Long ago, when the world was still new and did not have in it all the things it has today, there lived seven young boys. The boys spent all their time playing the gatayusti game, which is a game played by rolling a stone wheel along the ground and striking it with a curved stick. All day long the boys would play the gatayusti game, never stopping, never doing anything else, never working in the cornfields.
Their mothers scolded the boys. ‘Stop your game,’ they would say. ‘Go and work in the cornfields like the other boys.’ But these seven boys never listened, and never stopped playing the gatayusti game.
One day, the mothers were really fed up. They collected some gatayusti stones and boiled them along with the corn for the boys’ dinner. When the boys came home hungry after playing the gatayusti game all day, their mothers fished out the gatayusti stones from the pot and served them to the boys. ‘You like gatayusti better than the cornfields,’ scolded the mothers. ‘Now eat gatayusti for your dinner instead of corn!’
At this the boys became really angry. They went off, all together, to the place where they played their gatayusti game. ‘We’ll go away,’ they said to each other. ‘We’ll go away to a place where we will never bother them again.’ And slowly the boys began to dance, round and round in a circle, praying to the spirits to help them get away.
The mothers of the boys waited, thinking their sons would be back once their anger had cooled, but the boys did not come back. At last the mothers went out to look for their sons. They saw them dancing, round and round in a circle, praying to the spirits to help them get away. And as the mothers watched they saw that their sons’ feet were no longer touching the earth. With every circle that they completed, the boys rose higher in the air.
The mothers ran towards their sons, to stop them flying away altogether. But it was too late. By that time the boys had risen so high that their mothers could not reach them. All except one boy, whose mother managed to pull him down with the help of a gatayusti pole. But this boy fell to the ground so hard that he sank into the earth and vanished.
The six boys who were left rose higher and higher till they reached the sky and were turned into stars. We call them the Pleiades, but the Cherokee still call them ‘Ani’tsutsa’, which means ‘The Boys’. Their people mourned and grieved over the boys for a long time, but they remained shining far up in the sky.
And the mother whose son had vanished into the earth wept the longest. Every day she would sit by the spot where her son had vanished and weep tears of grief and sorrow into the earth. Till one day a little green shoot peeped out of the earth. The mother watered the little shoot with her tears, and slowly it grew into a tall and stately tree. We call this tree the Pine.
And the Pleiades and the Pine tree are of a kind and both shine with the same light even to this day.
First published in The Three Princes of Persia, by Rohini Chowdhury, Penguin Books India, 2005
Copyright © Rohini Chowdhury 2005. All rights reserved.