Here’s the story they tell:
An old widower had a beautiful 16-year-old daughter, who suffered from a grave sickness of the eyes that no doctor could cure. Time and again he had gone to a shaman’s house for help but the shaman refused to see him. Sometime later the young woman went blind and the widower resolved to visit the shaman one more time. When the shaman heard his story, he suddenly said, “Take your daughter to the other side of the river. When you get to the center of the next town, pause and listen to the peddlers that wander the streets there, touting their wares, each with his own tune. The merchant whose cry and melody pleases you most is the one who can cure your daughter.”
The man did as the shaman bade and before dawn could break he crossed the tranquil river that divided the two villages on a raft with his daughter. The straight line of water infused him with calm and stability and his mind wandered between this and other thoughts when they came to the neighboring town. He left his daughter at an inn. In the center of that neighboring town, he happened on a man hawking wildflowers with a melody that pleased him as much as the colors of the blossoms, as bright as fireflies. He bought his daughter some tiny yellow flowers, the brightest of all, and asked the vendor to come to the inn that same afternoon, with more flowers like those for his young daughter. The peddler came into her bedroom carrying the flowers on his back. The widower locked the door and told the peddler what the shaman had said when the peddler cried out, “I don’t care! Let me out now or I’ll cut off your fingers like I was cutting down boughs this morning in the forest.” The widower, terrified, opened the door. The peddler disappeared and the young woman, instantly cured, thanked her father for all those yellow blossoms.
They also tell this story:
A beautiful young woman of 16 used to take care of her father, a melancholy widower. Once the young woman had a troubling dream in which she was looking for her mother in the woods until nightfall. Along the way, she happened on a swarm of fireflies amid lofty and innumerable dry trees. She admired the fireflies as they flit between the low branches when suddenly she thought she spotted her mother behind the swarm, far off amid the trees. But the fireflies shimmied so that she lost sight of her. The next morning, the young woman sought not to further sadden her father with the account of her dream and she kept it to herself. That night she began to suffer a grave illness in her eyes that no doctor could cure. There was a shaman in the town, short of stature, fond of drink and in the habit of spitting as he spoke, famed for his gifts of clairvoyance. It was known that root liquor sharpened those gifts and it was known he ate sylvan mushrooms to fine-tune them even more. Time passed and the shaman would not receive them, nor could the doctors find a cure for the malady that afflicted the young woman, until one morning she awoke yet could not leave behind the darkness of night. In her blindness, her ear began to guide her steps and one afternoon, her father’s voice suddenly said, “There’s a gift I wish to grant you, daughter, but we must travel to the neighboring town. Tomorrow at break of dawn, we shall cross the river in a raft.”
The young woman did as her father bade, and on a raft they crossed the turbid river dividing the towns. The water’s zigzagging, unstable line unnerved him, and he could sense the danger of falling smack into the darkness, into which soon he was immersed, as if he were always at the center of that darkness. Yet he liked the sensation of moving and sinking, the unpredictability of his path in the darkness; the anxiety, he thought, of not knowing where they were headed. Guided by her father’s voice, they soon reached the inn and he asked her to await him there. The young woman fell asleep in a chair with her head resting on a wooden table next to a still-warm fireplace. Her arms surrounded her face when the noise of a slamming door awoke her. She saw yellow flowers and more, innumerable yellow flowers that resembled the firefly swarm in her dream that had kept her from seeing her mother again, as if despite not being able to see her again, either in the dream or at that moment, the blindness had been but a still and turbid parenthesis.