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The Tale of the Elephant and the Mouse

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Once there was an elephant, young and strong. He walked through the jungle alone often for although he had family and friends, he was lonely. They did not understand why he could not find a bride among the young elephants and take his place as their prince. The prince explained to his parents that he would only marry when he was sure he had found his love, and not one of those young elephant maidens caught his eye. He often wondered if he would be alone forever.
He trudged through the trees, being careful to be as silent as possible. His parents did not approve of his late night outings, and he wished to be left alone. He came upon a small clearing in the forest and there on a little stump sat a tiny creature. He approached the animal and was astounded by its beauty. Shyly he stood beside the stump and said to the creature, "hello." Its small sparkling eyes looked up at him and said softly in reply, "hello." The elephant prince had never seen a mouse before. However the little mouse maiden did recognize him. She had seen him many times on his nightly walks through the forest and was happy to at last be in his presence. She was surprised he had noticed her at all.
"Who are you?" Said the elephant prince.
"What I am is a simple question. Who I am could possibly not even be described in all my life." She replied.
The elephant prince was impressed by her words and lied down beside her. "I believe who you are is of higher importance than what you are. And if you would give me the honor of telling me I would enjoy hearing about it."
And so the mouse and the elephant began speaking of themselves, their families, their lives. So absorbed were they in each others presence that it was not until the light of the sunrise came through the leaves of the jungle and into the clearing that they realized how much time had passed. They agreed to meet at that spot every night from then on and said their goodbyes. When the elephant prince lied down to sleep that morning he felt his heart beating in a way it had never done before. "Could this be love?" He wondered as he drifted off to sleep.
And so continued every night for many moons the secret meeting of the elephant prince and the mouse maiden. Every day they began to feel closer to one another, knowing each others fears, strengths, weaknesses, and dreams. Neither of them had ever spoken to another living thing about themselves in this way, nor had they ever found such ease in speaking to another living thing. As the days passed so grew their silent love for each other.
One day, the mouse's brother, wondering where his sister went off to so late every night, followed her from their burrow to the jungle clearing. He watched as the elephant prince arrived and sat beside his sister. He closely observed their faces, their voices, their eyes. Shocked and disgusted, he watched his sister brush her whiskers softly on the elephants arm, a mouse sign of affection. The mouse's brother ran home before her to inform his family that their dear mouse maiden was in love with a beast. When she arrived, they shoved her down into the deepest tunnel of their burrow and placed a rock in front of the chamber at the tunnels end. "I will not allow my daughter to love a lumbering, stupid, beast!" Cried her father. He darted out of the burrow and went to the part of the jungle where the elephants lived. For after all, the elephant prince's parents should also be informed of this blasphemous relationship between their children so he can also be kept away from his daughter.
The elephant prince awoke when he heard the loud thud of foot steps walking towards him. He soon found himself looking up at his parents and the father of the mouse maiden. Their eyes were filled with anger, sadness, and disappointment. "This mouse has told us that you are having a condemnable relationship with his daughter. Meeting in secret at night, not coming home until morning. Is this true my son?" Asked his father. The elephant prince stood, flushed with embarrassment and replied, "Yes, we do meet at night and speak in secret, but there is nothing condemnable or wrong about it. She knows me better than anyone in this world. And especially better than any of you. If speaking to someone is a crime, then let me be punished. But that is all I have done." The elephant prince's father glanced down at the mouse skeptically. "You claimed my son and your daughter were secretly meeting to hide their forbidden love." Said the elephant king. The mouse felt ashamed for having misjudged the situation. "Forgive me. I must have been mistaken. I was only ensuring the well being of my daughter." The elephant king and queen nodded and ensured the mouse they understood. The mouse then left and returned to his burrow, releasing his daughter and pleading for her forgiveness. She forgave him of course and only asked in return that she be allowed to see her elephant friend. Her father agreed and that night he bid her goodbye as she left to meet the elephant prince in the clearing.
The mouse maiden's brother was not so convinced of their innocence. That night he followed his sister to her meeting and decided he would stay all the night this time. "Well," said the mouse maiden, "I hope this confusion does not happen again." The elephant prince nodded sadly. Oh if only it had not been a confusion. If only she did love him as he loved her. "My parents told me I must find a bride soon, so that this confusion does not happen again." The mouse maiden's face fell. She knew this would probably happen someday, but she did not think it would come so soon. "Any creature would be lucky to have a husband like you." She replied politely. The elephant prince scrunched down on the ground to look into her small sparkling eyes. "Even you?" He asked. "Especially me." She replied. The elephant prince held out his trunk to her and said, "Then if I may be so lucky, would you be my bride?" The mouse maiden was stunned. A little tear rolled down her tiny cheek as she crawled into the palm of his trunk. "Yes," she squeaked, "for I love you more than I could love any creature and I don't wish to be with anyone but you. We can never have children together. Would you be my husband despite this?" The elephant prince held her against his face, feeling her soft silky fur for the first time. He sighed happily and said, "There is only one creature I need to fulfill my life and that is you. A hundred children could not give me what you have." The mouse maiden smiled and gave him a little kiss on his cheek. "Tomorrow let us go away together. We can go far away, and be happy for the rest of our lives." She said. And so the two agreed to meet the following night and elope, so no one and nothing could keep them apart. The mouse maiden's brother, furious, ran back to the burrow and told his family of what he had seen. The mouse maiden's father entered a fit of rage, throwing the mouse maiden's belonging out of the burrow and smashing them with his little hands. When the mouse maiden arrived they shoved her into the deepest tunnel once more. Without light or anything to comfort her the mouse maiden cried for her elephant prince who she knew she'd never see again.
Once more the mouse maiden's father went to see the parents of the elephant prince, bringing with him this time his witness. The mouse maiden's brother testified what he saw to the elephant king and queen. "There can be no mistake this time," said the elephant king, "please forgive us for doubting you good mouse." The mouse maiden's father shook his head solemnly. "I do not blame you for doubting me. I too can scarcely believe it. But you must be sure that your son will not be able to leave until you have found him a bride of your own people. Perhaps then he will forget about my daughter." Once the mouse and his son had gone, the elephant king called for his guards and ordered them to bind the prince with the strongest vines so he could not try to leave their sight again. The guards obeyed and the elephant prince was held down in the dust and tied like a prisoner to the strongest tree in their part of the jungle. Once they had gone the elephant prince struggled to free himself, but to no avail. He closed his eyes and felt his heart breaking within him. Just as a tear rolled down his face and onto the ground, a shining light appeared through the trees. Suddenly a strange human woman appeared before him. She walked out of the trees and crouched down to touch the dust of the earth. She spun the dust in her hand, and from it appeared a beautiful white lotus blossom. "Take this and eat of it with your love," she said, "it will give you a new form you can both share, and you will be together forever." The vines tying the elephant prince to the tree loosened and he stood up and bowed before her. He held out his trunk to her hand and took the lotus blossom. Once the flower was in his palm, the white light shone again and the woman was gone. "Thank you merciful goddess." He whispered.
The elephant prince tucked the blossom close to his heart and took off through the jungle. They had agreed to meet in the clearing this night, and he was sure his mouse maiden would find a way as he had.
The prince was right for the mouse maiden, hearing her family's soft breathing through the echoing tunnels of the burrow, knew they were all asleep and it must be night time. The mouse maiden had been silently clawing at the dirt walls of her chamber all day, and she had been waiting to break through to the surface. Now she knew it was time, and with a final push the wall between herself and freedom crumbled and she was at last in the open air of the jungle. She ran as fast as she could to reach the clearing. She wondered if her love would be waiting for her.
But alas, the mouse maiden was first to arrive. She went and sat on the stump, fixing her fur and whiskers which had been covered in dirt from all her digging. The mouse maiden became so engrossed in thoughts of her love and her appearance that she did not hear the faint flutter of wings above her. Once she noticed the shadow it was too late; she looked up and screamed.
The elephant prince was nearly to the clearing when he heard the scream of the mouse maiden. He shoved trees aside and trampled shrubs to reach her, just in time to see his love clutched in the talons of a great owl. "My love save me!" She cried. The owl began to flap his wings and flew off the stump into the air. The elephant prince dropped the lotus blossom and grabbed a tree limb. He swung at the owl and roared, "Release her, beast!" The owl avoided the blow and took off through the trees.
The elephant prince held the tree limb in this mouth and picked up the lotus blossom as fast as he could, running behind the owl. The mouse maiden kicked, bit, screamed, but the owl did not release her. Even in the dark the mouse maiden's screams and cries helped lead the elephant prince on the right path. The owl lived on the outskirts of the jungle in a place full of brambles and rose bushes. As they began to enter his part of the forest, the elephant prince winced as he felt the thorns tearing at his flesh. But his rage and fear kept him going. He ignored the pain, the hot feeling of the scratches all over his body. The owl's tree was now in sight, and the elephant prince new if he did not stop the owl before it entered his roost, his mouse maiden would be doomed. He dropped the lotus blossom once more, and took the tree limb in this trunk's grip. The elephant prince swung with the last of his might, and with a loud crack the owl went fumbling through the air and hit a nearby tree with a thud. The owl fell crumpled onto the ground, and the mouse maiden trembled in his talons, not sure if she was safe yet. Mad yet his dying breath, the owl's talons relaxed and the mouse maiden was freed. She ran to her elephant prince and sobbed. He picked up the lotus blossom from the ground and said, "We must eat this flower in order to be together. Quickly! Before anything else tries to stop us." They ate the lotus blossom, and just as they swallowed, a white light shone through the trees. They covered their eyes and fell onto the ground, feeling a strange sensation wash all over them. When they opened their eyes they were shocked to see human hands covering their faces. They looked at one another and were astounded. The elephant prince and the mouse maiden had become a man and a woman. Before them stood the strange human woman who had appeared to the elephant prince before. "I will place a punishment on all those who have wronged you. To the elephants I will give scratches and scars all over their bodies, because you bled on your flesh and in your heart because of them dear prince. I will take away the owl'a ability to see the sun because his hunger blinded him to what was right. However, he will chase the mouse in the darkness and that shall be the mouse's punishment. They shall be prey to all and loved by no one. The elephants will forever be their enemy because they took away their prince, and the mouse shall always torment them as they were tormented by the loss of their daughter. Now go in peace and seek happiness elsewhere. A blessing on you and your children." The white light shone again, and with that the woman was gone. And so goes the tale of the elephant and the mouse, who went on to live a life of happiness until the end of their days, when they were reunited with their families in the paradise of heaven.



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