Martin Auer: The Strange War, Stories for Peace Education

   
 

The Sun and the Moon

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Orignal English version by Martin Auer

Reviewed by Sara Bernal Rutter

The Dreamer
The Blue Boy
Planet of the Carrots
Fear
Fear Again
The Strange People from Planet Hortus
When the Soldiers Came
Two Fighters
Man Against Man
The Great War on Mars
The Sun and the Moon
The Slave
The Farmers who Were Good at Numbers
The Strange War
Arobanai
Star Snake
Traffic Jam
At Your Own Doorstep
The Two Prisoners
Justice
The Bewitched Islands
Money
In the War
The Story of a Good King
Report to the United Solar Systems' Council
Open Words
The Bomb
Foreword
Author's comments
Download (All stories in one printer friendly file)
Guestbook
About the Translator
About the Author
Mail for Martin Auer
Licence
Creative Commons licence agreement

Once there were two villages on the opposite banks of a river. The village on the eastern bank was called Namkha and the one on the western bank Tralang. The river may have had a name as well, but the villagers only called it the River because there was no other river far and wide. Also, there were no other villages far and wide. The river was small, maybe more a stream than a river, and the country was dry. Rain was very rare, and the villagers had to take all the water they needed from the river. They used the water for drinking and cooking and bathing and washing their clothes, but mainly to water their little fields and their sheep and goats. Sometimes during the hot season only a small trickle was left after the river had passed between the two villages.

The people in the two villages spoke the same language but they had different religions.

The people on the western bank worshipped the Sun. They had a small temple with a golden disc in it. Every Sunday at noon they gathered in the temple and thanked the Sun for sending the light that allowed them to see the world and that let the crops grow, and they thanked him for the fire that allowed them to cook their meat and to forge their tools.

The people on the eastern bank worshipped the Moon. They had a small temple with a silver disc in it, and every Monday at midnight they gathered in the temple and thanked the Moon for the coolness of the night that allowed them to sleep and to gather new strength, and for the dew that fell on the fields in the night and watered the wild plants their sheep and goats fed on, and they also thanked her for the rain that fell in the far away mountains and for the river that brought them the water.

The Sun worshippers used to make fun of the Moon worshippers. They called them Sleep Walkers because they held their services at night. Only Mrs. Pema took things more seriously and kept saying: „These poor sinners are walking in utter darkness. We must help them to see the light!“
But most of the others said: „Ah, who cares if they roast in hell. Leave them alone as long as they leave us alone!“

The devotees of the Moon used to smile at the devotees of the Sun. They called them Fire Eaters because they would light fires in honour of the Sun even at the hottest time of the day. Only old Mr. Tashi would rant at them across the river: „Repent, you infidels, or you will burn in your own fire!“ But the others would say: „Calm down, grandad, live and let live. They are acting a little funny but they are not hurting anybody!“

One year the rains must have failed in the mountains. The river carried less and less water. People on both sides of the river became restless. There was not enough water to irrigate the fields. There was not enough water for the sheep and goats. If they could not water their fields they would go hungry next year. If their goats and sheep had no water to drink there would be no milk and no cheese and eventually they would have to slaughter most of them.

Some people asked themselves what might be the reason for the drought. Why yes, the rains must have failed far away in the mountains. But why had they failed?

Mrs. Pema had an explanation: „The Sun is punishing the Sleep Walkers for not believing in him!“

„Hmm“, some people would say, „But why do we have to suffer as well?“

Mrs. Pema had an answer to that too: „The Lord Sun is punishing us for not helping those poor sinners to find the true faith!“

On the other side of the river Mr. Tashi was preaching: „The Moon is angry at us for letting those infidels on the other side insult her with their unholy fires!“

Mr. Tenzin, the mayor, said: „Please, calm down. Times are difficult enough as it is and we don‘t want trouble with our neighbours on top of everything else.“

But young Mr. Dorji, who wanted to be mayor himself, thought: „If there is a fight, I have a chance to be the leader.“ And he shouted: „Yes, our Lady the Moon will hold back the water until we go and fight the infidels!“

And some of the others thought: „Hm, what the old man says could be true after all. Who knows? And young Dorji believes it too. And anyway, if there were fewer of those Fire Eaters there would be more water for us!“ And they joined in the shouting: „Down with the infidels!“

So they decided that next Monday, right after the service, they would cross the river and burn the temple of the Sun, so the infidels could no longer offend Lady Moon.

But before that some of them went and dug their ditches deeper during the night to get more water on their own fields. This was only just, as the Fire Eaters had caused the drought in the first place.

When people on the other side of the river noticed this, they became very angry: „These Sleep Walkers are stealing our water!“ they shouted. And Mrs. Pema said: „Now these poor souls have been completely deranged. It really is time to go and tell them to give up their sinful ways.“

And Mr. Puran shouted: „We must tear down their unholy temple and fill in their ditches with the rubble to teach them a lesson!“

„It is for their own good!“ Mrs. Pema said. „When they see the light the Lord Sun will forgive them and will let the water come back.“

So a time of fighting begann. The villagers attacked each other‘s temples, but if a goat or sheep that belonged to the enemy crossed their path they took it as their rightful prize. They plundered each other‘s granaries in the name of the Lord Sun or the Lady Moon and of course they tried to block each other‘s ditches to take away the water from the sinners, so the true believers would not have to suffer.

As often happens in this kind of story, there was a young man from Tralang who was in love with a girl from Namkha. Even in peaceful times it had been difficult for them to meet, but now they had to be more careful than ever. And when they managed to come together on a moonless night, they were desperate because they could not see a future for their love. „I think they will go on fighting“, the boy said, „until they have killed off half the people on each side. Then the water will be enough for them!“

And the girl said: „And even then they will be enemies forever because they will not forgive each other what they did, and there is no way we could live together.“

But one night the girl, whose name was Jamin, said: „I have thought of something. Did you ever notice: when the water runs through the ditches, a lot of it is lost by evaporation. The sun dries out the ditches before the water reaches the more remote fields.“

„Yes“, said the boy, whose name was Sonam, „that‘s just natural.“

„But what if we let the water run through pipes instead of ditches? Then not so much water would evaporate. You know, when I make soup I put a lid on the pot so the water is not lost!“

„Well that‘s an idea!“ the boy said. „We could make the pipes of burnt clay and make little holes in them so just enough water would trickle out to water the crops.“

So each of them went home and told the elders about this idea. And in both villages the people started making pipes of clay and for the time being they had no time to fight. And when the pipes were installed, it turned out that now there was enough water for everybody. And when Mr. Tashi and Mr. Dorji tried to make their comrades take up the fight again, the men told them: „We must look after our fields. If the Lady Moon wants to punish those infidels she will have to do it herself!“

Mr. Puran on the other side got more or less the same answer. And Mrs. Pema said: „The Lord Sun has patience with the sinners. But he has a long memory, and the day of judgement will come!“

But Jamin and Sonam began to talk to their young friends on each side of the river: „When I was little I heard an old story from my grandmother who is now dead. She said that the Sun and the Moon are actually husband and wife. Sometimes they quarrel, like all married couples do, but still they live in the same house up in the sky and once a month they meet!“

Of course they had made up the story themselves. But their young friends who had enough of the fighting liked the story and did not question it much. And when Sonam an Jamin got married, a silver disc was placed in the temple of the Sun and a golden disc was brought to the temple of the Moon and there was peace again.

   
 

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