Saturday, 26 July 2014

Yam and the Octopus

Here is the third instalment of Folk Tales of the Sea People, part of goals 46 and 55 on The List!

This time, a curious young boy finds himself in a spot of bother. If only he hadn't been so nosy!

Yam and the Octopus, June 2014
Yam and the Octopus

Long ago, there was a boy named Yam. He lived in a village in the very middle of a deep blue sea, far beneath the surface where humans would one day come to sail. Yam was a thoughtful boy, and was often to be seen floating upon the currents, letting the sea take him where it wished, as he lost himself in his imagination. Yam was the kind of boy who stopped to look at the tiny fish within the plants (indeed, he stopped to look at the plants too). All the other boys in his village raced around as fast as their tails could carry them, but Yam preferred to progress slowly about his day, and to observe everything he could. This also made him a rather nosy boy, and he often spied upon the people of the village. Thus, he was somewhat unpopular.

One day, Yam fell asleep and let the currents sweep him further than they had before, as he was a careless child. When he awoke, he found himself far away from the village. Not knowing which way to go home, Yam decided to make the best of his situation and explore his new terrain, for he could certainly look for his way home later.
He was in an empty place with many black rocks, and as he investigated he discovered a huge cave. Yam was unafraid of the dark and foreboding depths of the cave. He swam in as far as he could before the darkness swallowed the light. But the cave was disinteresting: only plain black rock and shadows. He was about to turn around and swim out again when he heard a quiet murmur.
“Hello?” he called out, hoping it was someone to play with. “Is somebody there?”
The murmur became a grumble, and Yam called out again.
“Hello? Can you hear me?”
The grumble became a rumble, so Yam called louder, starting to think there was something amiss.
“My name is Yam, and I came looking in your cave!”
The rumble became a roar, and the walls of the cave began to shake. Fear was suddenly upon Yam as he realised something was wrong. He turned tail and swam away as fast as he could, as the roaring and rumbling became thunderous, and small rocks began to dislodge from the roof and fall down about him. Yam aimed desperately for the speck of light where the cave mouth was, dodging falling rocks and being bruised by some.
He had just escaped the collapsing cave when a monstrous grey tentacle shot out and grasped tightly around his tail. Yam screamed and thrashed, but the tentacle held tight.
The rocks and the cave shook, and the big fat tentacle was followed by another, and another, and five more. Then the giant Octopus squeezed himself from the mouth of the cave, causing the rocks to crack about his body as he forced his huge mass through the opening. As the Octopus pulled himself onto the sandy seabed, the cave collapsed behind him.
“Who awakens me from my slumber?” asked the Octopus. He brought Yam to his face and peered at him. “Was it you, little fish?”
“I only wanted to say hello!” said Yam, frightened by the huge creature that held him so tight. “I thought I heard a voice.”
The Octopus tightened his grip. “I have been slumbering a long, long time,” said the Octopus. “And you come with your calling and your shouting, to disturb me.”
“Well, it was such a dark cave, I thought, surely anyone inside would like to come out and play in the light,” said Yam. “There are many things to see beyond this barren landscape.”
“I care not, for I enjoy the darkness of my cave, and my slumber,” said the Octopus. “The sea alone is never dark enough.” He eyed Yam. “I should punish you for awakening me.”
“I was only curious,” complained Yam.
“Curiosity is a dangerous thing, little fish. You dared to invite yourself into my home and cause a ruckus. Now my home is destroyed, and I have not a place to sleep.”
“Sorry,” said Yam. “But it was too small for you anyway, for you broke it when you forced your big body out of the cave.”
It could be said that Yam was stupid, for he certainly did not measure his words well, but in fact his constant observations had made him quite clever. He was, quite simply, rude.
“And you, little fish, where is your home?” asked the Octopus. “Do you not squeeze yourself into a hole to slumber?”
“No,” said Yam. “I live in a house of rock, in a village in the middle of this sea. There is much space, and I swim through the door.”
“A village in the middle of the sea, hm? A house, you say?” the Octopus seemed thoughtful. “When I went to slumber, you little fish still slept in holes.”
“That was a very long time ago!” said Yam, who had paid attention to the things the elders had told him (and quite a few things they had not).
“So it seems,” said the Octopus. “A long time ago indeed, and a long way away you are from the centre of the sea, little fish.”
“I fell asleep on the currents and wound up here,” Yam said honestly.
The Octopus loosened his grip very slightly, and appeared to look thoughtful. “I shall return you to your village in the middle of the sea,” he decided.
With one tentacle still holding fast to Yam, he set off through the sea.

The Octopus was huge, and travelling with him was both terrifying and exhilarating. Yam stared about as shoals of fish scattered to let the Octopus past. Even the great whales and fearsome sharks hurried to get out of the Octopus’ way. Towns, cities and villages rushed by beneath them, and Yam could feel the water brush against his face as they sped through it. Yam realised how far he had travelled in his slumber, and he thought himself lucky that the Octopus could swim so incredibly fast, for it would have taken him a long time to return home were he to swim alone.

When they arrived at Yam’s village, all the people came out of their shops and houses to see what had cast such a huge shadow across their land. Fear struck them in their hearts, for there was an old fable about the great and terrible Octopus who lived in the sea. This was surely that Octopus, come to wreak destruction upon them.
The Octopus set Yam down in the middle of the village, and the people watched warily.
“Your village is pleasant, little fish,” commented the Octopus. “And none too bright. I shall stay here, and return to my slumber.” With that, the Octopus filled the sea with his black ink, blotting all the light from the water. Closing his eyes, he went to sleep, his snoring causing all the ground to shake.
People panicked. They felt their way back inside, bumping into each other and knocking over furniture as they sought out their night-lights.
Soon the village was lit dimly as though it were night time, and the people progressed about their way slowly and cautiously, afraid to awaken the Octopus and invoke his wrath.
“This is Yam’s doing,” they uttered angrily. “He brought the Octopus here.”
Eventually the ink cleared, and the Octopus woke again. He grumbled sleepily to himself. “Hm, if only to have a quiet, dark place to sleep.”
Yam had been watching the Octopus, and he swam forward. “Why don’t you build yourself a new cave?” he asked. “Or a house!”
“Caves are not made in that way,” said the Octopus. “And even the biggest house would not fit my grand form. Go away now, let me slumber.”
The Octopus squirted ink into the sea once more, and returned to his sleep.

Yam found himself surrounded by villagers. “You must do something about the Octopus,” they said. “We cannot live here if he continues to put his ink into our sea, and slumber in our village!”
“Why do I have to do something?” asked Yam.
“You brought him here. You must take responsibility,” said the villagers. 
“But I’m only a boy!” Yam protested.
“Then it is time you became a man.” That was Yam’s grandfather, who had been a brave warrior in his day, when the peoples of the sea had still fought over their differences. “Yam, we have borne your rudeness and your spying and curiosity long enough. You must take the Octopus away and never return.”
“I don’t want to leave!” exclaimed the boy. “Besides, the Octopus decided to come here, not me! I don’t know how to make him go!”
“You must find a way,” said his grandfather.
The crowd departed, leaving Yam alone and feeling quite sorry for himself.

The next time the Octopus awoke, Yam was already waiting to speak with him.
“Why don’t you leave?” asked Yam immediately as he saw the creature’s eyes open.
The Octopus wrapped one lazy tentacle around Yam and pulled him to eye level. “I do not leave because I have chosen to be here. It is your punishment, for awakening me.” He yawned. “Oh, I do wish the sea were darker...”
“It’s never completely dark here,” Yam said.
“I shall make it dark again,” said the Octopus. Once again he squirted his ink into the sea, and fell asleep.
Yam wriggled his way out of the Octopus’ grasp and swam off.

Whilst the Octopus slept, and people struggled to go about their business in the dark, Yam was summoned to the village council.
“We have made a decision,” said the Mayor, who had consulted with his councillors and the people of the village. “Should you not be rid of the Octopus next time he awakens, we shall move the entire village away from here.”
“What a good idea!” said Yam. “We can build big new houses away from his smelly ink.”
“No,” said the Mayor. “For the Octopus is here because you are here. You must stay here, Yam. Alone in the dark, but for the Octopus for company.”
Yam began to cry, for he was only a boy. “But it isn’t my fault!” he exclaimed. “I only went into the cave to see if there was something interesting inside, and I heard a murmur and thought it was a new friend to play with, but it was the Octopus, and I accidentally awoke him and he decided to come here and squirt his ink and sleep, to punish me!”
“Of that we are aware,” replied the Mayor, who had heard the story from Yam’s mother. “And our decision is made. So you had best start thinking, young man, about how you are to be rid of the monstrous Octopus.”
Yam swam to the edge of the village and sobbed—quietly, so he did not wake the Octopus. When he finished feeling so sorry for himself, he thought hard about how to make the Octopus leave. He thought and he thought, until his head hurt and his temples throbbed. Day after day, night after night, Yam thought about his problem, until the waters began to lighten as the black ink ebbed away.
With a sigh, Yam returned to where the Octopus slumbered, to wait for him to wake up.
“You again,” uttered the Octopus, grumpy to find himself still plagued by the boy. “Can you not leave me in peace, little fish?”
“You are sleeping in my village,” said Yam. “It is no wonder that you see me each time you awaken.”
“Then I shall return to sleep,” said the Octopus, closing his eyes again.
“Wait!” exclaimed Yam. “You want it to be dark, do you not?”
The Octopus opened his eyes again. “You know well that I wish for a dark place in which to slumber.”
“Well, why not go to a place that is dark?” Yam suggested, not knowing why he hadn’t thought of it before. An idea sprang to mind, as he recalled something he had overheard the Clam Keepers talking about.
“I know of no such place,” replied the Octopus. He closed his eyes once more, ready to squirt his ink. Yam knew that he had no time to lose.
“I know of a place,” he said quickly. “Far in the north, there is a sea so dark that nobody goes there, and so deep that none have yet to find the bottom. It is cool and peaceful.”
“How do they know it is dark, how do they know it is deep?” demanded the Octopus. “How do they know it is cool and peaceful, if nobody goes there?”
Yam shrugged. “Well, somebody must have gone there, and realised that it was too dark and too deep, and gone home. Much like when I went into your cave. Why do you not go there, Mister Octopus, and see if it is to your liking?”
“Hm...Do you not think others might come?” The Octopus was unconvinced, but Yam could see he was thinking about it.
“Everybody knows about it. You would know about it already, had you not spent so much time slumbering,” Yam lied. He did not know the truth behind his words, but it did not matter so long as the Octopus went away and didn’t come back. Yam didn’t want to be abandoned with this creature.
“Hm, so everybody knows, do they?”
“And it is cool and peaceful, and deep and dark?” The Octopus rose up.
“Ah, but it is so far away...” The Octopus began to settle down again.
Yam swam a little closer. “But you swim so fast, and once you get there, you can sleep as long as you like,” he said softly. “If you stay here, you will awaken every time your ink clears from the water. Far in the north, you can slumber undisturbed.”
“Nobody goes there, you say?” asked the Octopus.
The Octopus appeared to think about this for a moment, and then with a sudden whoosh, he was away, huge form disappearing rapidly into the distance.
Within the village, the people cheered, glad that the fearsome Octopus was gone.
Yam was glad that he could remain in the village, but when he returned home, his grandfather spanked him a great many times for causing everyone so much trouble.

The Octopus never returned to the village in the middle of the sea, and it is said that there is a place in the deepest, darkest northern sea where nobody dares go, for there is a murmur there, a murmur that becomes a grumble, a grumble that becomes a rumble, and a rumble that becomes a terrible roar should you go there and make too much noise.

As for Yam, he felt quite sore after his spanking. He did not cease to spy upon others, for despite his chastisement be believed that he would not have made the Octopus leave were it not for the things he had learnt through his spying.  He continued to look upon everything with curiosity, and was spanked for eavesdropping a great many times.
Ah, some people will never change.

This story was a little shorter than some of the others! For more, check out the Folk Tales of the Sea People tag. :) 

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