Falling Rock: A Short Story
Falling Rock: A Short Story
“You say you love my daughter. Is this true?” The old chief looked to his youngest daughter, the most beautiful of his children.
“Yes, Father. He loves me and I love him. Please let us marry.” Her small hands grasped his gnarly ones and he narrowed his beady eyes at the warrior.
“What do you have to offer for this union, young warrior?”
He watched as the bravery seemed to seep out of the man at his question.
“I have nothing, my chief. I do not own any animals or fancy cloth. I can offer my service and my loyal protection.” His black eyes met the daughter’s. “To you and yours for the rest of my days.”
“I have that already, my man. I wish you to complete me a task. If you are successful, you will have permission to marry my daughter. Do you agree?” The chief crossed his arms and stared down his hawk nose at the warrior.
“Yes, I will do anything to marry your daughter.” The young man eagerly agreed.
“Very well. Your task will be to search the territory, near and far, for the meaning of life.”
The young man reared back in surprise. “The meaning of life?”
“Yes. When you have found it, return to me and you may marry my daughter. Now go.” The chief dismissed the warrior with a wave of his hand, placing his youngest behind him.
After many moons, the chief’s beautiful daughter fell before her father in tears. “Father, I am so frightened!”
“What is wrong, my daughter?”
“Falling Rock has not returned from your task and it has been a long time. I am afraid he has fallen ill or worse.”
The chief’s heart ached to see his child suffer and he placed a hand on her shoulder. “What do you wish that I do?”
“Can you not send some men to find him?”
Her tears and pleas tore at the old man’s heart and he nodded. He sent out a call to the entire village. Before long, the room was crowded with elders, warriors and healers. He held his hand up and a hush fell over the entire area.
“Thank you for coming, my friends. My daughter has petitioned my help to find her warrior. As you know, Falling Rock is on a mission to find the meaning of life. I do not know his location and he could be anywhere. We do not have many months before the winter snows so I will give anyone who is willing, two moons to find him.”
Over the next months, warriors straggled into the village, worn and tired, their horses lathered with sweat. A few sported injuries and some never returned at all. The search for the young warrior continued until the day when the last searcher returned empty-handed.
The chief called another meeting. His daughter wept quietly in the corner as the villagers filed into the room.
“Hello, my friends. My daughter and I would like to thank you.”
“But chief, we didn’t find Falling Rock.” One of the younger warriors spoke from the back of the crowd.
“Yes, son, I know but you searched, did you not?” At the roomful of fervent nods, he continued, “That is all I can ask for.”
An older man ran a hand across the back of his neck. "After a few stops, I started putting signs everywhere I went. In case someone saw him.”
“Hey, I saw those! I started doing it too.” The younger warrior poked him in the back and soon others were telling the villagers how they had posted many signs along their journey.
A commotion in the back turned heads and a murmuring began building through the crowd. Murmurs grew to shouts and the crowd parted to reveal a dirty, limping, tired man. A squeal of joy came from the corner and the chief’s daughter leapt to her feet and raced toward the man. She threw her arms around him and the room erupted in applause and laughter.
The chief smiled and studied the beaten warrior. “Hello, my son, I see you survived your task.”
“Yes, Chief, I have. I thank you for the honor of such a mission.”
“And what may I ask, did you learn on your journey?” The chief stroked his chin.
The young warrior looked from the chief to the woman at his side. He then gazed at the people gathered around him.
“I discovered a territory full of wonders. I found a land of steaming water and bubbling mud. I stood at a great cut of land I could not cross. I even saw a mountain of flowing water. It was almost too amazing to believe if I had not seen it with my own eyes.” He shook his head as if to clear the memories from his mind.
“But in the end, the meaning of life is right here.” He met the eyes of those around him. “I saw the signs and they led me home.”
“Very well done. You will be married soon. Go now and rest.” The old chief smiled and dismissed the crowd over his daughter’s cry of joy.
The warrior and the chief’s daughter married a few weeks later to full regalia of dancing and feasting. They lived many years happily thereafter.
This is my variation of the Native American folklore story of Falling Rock. I originally heard the tale from my husband, James (Rosebud Lakota Sioux.)