Guardian of the Fire – Prehistoric Tales

We are immensely glad to announce that 2015 will bring about the latest version of Storymaking Sessions by Tell-Tale What? This time, time itself will be the axis of symmetry. Prehistory, Medieval times and Present-day tales will be the topic of the three sessions arranged for January, February and April, respectively, at Ignacio Aldecoa Culture Centre, in Vitoria-Gasteiz. The following short story has been created with this purpose, serving as brainstorming for children of about 7-10 years old during the Prehistoric Session. Hope you enjoy it!

prehistoria taller ingles 011

We used a “cave painting” as the graphic support for the story. (Image: Ignacio Aldekoa Kultur Etxea)

 

 

GUARDIAN OF THE FIRE

(Click here to download the PDF file: Guardian of the Fire)

Long, long ago, when the streets were rivers and today’s hills were still under the sea, the moon and the sun were ever so bright and the stars were the ancient peoples’ only guide in the night.

Mammoth_hunt

We learnt how to survive. We tamed the fire, it became our dearest pet. We worshipped its power: the power to light the darkness, the power to melt the ice, the power to destroy. It was a question of measure; we pictured relativity. In every clan a Guardian of the Fire was appointed. In our clan it was generally a young hunter, helped out by his whole direct family, especially the women, who would look after the fire when the hunter left in a mission with the rest of the men in the clan. Much before I became a hunter myself, my brother Nack was appointed Guardian of the Fire. It was a honour to us all. It affected all our family directly since our place at the cave changed from quite-at-the-entrance to right-next-to-the-fire. And, believe me, this was an outstanding promotion. We had been preparing for winter since the previous spring, that’s what we always did, but this had been a very hard autumn indeed through which we had to use some of our winter storage. We still needed to gather more dry wood, more fruit and especially more dried meat in order not to perish during the glacial winter. The hunters crew arranged for the last Mammoth hunt of the season, hoping to bring back enough supplies for until the thaw. Children under ten, pregnant and nursing women stayed at the camp. My mother and my elder sister, Man-we, were now in charge of keeping the fire alive. Man-we was the next Medicine-woman, she could see things the rest of us couldn’t. Life with the women was very comfortable for the elder boys, we were now looked up as the only male help available. We would gather light wood for keeping the fire bright and we were in charge of hunting small animals for everyday consumption. In exchange we got larger food servings and a better resting place next to the big fire. During the long nights inside the cave, we would dare one another in amateur fight sessions  while the smallest kids watched in awe and copied our movements. Days went by one at a time, we kept our healthy fire day and night. A big fire helps fighting the bad spirits away. We believe that as long as there’s a flame burning, children won’t get sick and women will have strong babies. …But early at dawn one morning, I opened my eyes to see my mother rushing around the fire. Something was not well. I crept next to her and stared at the flames. The blazes had a greenish colour, and they moved frantically, casting strange shadows in the walls of the cave. Suddenly, Man-we gave a short cry. She was covering her mouth with her hands, her eyes fixed on the wall. She started speaking in the ancient tongue of the Northeners. As my mother listened, her hands twisted on her lap. I saw fear in her eyes. I watched the flames dance rhythmically and my body started moving involuntarily. All at once, the fire dwindled, my mother passed out and my sister slapped me so I stopped shaking. The fire was dying. Only the embers could be seen at the bottom of the hearth. They were agonizing red. All the women were blowing with all their might trying to set fire to the thin sticks they had carried to the bonfire. They looked desperate. The babies were crying left aside on the floor of the cave; cold was crawling over us all. I approached my mother and covered her with some furs. She was talking in her sleep. I touched her brow, and she opened her eyes. “It’s your brother”, she said. “He’s dying”. And all of a sudden I understood the meaning of the shadows I had seen before. “The guardian of the fire must not die” Man-we said to all; and she gestured so all the people in the cave made a circle around the agonizing bonfire. The women started chanting an old rhyme accompanied by the stamping of their feet on the ground; the embers seemed to beat like a heart to the rhythmic pounding. The vision was mesmerizing. I started feeling dizzy, feeling attracted to the centre of the hearth. I saw the stones around the fire come closer and closer, there was a thud, my head against the stones, and everything was still. When I recovered my senses there was blood in my head and my hands. There was a bright fire on the hearth and the women were singing a different tune. Man-we came to me with a mortar and some herbs. She painted my brow and my cheekbones while she whispered a sacred prayer. “Your blood has saved our brother. He will be back soon. But he has lost all his powers in the fight. “The fire has chosen you to be its soul”, and now to everyone, “All hail the new Guardian of the Fire!”

Luciana Serra

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