.  All she wanted to do was go for long walks in the woods and over the hills.  She was always running away when she was supposed to be working.  And the village took the side of her parents and said the girl was useless.  They gave up trying to find her in the woods and just let her roam.  And when she returned they told her to eat the scraps from the garbage heap.  

This made the girl even sadder for she could not resist the urge to run away from any work her parents or the village wanted her to do.  Even when an old woman asked her to help carry some sacks of grain, she’d eventually drop it and run for the woods.  The girl became like a ghost to them.  People stopped talking to her or noticing when she was around.  This hurt her feelings even more because next to wandering in the woods, she loved talking about walking in the woods and now nobody listened to her.  

Then one day whilst walking in the woods, she saw a frightful army of invaders creeping toward the village.  So she climbed to the top of a hill overlooking the village and screamed louder than her little body ever did.  So loud it shook the needles off some trees.  So loud it made the old lady drop her sack of grain.  So loud her parents ran out of the hut as if the village were on fire.  So loud everyone in the village looked up and saw her wildly pointing down the hill where they saw dark shadows moving amongst the trees.  

Her warning gave the villagers enough time to gather their tools and weapons and fight the invaders until they killed most and captured the rest.  Then it dawned on them that if the useless girl hadn’t screamed they might all be dead.  They looked amongst them and she was not to be seen.  They searched the woods and climbed the hill and found her with an arrow stuck through her throat.  Her fragile body pinned against a tree.  Her little purple tongue dangled out the side of her mouth as if it were trying to limp away to wander in the woods.

The whole village looked at her face and wept.  They wept for weeks and not just for what the invaders had done but in far greater measure for how they had treated her.  Those who had said the most hurtful things like “she’s just another mouth to feed” and “maybe she should never come back” felt the pain as if they had an arrow in their throats that they had shot into themselves.  From then on, the villagers said, “you’ve got an arrow in your throat” if anyone talked bad about someone else without seeing that person’s bigger purpose or contribution to the entirety of their existence. 

The Lantern with Two Wicks

Once there was a lady who had to travel through a tunnel. At the entrance there was a lantern. An old hermit came out of the woods and told her, in his raspy voice, that she should be careful in that tunnel and take care not to let both wicks in the lantern go out, or else. When she asked what he meant by “or else,” he told her to just go ahead. So she took the lantern with two wicks that he lit for her and it burned so brightly that she easily walked into the tunnel and felt like it was going to be no problem at all until there was a strange breeze that blew one wick out. The tunnel darkened considerably with the flicker of one flame. She walked slower and held the lantern with both hands as steadily as she could. She heard the sound of other footsteps behind her and she turned around so quickly that the other wick went out. In the darkness, her eyes could not adjust as the sound of steps got closer and the last thing she heard in that raspy voice was “I told you so.” She spun around and sprinted as fast her legs would with her arms outstretched. And when she saw the light at the end of the tunnel she could feel his breath on her neck. And his giggling made her scream.

When she got outside the tunnel, she grabbed a branch and beat the old hermit who was out of breath. She beat him like the dog that she thought he was. And when she stopped his appearance changed and she believed him when he whimpered that he was only trying to help but was an old fool in how he went about it. She apologized for beating such an old hermit with the branch and they both laughed about it until the lantern with two wicks lit up in the middle of the tunnel. And a voice was carried by that odd wind but they bothered not to listen for they had already set off running into the woods together.