Paper Lionesses

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Paper Lionesses of children's dreams

Submitted: October 01, 2017

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Submitted: October 01, 2017



In a small village, somewhere in the Jiuzhaigou Valley in China, a proud stone lioness stood at the end of the temple stairways. There; she guarded the worshippers, the children and the elders. She once had a sister that stood adjacent to her, but sister fell to ruin a few generations ago, so only she remained.

The villagers loved her so, for legend says that the lioness protected the village from bandits as everyone went to hide in the temple. And from then on; she, and once, her sister, became patrons of the small village.

 The children would hang flower necklaces around her, the two monks, one old and one young, would come out every morning to pour clean water on her and the elders would sit and have their coffee in the company of the stone lioness. Although the villagers clearly new she was just merely an object of adoration, they seem to have forgotten the ancient legend that brought life to the twin lionesses.

Once long ago, two old monks cast a powerful spell that bound their life force to the once lifeless stone statues. The lionesses were tasked to protect the children as they slept and grant them dreams of joy, dreams that would inspire them in their waking hours. Every night, as the villagers went to enjoy the night after a day in the farm, the stone lionesses’ joints would move and the statues would turn into beautiful paper beings. They would then hop on the villagers’ roofs and whisper sweet songs and stories into the ears of the children through the windows as they slept.

They did this for several centuries, every night. But then, something happened. After one successful night, one of the lionesses found a tear on her wrist. She thought nothing of it at first, but as she turned back to stone, the tear turned into a crack. This was a sign, that the lion was growing old.

Her sister told her to stop and rest for a while. But the lioness assured her sister that the injury was nothing and she could still accompany her every night. As every night passed, the lioness began to worry as more and more tears appeared on her sister. But her sister insisted they went on.

This carried on for another year or so. Until one night, as the lionesses came back to the temple, one looked at her sister and her tears already ran deep. She said nothing. They both soon turned back to stone. As they did, the lioness cried for she wanted to stand by her sister on final time, but it was already dawn and she could do nothing else but watch as her lifelong confidant crumble in the morning sun.

As the sun climbed up sky that autumn dawn, the monks arrived and unlocked the temple gates. As they walked towards the stairs, they saw the debris of what was the right lioness. The old monk gave the younger monk instruction to go to the artisans and tell them to prepare to carve another lioness.

As they young monk went, the old monk, a nearly two hundred year old sage, held the remaining lioness by the paw and consoled in her. He then went to the left over debris of the other lioness.

“You have fulfilled your purpose…” the monk said as he took a stone from the rubble. “Now, my brother is free…”

A few months later, a new lioness was constructed and was placed where the last lioness statue stood. It was at the start of the peach festival. That night, as fireworks lit the sky in green, yellow and red, the old monk gave the young monk one final task. He told him to go in the temple and wait till the fireworks stop and twilight breaks. He waited until then, as the fireworks ceased to fly and as the final beam of moonlight went away, signifying twilight, he opened the door and saw two majestic paper lionesses.

“So your stories were true, master…”the young monk said. “Soon, I shall follow…”

© Copyright 2018 Issachar Bacang. All rights reserved.

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