(A Myth of the African Bushmen)
Once upon a time, a beautiful woman named Rain lived in the sky. Rain was always wrapped in a rainbow, and her husband, the Creator, was a fiery being. He was called Flame. They had three beautiful daughters.
When the eldest daughter was grown, she went to her mother and said, “I’ve always wanted to visit the Earth, mother. Please let me go visit.”
Rain could never resist her daughter’s pleas, and so she granted her wish, and the daughter traveled to Earth. There she met a hunter who was handsome and kind, and she fell in love and married him. She never returned to the sky, and Rain and Flame mourned her forever.
One day Rain gave birth to another child, a son. She called him Son-eib. As the boy grew, his sisters doted upon him. When he was old enough, the sisters begged their parents to let all three of them travel to Earth to visit their older sister, but Rain refused.
“No, I don’t want to lose you,” she said. “I’ve lost a child already,” and she pleaded with them to give up their dream.
But the girls argued and argued. One day Hyena overheard them, and he had an idea. He had always loved the daughters — they were so beautiful and powerful. He wished they would love him in return. But he knew that would never happen, and this made him sad, and angry.
Disguising his wicked thoughts, he went to speak to Flame.
“Your wife is keeping your children from visiting Earth, but travel would make them wiser and better,” Hyena explained. “I wish to offer my services. I’ll go with them and look after them, and you and Rain will not have to worry.”
Flame, the Creator, thought this sensible. He convinced Rain that it was in their children’s interests to see the world. It would expand their horizons and deepen their education. He told her he would send Hyena to look after them and carry them safely home.
The thought broke Rain’s heart, but she could no longer refuse. A few days later, Hyena, Son-eib and the daughters traveled to Earth.
Before long, they came to a village. Some of the villagers were good people — kind, generous and compassionate. But some of the villagers were bad people, selfish and cruel.
As they were walking through the village, one of the women looked at Son-eib and shook her head in amazement.
“This boy looks like my mother,” the woman said. “He has her eyebrows. He must be related to me.”
So she invited Son-eib, his sisters and their traveling companion into her home.
“Let me offer you something to eat,” she said, but as she carried platters to the table, Hyena pulled her aside.
“Do not feed him,” he said. “He is not a boy. He is a thing, and he must wait outside.”
The woman did not know what to think, but she simply nodded. So Son-eib walked outside and sat in the grass, waiting for his sisters. As he sat there, a beautiful red bird was flying past. He reached out and captured the creature and hid it inside his cloak.
When the girls were finished eating, the woman said, “You must not sleep under the stars. I wish to invite you all to sleep in my house.”
But Hyena said, “The daughters may sleep here, but the son cannot sleep in the house. Put him in that tiny hut.”
He pointed to the hut across the field.
You see, Hyena had a plan. That night he hoped to steal away the sisters, and he could not do that if their brother was watching over them.
As night fell, Son-eib was sent to sleep in the hut all alone.
When it was dark, Hyena gathered some of the bad villagers. He whispered to them his plan of stealing away the daughters. They agreed, and walked to the hut where Son-eib slept, and set it on fire.
As the roof became engulfed in flames and fell in, the red bird that was hidden in Son-eib’s cloak flew up into the sky. The bird flew straight into Rain’s arms, and it began to sing.
“Son-eib has died,” the bird sang. “He perished in a fire, and his sisters could not save him. He is gone.”
Rain ran to her husband. “Listen to this bird,” she cried. “What will we do? They have killed our boy with flames! We must take vengeance on them. You know how to punish the people of Earth.”
Not long after daybreak, all the villagers — the good people and the bad — noticed an enormous black storm cloud approaching their village. Wrapped around its middle was a rainbow. As it grew close, lightning flashed and struck all the bad people, including Hyena. They all died.
As they were dying, a voice from the clouds called out, “Never again harm the Children of the Sky!”
The daughters hurried back to their home in the sky.
To this day, many of the Bushmen are frightened of the rainbow. When they see it arching in a rain-filled sky, they beat two sticks together and shout, “Go away, go away. Do not burn us. Spare us from harm.”
And this is all because of the tragedy of Son-eib, the son of Rain and Flame.