THE PIAI’S DAUGHTER- from an Ancient Amerindian Myth

THE PIAI’S DAUGHTER

(Adapted from an Ancient Amerindian Myth)

by Peter Halder

 

Aleda

    Aleda was an Amerindian maiden. She was the daughter of Aban, a Piai or Medicine Man. The two lived in a troolie palm thatched home in the dense tropical rainforest.

The beautiful girl kept house and did all the cooking and cleaning. Her father was proud of her. He once told her, “My wonderful daughter Aleda, one day you will make a handsome young man a wonderful wife, He will be proud of you and I pray you two will be very happy.”

One day, Aleda was walking to a nearby creek to fetch water when she heard dogs barking. Holding a large earthen water goblet very tightly, she quickly ran behind a wide oak tree and hid from the trail.  

The barking grew louder and louder and there soon appeared four dogs, each with a long, straw rope leash around its neck. The leashes were held by a handsome young man. As he came into view, Aleda could not help but admire him. He was tall with broad shoulders, thick black hair and an enchanting face. She had never seen a young man before. In fact, she had never seen a man except for her father. She was overwhelmed by the sight of the young man. She felt like calling out to him but resisted the temptation. Her father, who knew the forest very well, had warned her to be careful of anyone in the forest since Bush Spirits abounded and often appeared in human form.

On her return home, she cooked dinner. She and her father were eating when she mentioned to him what she saw. The Piai smiled. What does not happen in years can happen in a second, he thought.

“Tell me all you can remember about the young man you saw?”

Aleda told him. The old man looked at her face and into her eyes as she spoke. He could tell she had fallen in love. Ah, he thought, the heart of a young maiden is so easily conquered by the sight of a handsome young man and I hope that fate will prevail for her.

The next few days, at exactly the time when she first saw the young man, the maiden walked to the creek to fetch water. The third time. she heard the dogs barking and her heart leaped. She eagerly looked from behind the same tree to catch a glimpse of the young hunter. She gasped for breath when he came in sight. That night she told herself she could not live without being with him. But how can that come about if I do not know who he is, if he is already married, and since I have never spoken to him and am afraid to do so.

The Piai saw how worried and distressed his daughter was. He asked her what bothered her but knew what her answer would be.

“I am madly in love with the young hunter and I want to be with him now and all my life.”

“Do you have any idea as to how you can do that if you and him have never met, and you don’t even know his name or anything about him?”

“My dear father, you are a Piai, you can find out.”

“Okay my only child, I will.”

 

The Vision

    The Piai waited until his daughter had gone to bed to find out what they both wanted to know about the young hunter. He walked outside to a part of the forest where he knew a friendly Bush Spirit lived in a tall greenheart tree. It was a bright moonlight night so he had no problem finding his way.

He heard a frog croaking. He walked quietly to where the sound came from. He easily caught the frog and tied it with a vine from a tree. He took it to a clearing in front of the greenheart tree. He went back into the forest a saw a shrub with a single black flower that glowed in the moonlight. He plucked it. He picked some leaves from a nearby eucalyptus tree and returned with them and the flower to the clearing. There he gathered some dry twigs, lit a fire and placed the live frog, the flower and the eucalyptus leaves, in it. A thick white cloud rose from over the fire and an overpowering odour filled the area. The Piai called to the Bush Spirit in the tree to appear in the cloud and tell him all he wanted to know about the young hunter his daughter met. A black shadow appeared in cloud. The Piai asked it questions and the shadow replied with signs. The Piai was deliriously happy with the answers.

 

Kito

    The Piai returned home and in the morning told his daughter that the young man’s name was Kito. He was unmarried, a great hunter, strong and honest. He would make a great husband.

“But how can that happen when we never met and I don’t know how to approach a man much less make him fall in love with me.”

“Don’t worry your head with such a matter. Your father is not a Piai for nothing. I know exactly what to do.” He told her. She smiled with glee. It was so easy.

 

Aleda The Dog

    Each day, the Piai and his daughter walked to the creek hoping to hear the sound of dogs barking. Fortune favoured them one day. They followed the young man and his dogs to the hut where he lived. The Piai took a magic skin from over his shoulder and told Aleda to get on her hands and knees. She did. He placed the magic skin over her and she turned into a black dog similar to the four dogs of the hunter. He quickly walked to where the dogs were and untied one. He beckoned to Aleda the dog to take its place. He placed the leash around her neck. He kissed her nose and left, taking the dog which Aleda replaced.

The next time Kito went hunting, he took his four dogs with him. Aleda, with her human knowledge, easily escaped and returned to Kito’s home. There, she took off the magic skin, became human again, cleaned and tidied home and cooked dinner. When she was finished, she put on the magic skin, turned into Aleda the dog and sat at the doorway, her leash around her neck.

The kind hearted Kito was not angry with the dog leaving the pack. He sensed that it was not keen on seeing a bird or animal killed, the blood and skinning. In any case, three were enough for his hunting.

Imagine his shock and joy when he entered his home, saw how neat and tidy it was and dinner all cooked. “Life is just great,” he said aloud.

The next morning, he went around to his neighbours to thank them for their kind assistance. Each denied having anything to do with it. Why complain, he told himself, be thankful for all mercies, great or small.

 

The Secret

    The next time, Kito decided to leave the dog at home and went hunting with the other three. The same thing happened again. What is more, he told himself, the food is so tasty I only wish it could be every day instead of only when I go hunting.

One night, a thought came to Kito while he lay on a straw mat on the floor. The miracle at home happens when I am away hunting so the next time, I shall return home quickly and catch whoever it is in the act.

And so two weeks later he went hunting with his three dogs. He walked for about an hour, tied the dogs to a tree and returned quickly home. The fourth dog was not outside the doorway where he had tied it. He walked silently through the doorway and saw a very beautiful girl cooking. He said nothing, he got on his stomach, crawled around and looked her over. I have never seen such beauty in all my life, she is not only beautiful but a good cook and housekeeper as well and since I have fallen in love with her, I must make her my wife, he told himself. He then espied the skin of the dog stretched out on the floor. It had to be a magic skin which she can put on and take off as she wishes, he said to himself. No wonder the dog refused to hunt with him. An idea came to him: destroy the skin and she would remain as she is and become my wife. So said so done.

The young man jumped to his feet, snatched up the skin and threw it into the fire. He ran to Aleda, grabbed her, confessed his love for her and asked her to marry him.

The pair, hand in hand walked to Aleda’s home. Kito met her father and asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The Piai readily consented.

END

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Comments

  • compton de castro  On September 27, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    Nice read with happy ending….
    Story telling should be documented in book form for reading
    in primary schools….if not already done so suggest you do
    So Peter ….guyanese stories about guyanese life and culture.

    Not some ‘alien’ culture taught especially in primary education.
    Later students will decide if they wish to study foreign cultural
    readings etc
    My spin

  • Eileen Russell  On September 28, 2014 at 12:39 am

    I enjoy reading all of your stories…I find myself transported to places as they are mentioned…thanks for moments of excitement, wonder and mystery as I read… I think I am truly blessed to be able to partake of your written work…keep writing I will keep reading…

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