The Fisherman Who Married a Water Spirit
Once upon a time there was a fisherman who went forth every day to sit on the river in his canoe and fish. He was a clever an industrious man and his name was Wana, but always when sitting alone in his canoe he felt a great emptiness within his heart.
“Ah,” he would sigh, “if I only had a wife!”
He would have preferred a wife to all the fishes in the river, for he was a lonely man with no family at all, and every evening he returned to an empty hut, prepared his own meal, and passed the night alone. As he sat in his canoe he often told the river how much he desired a wife, and prayed that he might be blessed with many children.
A river spirit overheard him. She had the form of a crocodile and lived on the bottom of the river, but when she watched and watched the man and saw that he was gentle, good and honest, she began to plan a plan.
One day, as was his custom, Wana left his fishing early to attend the weekly market. The river spirit waited until he had gone; then she climbed onto the river bank and stepped out of the crocodile skin to reveal herself as a singularly beautiful young maiden. She carefully had her crocodile skin beneath a rock and went to the town market. Many people from neighboring villages attended this weekly market, and everyone wondered whom the beautiful stranger could be.
When nightfall came and the market was over she went to the fisherman’s house; he was preparing his evening meal.
“O fisherman,” she said, “I am a stranger here, and my village is far off. I beg you to let me sleep in your house tonight.”
Wana welcomed her courteously. She prepared his simple meal for him in such a wifely fashion that first he ate from hunger and then from sheer delight: never had he tasted such exquisite cooking. The beauty of this woman filled his heart with such admiration, he gave her his own bed and she slept there in peace.
In the morning the maiden asked him to escort her a little way, but near the river she begged him to leave her and turn back. Alone she went to the river bank, and having carefully looked about she slipped into the crocodile skin and went into the river. During the following days she heard Wana sigh longingly for the lovely maiden who had passed the night within his house.
Next market day the river spirit came out of the water again, hid her crocodile skin beneath the rock, and went to market. Again she begged shelter at Wana’s hut, and he was glad when he saw her. She passed the night, and in the morning went away.
This continued for some time, and Wana came to love her with a great and urgent love. Since he was a humble man and considered her the daughter of some important chief he could not bring himself to ask her hand in marriage; but when he inquired of her village and home and family, the maiden was so evasive in her answers that finally his suspicions were aroused.
There came a certain day when he escorted her, as usual, some little way along the path towards the river, and, as usual, when they reached a certain place she asked him to turn back. Wana pretended to turn back, but walking softly, softly, he followed the maiden until she reached the river bank. Thinking herself alone she took the crocodile skin from beneath the rock, put it on, and went into the river.
Wana was astonished.
“Can this be true?” he asked himself. “Is she, then a water spirit? How can I win and wed a maiden who lives inside the river for six days of the week?”
Deep in thought he went away, and planned a plan to win her for all time. Next market day the maiden came again, so beautiful that the fisherman was oppressed by burning love. That night, as she slept, he slipped away. He ran to the river bank. He took the crocodile skin from underneath the rock and carried it to a far, far place, buried it, and returned to his house before dawn broke.
As usual he escorted the lady towards the river, and turned back at her request. He waited in his house. The river spirit went to the river and put her head beneath the rock to find her skin.
The skin was gone! It had completely disappeared.
She searched about and about, and up and down the bank, under other rocks and everywhere one could; but search as she would, the skin was nowhere to be seen. What could she do? Spirit laws obliged her to return to her own place, but now she could not. She sat upon the rock and wept a while, then she rose and went to the fisherman who had been so good to her, and whom she hoped would one day take her for his wife.
She entered his house.
“I have come to you,” she said, and she went to him. Thus they were wedded, and passed the night together, and in the morning when she awoke she said:
“O Wana Yoryer, know that I am the happiest of wives. But last night I dreamed a terrible dream, and I tell you this: If any man should bring the skin of a crocodile to this town, I shall surely die! so if you see such a thing yourself anywhere along the river bank, drop it in the river if you love me.”
Thus it is seen that the Sky God hears the prayers of honest men and fills their needs.