I was gifted this story late at night when thinking about ancestors. The Wooden People that Wanted Change is a new myth about the necessity of death and change. I hope you and your family enjoy it.
Once upon a time in the land of the north where winters are full of snow and in the summer the sun doesn’t set for days, there were people made of wood that never died.
That’s right, they never died.
This was a long long time ago before your granny’s grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmother lived. Back before death was invented.
In those days people were carved from driftwood. They lived but couldn’t make life. So there were no babies or children yet, just the same wooden people living on and on.
Nothing ever changed and, as you may know, when people get older they can get kind of brittle and set in their ways. Well it was the same for the wooden people. With nothing new there were no new lessons, no new stories, no new adventures to be had.
Looking for a change, the wooden people went to the River.
They said, “O River, you are always shifting and changing course. How can we experience new things like you?”
The River quickly replied, “I have no time to banter. I am in a rush. By the time I tell you, I will have moved on and new water will come to take my place. You must ask my mother the Ocean if you would know how to change and refresh yourselves.”
So the wooden people went to the Ocean and said, “O Ocean, you know all about change with your ebb and flow of tides. Teach us how to change too, won’t you?”
And the Ocean said, “I am old and my depths contain mysteries but I cannot give you the answers you seek. I am born from Rain and the Moon creates my churning tides. You must look to the sky to find your answers.”
Feeling very put off, the wooden people looked to the Sky filled with wet clouds and the bright moon. They said, “O Sky with your shifting light of sun and moon, starry maps, and lengthening and shortening of days, please tell us the secret to change. We long for new lessons and stories so.”
With that they offered their tears like rain and their prayers were heard.
Mother Night appeared in her dark raiment tinged at the edges with the blood and gold of sunset and sunrise. She took pity on the wooden people and gave them the secret to change but warned them.
“Remember the All-Father Himself warns us the wise man’s heard is seldom happy, if wisdom too great he has won. But, for your offering of tears, I will tell you the secret to change.”
She took the wooden people and led them to the edge of the forest. There she showed them a fallen tree.
“Here lies your kin. Do you see that it has fallen and no blood-sap flows? Do you see that parts are broken off and missing? That it is hallow in parts and lifeless?”
Mother Night went on, “But see there is life. On that tree many small insects are feeding and making their homes. Moss, lichen, and mushrooms are growing all over and around the decay. The earth beneath is being refreshed and rich for growing. From the roots and trunk new saplings are springing up.’
“The tree falls lifeless and rots in order to create new life and a cycle of change.”
Mother Night turned to the wooden people with this wisdom. She smoothed out her robes, the darkness and the blood and gold edges, and said, “For change, for new stories and lessons, for anything in this universe, something must be given in order to receive. For new life, there must first be death.”
The wooden people understood that in order to welcome new life, change, lessons, and stories, they must first sacrifice of themselves.
And so death was known to the first peoples of the north. The first funerals were arranged and so were the first births. Their songs and stories were passed on – stories of rain and sunsets, of tides and rushing rivers.
People learned these lessons and grew up. They had many great adventures. Eventually, they too died and made way for something new to grow.
Meðalsnotr skyli manna hverr,
æva til snotr sé;
því at snotrs manns hjarta
verðr sjaldan glatt,
ef sá er alsnotr, er á.
should each one be,
but never over-wise;
for a wise man’s heart
is seldom glad;
if he is all-wise who owns it.
Deyr fé, deyja frændr,
deyr sjalfr it sama,
ek veit einn, at aldrei deyr:
dómr um dauðan hvern
we ourselves also die;
but I know one thing
that never dies, –
judgement on each one dead.
Check out my other Havamal inspired stories: