The Boy Who Hooked the Sun [.1]
On the morning of the eighth day, the Sun rose. It beat a golden road into the face of the sea, leading to its own broad face, and licking at the shining stones of Atlantis. There on that shore stood a boy to greet the eighth day, and cast his line, and the Sun swallowed his hook.
This was not such a boy as you or I have ever met: there was something of the chipped emeralds of Atlantis in his eye, and something of the golden road the sun made in his hair. But he was dirty about the face and dusty about the ankle, and worried his mother half to death – so he was just the same as the boy down the road, that you and I know. His father had left long ago to trade the shining stones of Atlantis to the barbarians of Hellas, for goatskins and wine, leaving the boy and his mother in poverty in their house on the edge of the village. Now he stood on the hill above the village overlooking the sea, and held tight to his fishing rod that he had baited with the shining stones of Atlantis.
The Sun, which was not so wise in the ways of humans as it is in these days, began to thrash and turn at the bite of the hook. It sounded, and the world was plunged into a night of constellations laid suddenly bare. It leapt, and cast a spray of stars across the heavens. But the boy just smiled and let the Sun tire itself, sometimes letting out his line, and sometimes drawing it in. The Sun raced to and fro across the sky, and wound the line about the moon to break it, but the hook was fast and the line was long.
Then the richest man in the village, who owned the house the boy and his mother lived in, came up the hill, panting – for he was used to strolling, or his palanquin – with the effort. He called out to the boy.
“Cut your line! Cut your line! When the Sun runs out you lay the blast of winter on my orchards, and all the fruit is withered. When the Sun draws in, droughty August boils the channels of my barley fields and they cannot grow. Cut your line, and you will bathe in gold!”
But the boy only laughed, and when the richest man in the village bored him, he threw the shining stones of Atlantis at him, sapphires and sardonyxes, until he went away.
Then the strongest man in the village, the smith – who smelted diamonds into adamant and malachite into orichalcum, and who could stop the charge of a wild ox with one arm – came up and shouted: “Cut your line! Cut your line, or I’ll break your neck!” as the richest man in the village had paid him to do so.
But the boy only laughed, and when the smith took hold of him by the neck he took hold of the smith in turn and threw him down the hill of rubies and rhodolites, for the strength of the Sun had come down the line.
And in some little time the cleverest man in the village, who was the mayor, came up the hill. He could talk a rabbit into his kitchen – and he often had, and many a rabbit and many a partridge too had found itself trembling there when the door had closed and the knives shone – and he came up to the boy with a sidelong step.
“My son,” he said, “You must cut your line, and come with me! For the other mayors of the other villages and I, across Atlantis, we’ve convened a meeting, and it has been unanimously agreed: We are to be an empire, and you are to be our king! And you may leave off your work, for not one in all the world could do as you have done, and not one in the world would dare to try, so cut your line.”
“Oh, a king?” asked the boy, smiling and bending his rod against the sun so that the days flashed by backwards, “Tell them to bring a throne, or stool, then. Shouldn’t a court come to the king?” And after he had played out many other words, and much other bait, the boy pelted him with agates and emeralds, and the cleverest man in the village left.
Then down from the hills came the wisest woman in the village, who was a sorceress and a theurgist and many things beside, and who knew every future but her own. She folded her robes about her and sat to watch the boy, and tried to glimpse his palm – but he held the pole.
And she said, “Cut your line, child. In his shrine Sabaoth shudders, and refuses the smoke of offerings. The feet of Ereshkigal, whom the unlearned do not fear, have broken, and the sacred bird Quetzal who drinks wisdom from the dew has shed his green plumage. The stars are riot and confusion, so that at one moment humankind will rule them all, and at the next perish utterly. Cut your line!”
But the boy only laughed, and when she frowned so gravely at him he showered her in moonstones and nephrites until she went away.
Then a girl his own age, with hair inked by night, and eyes like fractured garnets – just such a girl as you and I have known, who only wears shoes when her father insists – came up to him.
“Cut your line and come and play,” she said, “or let me hold the rod.” And he almost did, smiling, but the sun leapt up and in her shadow he saw her father, who was the smith of the village.
So instead he said, “I would have, if you had really wanted it for you.” And she sighed, and went down the hill to complain to her father, and the boy tossed his favorite onyxes and opals after her, as she laughed and ran away.
Then most foolish man in the village, who talked with the songbirds in their language and boasted of lying with the white birch on the hill, came up to the boy, his cap and feather in hand. And he tried to say how much he feared the dancing sun, and put in words his longings. But the boy just smiled, and let him touch the rod, and eventually he went away to try again with his quill, which he inked with powdered lapis and jet.
Then at last the boy’s mother came up the hill, and kindly said: “Cut your line and come away, my son, if ever you have loved me. Come down to our house, which the richest man in the village has returned to us, and try on your crown and tell your general to guard the door. And we will lay out the white birch bark and with Quetzal’s feather dipped in the blood of the great white ox we will write out a story better than any I have ever told you.”
And the boy looked away from the Sun and his line, and asked: “What story is that?”
“It is called ‘The Boy Who Hooked The Sun,” now come away and promise me you never will fish for the Sun again as long as we both shall live.”
And the boy nodded, and took out his pen-knife and cut his line, and went laughing down the hill hand in hand with his mother. But as he did, he thought: My mother is kind and I will do as she says, but she is old. And is it not said that all souls wear away as they travel on the Wheel? There will come a day when I live, and she does not, and then I will once more bait my line with the shining stones and humankind will rule the stars. Or not.
And ever since then, the Sun has been wiser, and when it remembers how the hook hurt its mouth it swims far from any shore. And the days are shorter, and the broken line trails across Hermes and Hathor. But then the Sun remembers humankind, clever and foolish, wise and kind, and summer comes with it when it swims near to us.
Or maybe it remembers the taste of the bait.