The story behind the constellations of the Goatherd and the Goat. Or, why intervention by the gods is not always that good for those involved.
Photo credit: W.S. Keller
Once there was a young goatherd named Maralo, who spent more time dreaming than herding. Maralo filled his days singing songs of adventure, or thinking about about the exact color of his true love’s hair, or watching a lizard navigate the river bank. Then he would realize he’d lost track of the goats. Again. No matter how many times his uncle scolded him, Maralo could not keep his mind on goat-herding from dawn until dusk.
Luckily for Maralo, he could run fast, and jump nimbly, too. He always caught the wandering goats quickly, before his uncle found out.
Unluckily for Maralo, his antics caught the attention of Entovan.
Now, Entovan was a deity of progress and civilization. His’r philosophy most definitely did not endorse antics. Entovan taught his’r followers to be orderly and well-managed and productive, to the benefit of all. When Entovan saw Maralo wasting time dreaming while working, and then wasting more time chasing down wayward goats, sh’he decided to teach the boy a lesson.
Entovan gave one of Maralo’s goats the ability to run eight times faster. When Maralo could not catch it, he would be punished for his error, and reform his lazy ways.
The next time Maralo daydreamed, the goats began to wander away. Maralo sprinted off to catch them. Most were easy. But the one very fast goat sped off like a arrow. It quickly darted out of Maralo’s reach.
Jhillos had also been watching Maralo. He felt Entovan was being unfair. After all, Maralo wasn’t wasting his time. The boy’s singing had improved significantly. And he waxed especially poetic about the chestnut hues of that village girl’s hair. Jhillos had a special fondness for mortals who could sing and dream and see with an open heart. Nurturing art and beauty justified losing a goat here and there.
So Jhillos gave Maralo the ability to run eight times faster, the same as the goat. Maralo raced off. Eventually, he caught the wayward goat and brought it back.
The next day, Entovan returned to see if Maralo had learned his lesson.
Maralo tried to be more vigilant. But eventually, thoughts of interesting, not-goat things distracted him. The same goat wandered off. Maralo could run as fast as the goat now, so he gave a good chase.
Maralo had almost caught the goat between his hands when Entovan acted again. This time, Entovan gave the goat the ability to jump eight times farther. The goat leapt up the mountainside, bounding over it as if it were no bigger than a hay pile. It quickly darted out of Maralo’s reach.
Jhillos again came to help Maralo, giving him the ability to jump eight times father, the same as the goat. Maralo jumped and ran and jumped some more. Eventually, he caught the wayward goat and brought it back.
The third day, Maralo tried even harder to concentrate. He lasted far into the afternoon before slipping into a daydream, losing track of the goats once more.
In frustration, Entovan cast a new spell on the fast goat. Now it could go wherever it wanted—here and there, and up and down—anywhere in the universe. Entovan touched the goat’s back, willing it to run until it escaped the goatherd.
Jhillos gave the same ability to Maralo. He kissed Maralo’s head, willing him to chase the goat until it was caught.
The goat bolted. Maralo leapt off in pursuit.
They ran all over the world. They sped through valleys and villages as two gusts of wind, sending laundry flapping and hats flying through the fields. They dashed up mountains, shooting off the peaks to race upon the clouds. They rushed so quickly through lands covered in ice that they never had time to get cold. They jumped across dense forests on the treetops, leaving flocks of startled birds rising up behind them. They darted across the surface of the ocean, hidden by plumes of water churned up by their feet. The wake they carved in the water rocked even the largest boats in faraway ports.
The two deities had blessed the goat and the goatherd with the same speed. The goat could never get away, but Maralo could never get quite close enough to catch it. Yet, compelled by the deities, neither one could stop the chase. Eventually they ran straight up into the sky, running in between the stars.
They race there still, up in the stars. Maralo the Goatherd sings and dreams and watches the whole world while he runs, destined to chase the Goat across the eastern sky for all time.