The Sleeping Gypsy

“The Sleeping Gypsy” by Henri Rousseau http://www.pasunautre.com/2010/03/08/the-sleeping-gypsy/

Pronunciation guide

Wamuiru- WAH-moh-ee-roh

Nyachae- NYAH-chah-ay

Munoru- MOH-noh-roo

Murothi- Moh-row-thee

Wamuiru, the dark-skinned beauty and the moon, Mwezi, were a pair. They worked together and lighted the night sky in cycle. Each loved to watch the earth, and took turns facing the land. Wamuiru was young compared to Mwezi. He was born of the water, in the dawn of time. She had never been to Earth and longed to visit the ocean shores, to travel the distant valleys. She waited until Mwezi looked full on the earth, then she wished on the constant star for a human body. After casting her wish, she fell asleep. When she awoke she felt strange. She looked down and her dark skin glistened in the rising sun. She had long beautiful arms and legs. A rainbow spread in the sky and fell upon Wamuiru. She looked about her, in her hands she held the wooden staff of a wanderer. Wamuiru stood upon her long slender legs, and wandered to the nearest village.

In the village Wamuiru met an old woman who welcomed her into her home like an old friend. The woman was long like a stick, her dry skin hung from her bones like an elephants. The wrinkles sagged on her brown frame, her white hair was thin and brittle. She fed Wamuiru ugali, and millet. “I know who you are, Your skin is as black and beautiful, as a dark moon. I am Nyachae” said the woman. “You do not belong here. You must return to Mwezi, for you are one.” Wamuiru was angry, she did not want to return. She turned to leave, but Nyache held her arm tightly. “There may come a time when you change your mind. Take this.” Nyachae held a beautiful guitar in her hands. The strings seemed strung of gold, the body carved of precious wood, and the neck was of pure silver.  Wamuiru picked it up and played a beautiful song. Nyache, watched her appraisingly. “You will also need this,” said the old woman handing her a slender water jug, “The waters of the dark sea are in this jug, and these will keep you alive if you drink one sip every evening as the moon rises. You were born of the ash, and will return to ash if you forget to drink. Beware of Munoru, for he is greedy.” Wamuiru thanked the woman she gazed at the guitar. She looked up to ask how she was to recognize Munoru, but she found herself alone. The woman and the village had disappeared entirely. She was in the midst of a golden swaying meadow. There was a slender tree before her, and a winding road beside her.

Mwezi wept for his lost love. His face brightened the land every night, as he searched for his love. Wamuiru traveled across valleys, and through forests. She slept on the ground and ate the fruits of the earth. Her rainbow cloak swept the dust as she traveled. She played her songs to the sun daily, praising his beauty. She was careful not to sing in the darkness though. For she was not yet ready to return home. She walked for days beyond her count. Others had many difficulties though. Without the cycles of the moon people could not keep track of time. The farmers didn’t know when to harvest their vegetables, and they rotted in the fields. Sailors could not see the stars to navigate at night, and were lost at sea. Mwezi wept when he watched the earth at night, and his light began to fade.

One night Wamuiru slept by the shore of the sea, and felt a growling whisper in her ear, “You are far from home Wamuiru, what do you search for?” She awoke to find a huge figure looming above her. The creature had a vast golden mane that shown in the moonlight, strong muscles rippled on the creatures shoulders. His teeth glistened, razor-sharp. She jumped back, “Are you Munoru?” She asked the creature. He laughed at her. “I might be. Would you have me leave? You need only ask.” Wamuiru looked at the creature, and found that she did not wish him to leave. “Who are you?” she asked. “I call myself Muruthi. I have come to protect you until you return to Mwezi, which you must do.” the creature answered. Wamuiru looked to the moon for the first time during her journey. She wondered what Mwezi was feeling.

She traveled with her companion, to new villages. He lay beside her, and she felt safe. One day, when they were in a market together, Wamuiru met a large man. His corpulent belly hung over his belt. He wore rings on every one of his fat fingers, and his black hair hung in long braids from his head. The man rubbed his chin when he saw Wamuiru, and his eyes glinted greedily. “I am a merchant and I sell my wares all over the world. Would you like to join me on a voyage.” Muruthi looked uneasy,he shook his mane restlessly in protest. Wamuiru felt uneasy as well, and left the man at his stall in the market. She did not want to join him on his voyage.

That night when she was sleeping Wamuiru had a dream about sailing on a stormy sea. She was there searching for Mwezi. She saw a glimmer of his light behind a large Baobob tree, but when she got there she only found the fat man from the market holding a candle of stars, laughing and pointing at her. Then his candle turned to fierce fire and burned Maasai Mara. She woke up and saw Mwezi still searching the plains. His eyes were full of tears, and his light seemed so dim. She put her hand up to comfort him, but he was beyond her reach. She wished to hold his hand again. Wamuiru reached for her guitar, only to realize that it was missing. She frantically clawed at the grasses beside her. She looked pleadingly to her loyal friend Muruthi, “Have you seen it,” she asked? He shook his mane, “I have a guess, the man from the market was Munoru. He stole it from you.” In her heart Wamuiru knew it was true. She watched as Mwezi sank behind the far mountains still searching for her, and she unable to join him.”

In the morning the two friends ran back to the market, but the fat merchant was gone. They saw his ship sailing into the distance. Wamuiru sank to her knees and cried to the four winds to help her. The east wind heard her cry and blew the tricksters ship back into port. Maruthi swept onto the ship and dragged Munoru out by the neck of his tunic. He sat begging, and the guitar fell from his garment. Wamuiru reached for it and her bottle fell to the ground breaking into a thousand pieces. Maruthi swiped the guitar from the tricksters hands. Wamuiru collapsed, unable to move. Munoru raced back to his ship, cackling with glee. Wamairu’s dark skin became dry like the ashes of a dead fire. She would now die on the land because of her foolishness. Maruthi licked Wamuiru’s face. He rolled her to the eastern horizon then waited for the moon to rise in the sky. Maruthi played a chord on the guitar as Mwezi’s face rose over the mountains. He saw Wamuiru and caught her in his arms. With one long arm he dipped his fingers in the dark ocean. He wiped her burning brow with the cool water and dripped some into her mouth. Wamuiru awoke and looked at her love. She held his hand and has never let go to this day. There are only two days in a cycle when they appear alone. The one when Mwezi shines full, brightening the land. The other when Wamuiru watches the land. On those nights people remember the time when the moon almost went out.

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