Origin Tales: How Sea Turtle Made The Oceans
A long time ago, before music was streamed, before metal could fly, before heroes wore tights, Turtle slowly made his way around the banks of a pond beneath the World Tree, dreaming of days long past. He was ancient as far as the animals go. Only Dragon was older than he, but she spent her days curled around the base of the World Tree asleep these days.
Turtle remembered a time when he and Dragon used to play as the World Tree grew. They would laugh and love through the seasons that drifted by like clouds on the breeze. Years became centuries became ages and their love only grew deeper.
That is until Snake came calling, professing a love greater than Turtles. When spurned by Dragon, Snake became black with poison and bit Dragon, who fell into an endless sleep. And so now Turtle roamed around the World Tree protecting his love as she slept.
One night, White Owl flew down from her roost on high and landed on Turtle’s shell.
“I have heard the moon whisper a cure for your Dragon,” Owl said. “But you’re not going to like it.”
“I will do anything to wake her, to hear her voice again, to see her fly,” Turtle said.
“Then mark my words,” White Owl said, “the next full moon, you must figure out a way to have her touch the sky. Only then can Moon cure your beloved.”
Turtle laughed with joy and promised to figure it out. He set to work on coming up with a plan.
Now Turtle was friends with most animals beneath the world tree. He had been there as they had sprung to life. When he told them he needed their help in waking Dragon from her slumber, the animals called a council. They discussed building a ramp, but the sky was too high. They tried having all the birds try and fly her up, but Dragon was too heavy. The discussed for days, but still didn’t have a plan as the last day before the full moon crept to a close.
The Sun, having listened to it all, slowed his decent to buy some time but couldn’t stop his nature.
“I am sorry my old friend, but I cannot keep my fires burning much longer,” the Sun said.
“Fire!” Turtle exclaimed. “That’s it!”
Turtle had remembered a time, long ago, when Sun had accidental dripped his essence onto the grass beneath the World Tree and created a fire that had sent sparks toward the clouds. It had been terrible and Sun had promised to be more careful as he crossed the sky.
“Will you lend me your fire if I can find a way to contain it?” Turtle asked. The Sun hesitated, but finally agreed.
Turtle directed the animals to make a huge balloon of wet leaves. He took off his shell and piled it full of dry sticks. He then had them tie vines to Dragon and attached it all together.
“If I can catch enough embers as they race towards the sky, maybe it will be enough to carry my love,” Turtle explained.
“My time is up,” Sun exclaimed. “It is now or never.”
Turtle rested his head against the sleeping Dragon, listening to her deep breath. He looked at the sun and nodded his head.
The Sun dripped a tear of pure fire onto Turtle’s wood-filled shell before falling below the horizon. Instantly the wood grew into a thunderous blaze. The leaf balloon sizzled and steamed as it lifted abruptly off the ground. The vines grew taut and for a moment seemed to be ready to snap. Yet they held despite humming with the weight of Dragon as she lifted off the ground. In a ball of light, she ascended into the dark, starlit sky as Moon climbed to meet her.
“We’ve done it!” the animals yelled and hugged each other as they gathered around Turtle. As one, they watched the Moon cradle Dragon into her arms.
The Moon drew the poison from Dragon’s veins, splotches darkening her pale dress. But as she drew the poison, she drew Dragon’s memories as well. Memories of growing old with Turtle, of the love they shared, of the time that had passed. With a start and a gasp, Dragon awoke and flexed her mighty wings. Her wing ripped through the leaf balloon and Turtle’s shell fell to earth, sending all the animals scurrying as it landed black and smoking with heat.
“My love!” Turtle cried, ignoring his shell. “You have come back to me!”
But Dragon did not recognize Turtle, nor any of the animals below. Confused, she hid behind Moon’s dress and refused to come out.
Turtle was devastated. He snapped his beak and cried out his pain. Tears fell from his eyes like rain. Rivers formed beneath his feet as he sank into his despair. The pond grew into a lake, that flooded its banks and sent the animals scurrying for higher ground. Turtle’s salty tears ran for days, weeks, years. Time stood still for him as he felt his heart break. The Moon darkened and disappeared, sorry for her hand in Turtle’s grief.
Finally, when his grief eased a bit, Turtle went in search of his shell to hide from the cruel world. He found it, still radiating heat from the Sun’s fire. He dipped it in the ocean that had formed from his tears. Though it still held heat, the heat was held at bay in the cool, salty waters. He donned his shell and sank below the surface of the ocean. There you will find him still, letting the currents carry away his grief. If you watch on a moonlit night, you can see him staring at the Moon with longing, hoping for a glimpse of his precious Dragon.
But don’t fret, he finds a way to return Dragon’s memories…but that’s a tale for another time.