Lost Gourd - a fable Once there was a village, not a very
large or an extremely small one, a village of nine families.
The people in the village were all very well fed, because
right there in the village there were all sorts of fruits
and leafy vegetables for them to eat.
Because they were all very happy with what they had, the people
in the village usually stayed at home and didn't know very
much about the outside world, or whether there even was an
outside world. The only exception was a young man named Arthur
who liked to go exploring in the surrounding woods. Arthur
would bring home strange objects and put them in his mother's
house, mostly rocks, shells and wooden things. One day Arthur
was venturing way far away in the woods when he espied a big,
green ball hanging from a vine. He admired the shiny, big
ball, broke it off of the vine and took it home. Everyone
in the village asked him what it was, and Arthur named it
a "gourd". The people all told Arthur that this big, heavy
gourd appeared to be completely useless, and they went back
to sitting in the sun with their fruits and leafy vegetables.
Arthur put the gourd in the house where he and his mother
lived, behind some other things he had collected.
A few months later, Arthur was going through some of the things
in his house and discovered that the gourd had turned brown
and was much, much lighter in weight than it had been. He
didn't know what had happened, but when he shook the gourd
there was something inside rustling around. He carefully cut
the big, round gourd in half. When he did this, he ended up
with two objects that were like large wooden bowls, plus some
kind of woody, crumbly stuff that he put on the village's
garbage pile, out behind the houses. He decorated the two
bowls with juice from some of the berries that grew in the
village and gave one bowl to his mother. The colorful bowl
that Arthur made for his mother was the talk of the town.
Everyone saw that the bowls were wonderful. Arthur and his
mother showed how they used the bowls to hold their fruits
and leafy vegetables. This was considered an innovation and
had the effect of giving Arthur and his mother some special
status in the community.
next year, a strange thing happened. Out of the garbage heap
grew several long, monstrous vines. Before long, there were
many big, round gourds growing off of the vines. The villagers
asked Arthur to get rid of them, so he took all the gourds
into his house. This time, he made many, many bowls, decorated
them with berry juice, gave them to everyone in the village
and threw the stuff from inside the gourds onto the garbage
biggest bowl went to little Emma, the most beautiful girl
in town. Emma was proud to have the biggest bowl, but soon
she became sad, because her big bowl always looked so empty.
The village had strict rules about how much fruit and how
much leafy vegetables could be picked and consumed in a day.
Emma's father, Barry, wanted to make Emma happy, so he went
out into the woods looking for more things to put in the bowl.
It was then that the village discovered all sorts of new vegetables,
and then eventually fish and game.
Meanwhile, the new seeds that Arthur had thrown onto the garbage
heap were producing many more gourds. Since everyone already
had bowls, Arthur started making the gourds into musical instruments.
By this time, hunting and gathering had become very popular
with the villagers, and they mostly spent their days doing
that. At night Arthur and a few friends would entertain everyone
with music played on the gourds. Life was pretty good.
the oldest man in the village, a wise old sage named Pippin,
announced that he was tired of traipsing around the woods
looking for food. He had learned that using the seeds of the
vegetables, all the vegetables could in fact be grown right
there near his house, and he invited everyone to grow crops
behind where he lived. This seemed easier and caught on pretty
quickly. By day, the villagers grew their crops, and by night
they listened and danced in the garden as Arthur and his friends
played crazy music on their gourd instruments. They also developed
a solar calendar and some other neat things at that time.
day, a traveler came to town. He said his name was John and
that he came from across the river. He brought seeds from
his own village and agreed to stay for a while. Where John
came from, they had "singing", and John was soon singing with
the gourd band. John told everyone about the land across the
river. Even though it was not as warm all year long north
of the river, one adventurous youth, named Christopher, decided
to go see the other side, where he would trade seeds. A long
while later, Christopher came back to the village with a few
new seeds and other things, and with many strange tales. He
spoke of men playing music with fire coming out of their instruments,
singers who sang old songs of days gone by, strange enigmatic
statues, mechanized cutting and grinding devices, lush breakfasts
where people wore funny hats, and there were beautiful queens,
on and on, so many stories.
wanted to go see the great outside world. Everyone wanted
to trade things with the people across the river. Among the
first things to be traded away were the gourds and gourd vines
that they had in the village.
As people began to leave the village to go out and see the
world, Arthur found that his band of musicians was shrinking.
After a while, only the five most dedicated musicians were
left to play for the dancers. Also, the people in the village
now had so much to do, that sometimes there were no dancers
for the five musicians to play to. On those evenings, the
musicians would have long talks among themselves about all
that had happened in the village. It was getting harder and
harder to find decent size gourds to make their instruments
and costumes out of. Every now and then, a gourd instrument
would break and more and more often could not be replaced.
gourd musicians decided there was only one thing to do, and
they knew that no one else would do it. They had to leave
the village on a quest, to search for that gourd vine in the
woods, the mother vine that Arthur had found so long ago.
Arthur didn't remember exactly where the vine was, just that
it was a long, long distance away. So they all set out, in
search of the lost gourd.
As the musicians meandered through the cities, valleys, mountains
and roads, they searched for their prize and played their
crazy gourd music. At times, you could hear that music hanging
breeze, some distance through the woods, or even see them
popping through the underbrush in their wild looking musician
costumes. It was said that if you gave them a good smile,
you would be happy all day, and if you gave them some hospitality,
you would have good luck for a whole year. The gourd musicians
searched and searched, eventually wandering throughout much
of the known world, which at that time was a little smaller
than it is now. Everywhere they went, they gathered musical influences
from the wonderful people they met. Everywhere they went,
they made people happy.
Sometimes, when the wind is right, you can still catch some
of that gourd music wafting through the wilderness of our
world, even now, because the five gourd musicians are still
out there, still wandering ... still searching, for the lost
(This story dedicated to all the Walterses, Stephenses [and
entourage], Parks, Mosers, Hibbens, Elliotts, Blesses, Benensons
and Barnetts of this world. Long may you roam.) - (c) J. Ramsey,