A Deer was All She Wanted to Be: A Mother’s Tale, Series 2
To put together stories that will, in some way, paint the picture of a mother’s love is quite challenging. Not because the stories are sparse but because there are too many heart-wrenching ones that you end up not knowing what to pick.
So today, I decided to go back in time and narrate a story that seems almost unreal.
Allow me to take you back to the days when our ancestors still worshiped nature; back when the gods were everything you touched and tread upon; when we believed that we could transform into another being upon wishing.
A very long time ago, there lived a beautiful woman with her husband and their young son. The husband was a hunter, barely home before dusk and always away by sun-up. From collecting fire woods to fetching water, the young mother would quietly take on the chores without a hesitation.
There was one thing that she dreaded, her husband! He was a grumpy man, almost like a dissatisfied step-mother. On days when the rice she boiled got sticky, he would thrash her accusing her of being careless. Other days when the rice had less water than usual, he would thrash her again saying “Were you planning to leave me that you had to cook in such a hurry?”
Years passed, the beatings never stopped. So, every time the young mother went to the fields, she would get anxious about going home to the surly husband. She would often look up to the sky and cry out to the gods, “Why was I born a human, and not an animal? Surely a deer would have a better life than me!”
Maybe it was the gods punishing him for his ill-treatment, the husband never got a kill from his hunting.
When their son turned five, she decided she would no longer take the beatings. So, in desperation and anguish, she made a bidding to the gods “Oh gods of the fields and the sky, I can no longer take this form. Turn me into a deer”.
It was a call none had named till then.
It was believed that the gods of those time were benevolent to a sincere heart. And this was possibly why the rare plight of the young mother was answered.
For a period of time, she came home in the evening and prepared food for her son before she went back to graze. Oh! How dearly she loved her son.
However, when the deer’s antler began to show on her head, she knew she wouldn’t be able to come home in a human form. This was when she told her son of what she had become.
Although the father was unpleasant in nature, the son was quite the opposite. After he learned the truth about his mother, he would quietly go to the field with his food, bringing a share for her too. The mother had turned into a beautiful deer with reddish fur.
By this time, the father had already suspected the possibility of the wife taking the form of an animal because he noticed a deer that always grazed on their fields. Even the thought of being liberated from him enraged the father and he wanted to teach his wife a lesson. Soon enough, he took his 6-year-old son to stand guard while he hunted.
But, the son, instead of staying guard, shouted to the father that the deer had run up the hill when it had gone down the slope, in the hope that his mother would take the cue. The son tried his best to detour his father from catching the deer. This went on for some days, which was when the father decided to leave the boy at home with a threat that if the boy dared follow him, he would kill him!
That evening, the man who had never made a kill in his life came home with a deer on his back! Sometimes, even gods can be ironic.
Then, he cooked his kill and forced his son to eat. Every time the father put into his plate the meat, the son would place it under the table. Holding back tears and muffled, it was the longest night for the son.
When the father had his triumphant dinner and went to sleep, the son quietly snuck out of bed and buried his share of meat outside the front door. And the son went back to bed, shaken and torn at the possibility of never seeing his mother.
It is said that the duo woke up to the sight of a lush green leafy plant outside the door the next morning. The son gleamed at the return of his mother because the plant had taken root in the exact spot he buried the meat!
The father, grumpy as usual, irritably commented on how quick a weed had overgrown his lawn. So, out of frustration when he went to uproot the plant, it is said that the leaf’s sharp edge cut his hand. Once, twice, thrice, he tried to remove the plant but ended up getting severely cut, so severe that his wounds wouldn’t heal. As there was none to nurse him back, the father finally died of the wounds and it’s infection.
Well, maybe, it was the gods own way of giving back justice.
This is one of the oldest stories I grew up listening to, a story I always asked to be retold several times in a row. It taught me the importance of being kind to everyone around you. Along with it, the story, in its little way, helped me understand people who came from broken homes.
I wish I could imitate the emotions my mother put into narrating me this story, but I am not my mother. And I am quite far off to becoming as good a storyteller as her.