A little while ago, I was reading a fantasy novel called “The Wise Man’s Fear” by Patrick Rothfuss. It’s the second in a series, and it’s quite well written. The main character is a bard, and in his travels, he comes across a story about the moon. I enjoyed the story so much that, after reading it twice, I decided I was going to type out the whole thing. 10 pages and 4,000 words later, I wish to share it with you.
It’s rather long, so I’m going to do this in installments. It’s not precisely pagan, but the overall moral of the story is touching, and I take from this that if you well and truly believe in something, anything is possible, including magic.
Jax, or The Story of How the Moon was Stolen From the Sky
Once, long ago and far from here, there was a boy named Jax, and he fell in love with the moon. Jax was a strange boy. A thoughtful boy. A lonely boy. He lived in an old house at the end of a broken road. Everyone who saw Jax could tell there was something different about him. He didn’t play. He didn’t run around getting into trouble. And he never laughed.
Some folk said, “what can you expect of a boy who lives alone in a broken house and the end of a broken road?” Some said the problem was that he never had any parents. Some said he had a drop of faerie blood in him and that kept his heart from ever knowing joy.
He was an unlucky boy. There was no denying that. When he got a new shirt, he would tear a hole in it. If you gave him a sweet, he would drop it in the road. Some said the boy was born under a bad star, that he was cursed, that he had a demon riding his shadow. Other folks simply felt bad for him, but not so bad that they cared to help.
One day, a tinker came down the road to Jax’s house. This was something of a surprise, because the road was broken, so nobody ever used it.
“Hoy there, boy!”, the tinker shouted, leaning on his stick. “Can you give an old man a drink?”
Jax brought out some water in a cracked clay mug. The tinker drank and looked down at the boy. “You don’t look happy, son. What’s the matter?”
“Nothing is the matter,” Jax said. “It seems to me a person needs something to be happy about, and I don’t have any such thing.”
Jax said this in a tone so flat and resigned that it broke the tinker’s heart. “I’m betting I have something in my pack that will make you happy,”he said to the boy. “what do you say to that?”
“I’d say that if you make me happy, I’ll be grateful indeed,” Jax said. “But I haven’t got any money to spend, not a penny to borrow to beg or to lend.”
“Well, that is a problem,” said the tinker. “I am in business, you see.”
“If you can find something in your pack that will make me happy,” Jax said. “I will give you my house. It’s old and broken, but it’s worth something.”
The tinker looked up at the huge old house, one short step away from being a mansion. “It is at that,” he said.
Then Jax looked up at the tinker, his small face serious. “And in you can’t make me happy, what then? Will you give me the packs off your back, the stick in your hand, and the hat off your head?”
Now the tinker was fond of a wager, and he knew a good bet when he heard one. Besides, his packs were bulging with treasures from all over the four corners, and he was confident he could impress a small boy. So he agreed, and the two of them shook hands.
First, the tinker brought out a bag of marbles all the colours of sunlight. But they didn’t make Jax happy. The tinker brought out a ball and cup. But that didn’t make Jax happy.
The tinker went through his first pack. It was full of ordinary things that would have pleased an ordinary boy: dice, puppets, a folding knife, a rubber ball. But nothing made Jax happy.
So, the tinker moved on to his second pack. It held rarer things. A gear soldier that marched if you wound him. A bright set of paints with four different brushes. A book of secrets. A piece of iron that fell from the sky…
This went on all day and late into the night, and eventually the tinker began to worry. He wasn’t worried about losing his stick. But his packs were how he made his living, and he was rather fond of his hat.
Eventually, he realized he was going to have to open his third pack. It was small, and it only had three items in it. But they were things he only showed to his wealthiest customers. Each was worth much more than a broken house. But still, he thought, better to lose one than to lose everything and his hat besides.
Just as the tinker was reaching for his third pack, Jax pointed. “What is that?”
“Those are spectacles,” the tinker said. “They’re a second pair of eyes that help a person see better.” He picked them up and settled them onto Jax’s face. Jax looked around. “Things look the same,” he said. Then he looked up. “What are those?”
“Those are stars,” the tinker said.
“I’ve never seen them before.” He turned, still looking up. Then he stopped stock still. “What is that?”
“That is the moon,” the tinker said.
“I think that would make me happy,” Jax said.
“Well, there you go,” the tinker said, relieved. “You have your spectacles…”
“Looking at it doesn’t make me happy,” Jax said. “No more than looking at my dinner makes me full. I want it. I want to have it for my own.”
“I can’t give you the moon,” the tinker said. “She doesn’t belong to me. She belongs only to herself.”
“Only the moon will do,” Jax said.
“Well, I can’t help you with that,” the tinker said with a heavy sigh. “My packs and everything in them are yours.”
Jax nodded, unsmiling.
“And here’s my stick. A good sturdy one it is, too.”
Jax took it in his hand.
“I don’t suppose,” the tinker said reluctantly, “that you’d mind leaving me with my hat? I’m rather fond of it…”
“It’s mine by right,” Jax said. “If you were fond of it, you shouldn’t have gambled it away.” The tinker scowled as he handed over his hat.
So Jax settled the hat on his head, took the stick in his hand, and gathered up the tinker’s packs. When he found the third one, still unopened, he asked, “What’s in there?”
“Something for you to choke on,” the tinker spat.
“No need to get tetchy over a hat,” the boy said. “I have greater need of it than you. I have a long way to walk if I’m to find the moon and make her mine.”
“But for the taking of my hat, you could have had my help in catching her,” the tinker said.
“I will leave you with the broken house,” Jax said. “That is something. Though it will be up to you to mend it.”
Jax put the spectacles on his face and started walking down the road in the direction of the moon. He walked all night, only stopping when she went out of slight behind the mountains.
So Jax walked day after day, endlessly searching…
This ends today’s installment of the story. Check back tomorrow for the second half!