AGORAS AND THE MOUNTAIN SPIRITS
Agoras was a hero of the Dewari Toln, a strong fighter, tall and brave and fierce. He was also beautiful of face, lithe, and skilful as a dancer.
One day Agoras had been out hunting and sat down to rest in the shade beside a large stone. He had wandered far from his village, into a part of the mountain few people ever visited.
Unknown to him the stone was a meeting place of the female spirits of the mountain. Once a year they would come there to elect one of them as their leader.
The spirits peeped out from behind the stone and saw the handsome hunter stretched out comfortably, chewing on some biri nuts. They were angry that he was there , interfering with their women’s meeting, so they decided to play tricks on him.
“Why don’t we take his clothes away?” suggested Stone Spirit.
“Yes, yes, that will embarrass him dreadfully and make him sorry, yes it will!” chattered the busy fire spirit.
“And we’ll be able to see if he’s really as handsome as he looks, under all that clothing” whispered the wind spirit, and the others all smiled.
“Let that be our contest then,” said Water “Whoever gets him to remove his clothing will be the winner.”
The Stone Spirit made the first attempt. “This will be too easy” she grumbled to herself “I’ll just have to make him so frightened he’ll go mad and pull off all his clothes.”
So Stone Spirit made the mountain rumble, the rocks clash together and gravel slides pour down the mountainside. The noise of grinding rocks was deafening.
Agoras jumped up and grabbed his spear at the first sound, then realising what was happening, he took all the skins of the animals he had hunted and bound them around himself as padding, shielding him from the tumbling pebbles and boulders alike.
When the rumbling stopped, Agoras was still there, wearing more clothes than he had started with.
“I can do better than that” whistled Wind proudly. She began to blow, first a gentle zephyr, then a stronger breeze, then a howling wind that plucked at Agoras’ clothing and tried to tear it away.
But Agoras held tight, no matter how hard Wind blew, he turned his back to her, hunched over and let her go over his head.
When Wind, exhausted, finally had to admit defeat, Agoras remained carefully curled up in a ball, hat pulled down over his eyes, padding of catskins around him.
“It can’t be done,” panted Wind
“I can’t tell yet if he’s really handsome or not. You’ve made it even harder” chortled Fire “but wait and see what I can do!”
Fire sent trickles of flame out onto the mountain, fingers of fire from the deep burning heart of the mountain.
Agoras saw them and began to run as fast as he could. But he couldn’t outrun the Fire spirit when she was excited. She danced around, beside, in front, behind him. Turning round and round he saw himself imprisoned. He began to untie the catskins.
“Aha! Aha! He’s undressing! You see, I told you I could do it” said Fire
But Agoras was using the skins to cover his face and hands and swinging others to beat a path through the fire. Finally he escaped and stood free on a mountain top.
Fire spirit sputtered angrily, took Agoras’ charred spear and jumped on it until it was broken into tiny pieces, then threw them in the air. “Well, it’s plain to see he isn’t really a man at all, he’s just a heap of old clothes. It’s not a very good game” she hissed, flickering a little with tiredness.
“It’s my turn now” said Water.
“Oh, sure” laughed the other spirits at slender, wavering Water. “What can you do? Rain on him – he’ll just pull his coat tighter; dump a deluge on him, he’ll be washed away, and he won’t be able to take his clothes off.”
“Wait and see” said Water gently. She moved her hands and a small spring started up near the exhausted, blackened hero. He turned his head at the gentle, trickling sound and came to cup his hands and drink.
The trickle bubbled on down the hill, with Agoras following. By this means Water led him down a little valley and formed a smooth still pool there. At the sight of it Agoras began stripping off his clothes and finally plunged right in, allowing the cool caresses of the the Water spirit to enfold him.
“He is as handsome underneath his clothes as his face and hands showed” she announced.
Fire sputtered angrily, but the others knew it was fair. Water was the leader of the mountain spirits. Finally they let the hunter return to his village, wondering at his strange adventure on the mountain.
Rain was plentiful that year, cascading from the mountains, trickling around the eaves of the houses, running in among the stunted crops so that they grew into giants the villagers had trouble hauling home through the mud.
(image from Wikimedia Commons, NomadTales)