The Legend of Kalaweke



A new story for a new age, The Legend of Kalaweke is based on the patterns common to myths and legends around the world, but written in modern times. Kalaweke is a traditional heroine whose life blows her off course when she is just a baby. She faces many trials before she can return home.

Kalaweke was born during the Year-of-Many-Hurricanes under the first blue moon, which was in April. Her parents loved her so much that they took her flying around the islands for a Christmas present. Unfortunately Kerfeus, god of the sea, was not yet ready for his angry season to end. He blew up a great storm that pitched the little airplane to and fro. He threw lightning bolts that smashed the tiny plane in two. Kalaweke went flying one way, her parents the other. She would have been lost forever except for the efforts of the dolphin, Turuna, who saw Kalaweke’s tiny form drifting down in the great blue sea.

Turuna carried Kalaweke to a nearby tuft of land, which was known to be inhabited by the Waterfall People. He set the baby down on the beach and made loud cries to alert whomever he could. Suddenly there appeared from behind a waterfall, little people no bigger than a grown man’s foot! A whole village full of curiosity seekers then proceeded down to the beach to see what could be made of this enormous baby. In the end it was decided that Kalaweke should live with a childless old farmer couple because they had the most room, as well as the means with which to feed the behemoth.

Baby Kalaweke was then loaded onto a cart and hauled away by a hundred men up the hill and behind the waterfall, through the village and beyond the woods to the old decrepit farm of the aging childless couple. They built her a room on the side of the house that, even though it seemed very large to them, was in fact no bigger than a doghouse. Kalaweke soon outgrew her lodgings and the old couple, in desperation, tied her up outside.

As Kalaweke grew, the old woman found that she could be of some use. A trip to fill her buckets with water would take the old woman twenty minutes each way, but Kalaweke could simply reach down to the river and fill her bucket with ease. As she got older, the old man also found that Kalaweke was useful. She could till a whole row in the blink of an eye just by dipping her finger into the soil. Soon Kalaweke was doing most of the work around the old run-down farm. The old couple reasoned that this was only because Kalaweke required so much food for herself, and besides, she could do the work much more easily than they could.

During the winter of her sixth year, Kalaweke had become so huge that she had to sleep on the other side of the river, which was really just a little ditch. A drought over the summer had made food scarce that winter. The little old woman whispered to her little old husband, saying that there was not enough food to feed them all. The old man didn’t want to hear any talk of getting rid of Kalaweke, because he had gotten used to his life of ease. But the little old woman persisted.

“What use is she to us if she lives and we starve?” she demanded. In the end the little old man agreed that Kalaweke had to go.

A town meeting was held, and the little old couple explained the situation. The Waterfall People could not decide what to do. Some people wanted to make her work for the town, building roads and carrying timber. Others said she was a bad omen, and that the drought had been Kalaweke’s fault. They wanted to have her carted off and thrown over the cliff while she slept. Still others said she should be sent to the top of Mountain-That-Grumbles, to let the fire god who lived there decide. In the end it was determined that the mayor and his wife, whose children were all grown, would take the girl to live with them. The whole town would contribute food to supply the girl’s giant appetite, and her labors would be used to improve the town.

Kalaweke was relieved to hear she would not be leaving the only village she had ever known. She worked very hard for the mayor and the town, and was soon well-liked and respected for her efforts. Indeed, the townspeople liked her so much that they elected Kalaweke as the new mayor. For many years she lived happily in the Land of the Waterfall People, and had many friends and supporters.

Yet as she grew, Kalaweke noticed that people usually lived in pairs. There would always be a woman together with a man, and that was the beginning of a family. She started to feel lonely and wondered what boy would have her, as big as she was. She began to despair of ever meeting one of her own kind. She developed a habit of taking long walks on the other side of the mountain while singing sorrowful songs to herself.

One day as Kalaweke was out walking and gathering berries (for she had long ago learned to provide for herself) a great rumbling noise came down the mountainside. Kalaweke dropped her basket and started running toward the village, but the rumbling noise became a shaking that knocked her down. The shaking then became a quaking and soon the ground itself began to pull apart. A great river of fire appeared between Kalaweke and the village. Try as she might, she could not get back to the land of the Waterfall People.

Kalaweke ran down the mountainside and into an unknown wood. She ran as fast and as far as she could go, for the fiery river was now oozing down the slope. She ran until she found a river and then swam across it. When she reached the other side, she fell into a heap of exhaustion upon its banks.

A wolf mother who lived in the wood had lost her pups to the hard winter. She came down to the river to drink from its icy waters and noticed Kalaweke lying there. She could not bear to see the little thing die, for she had seen too much death already, and was already despairing. She carried the girl back to her den and kept her warm by covering her with her own body. Over the sleeping child the wolf mother sang.

O Wild Woman, O Giver of Life

Bring your medicine that this girl might not die

I have carried her bones to your sacred hearth

Please give her new life and I will give her my heart

Soon Kalaweke awoke to find herself trapped under the carcass of a she-wolf. She had no memory of the old mother’s sacrifice, but sensed she had been given a great gift. She marveled at the act of selfless love that had saved her life. As Kalaweke mourned the death of her animal-mother, its spirit spoke to her, saying, “Take my pelt to keep you safe and warm. Wear it with pride, and bring honor to your wolf mother.”

Kalaweke took the pelt and wrapped it around her small frame. She found strips of nearby tree bark to secure the fur around her waist. She made her way down to the river and drank for some long while. Then she set out walking through the wood, in search of something to eat.

Before long she came upon a narrow path. She followed the path through the woods and out into a clearing. In the center of the clearing was a stone. A plaque affixed to the stone read, “For the Wayward Traveler.” The words puzzled Kalaweke for a moment, until she saw a small rise in the ground behind the stone. She recognized it as a marked food cache, and understood at once that some kind people must have left it here for travelers lost in the wood.

Kalaweke supped in gratitude, and slept for a while in the open air. She awoke to find the clearing bathed in silent moonlight, and was awestruck by the beautiful scene. Myrna, goddess of the moon, turned her face down toward Kalaweke’s unbelieving eyes. The sound of her voice filled Kalaweke’s incredulous ears.

“Little One,” the voice began, “You have been lost these many years to your people. You have traveled to distant kingdoms and bravely faced many hardships. Your journey now brings you to the gates of your homeland and yet still you are lost.”

Kalaweke looked all around her but saw no gates. She gazed back up at the moon goddess, who spoke again. “My brother, the sea god Kerfeus took you from your homeland. I shall restore it to you, for I see now that you are worthy, my daughter.”

Kalaweke looked again, and this time she saw a path bathed in moonlight. As she stared down at the path she noticed that the trees receded to reveal a tall gate that reflected the silver light of the moon. As she moved toward the gate it began to open, and she stepped effortlessly into a city. As she passed through the gates, the moon goddess Myrna turned and rested herself high in the sky.

Kalaweke moved into the streets of the city as dawn broke. Everyone was busy and no one seemed to notice her as she made her way into the center of town. She passed by restaurants, hotels, gas stations, and office buildings. She walked until she came upon a farmer’s market. The fruits and vegetables she recognized, and she found an old farmer who looked kind. Kalaweke explained that she was new in town and in need of work, and that she had much experience planting and harvesting. The old farmer said that he could use some extra help and gave Kalaweke a job.

Kalaweke worked in the fields with a song in her heart, and was richly rewarded for her efforts. The farmer paid his workers well, and they always ate fresh from the gardens they harvested. There were many laborers with whom Kalaweke could share her songs, her stories, and her company.

There was one in particular, a young man about Kalaweke’s age who listened most intently to her stories of travel and adventure and always tried to sit near her at mealtimes. His name was Jholpur, and he was very shy. He often wanted to talk to Kalaweke privately but was afraid he wouldn’t know what to say. One day the two were picking apples together and Jholpur found his tongue. He told Kalaweke that he loved her stories. When she blushed, he told her she was very brave and strong and that he held her in deep admiration for her courage and wisdom. Kalaweke had been long attracted to Jholpur as well and complimented his gentle nature. She told him she admired his hard work and generosity, as he stayed in the fields long after many had gone in, and he always let others eat first.

The two enjoyed a summer romance and were soon preparing to wed. When spring came again the couple were married. With the money they had saved, they bought a little strip of land and raised their own garden. For a while they still worked for the kind old farmer, but soon their own vegetable patch was so productive they only had time enough to tend their own crops. Eventually they had many children and employed many workers, all of whom were part of one big, happy family.


Sheila L James is on Twitter.  Follow her @SheilaLJames


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