The Death of Yarn-Mah


A beautiful little girl called Yarn-Mah lived with her mother in a poor village; the village was on a piece of land between swamps and the thick dark forest. Yarn-Mah’s mother became old, and she could no longer paddle her canoe and throw the fishing net as she did in her younger days; so she taught Yarn-Mah how to paddle and how to throw the tummah net so cleverly that no fish beneath it could escape.

At some distance from the village was a clear stream where the largest kind of fish could be seen, but people were forbidden to fish there for that part of the land was owned by a devil who devoured humans.

“My daughter,” said Yarn-Mah’s mother, “even before you were born many women were eaten by the devil who lives in the clear stream. The waters there are rich with fish — but if you take one you will die, and if your foot event enters the water there you will never be seen again.”

Yarn-Mah promised she would never go there. She would go fishing everywhere else, but never in the clear stream. But one day she searched everywhere for fish without success, and wandering near the clear stream she saw shoals of beautiful blue an black and silver fish there. No one was about ; there was no devil to be seen, and the waters looked quiet and peaceful. She could not resist the temptation to cast her net among them, and her clever net trapped many. Bare legged and breathless with excitement she entered the stream to get more. She was almost in the middle of the stream when the water began to rise. It reached her thighs, then her waist. Quickly she left her net and tried to wade ashore, but the water rose quickly to her breast, and then her shoulders. Looking up she saw a bat fluttering about in the evening sky, and she felt very sad and lonely now that she knew she must die out here in the swamp. She began to sing to the bat:

“Bat, on your travels tonight

Visit my village,

Tell my mother

You saw me here.”

The water rose to her chin, to her lips, but she sang on:

“Tell her you saw me,

And that I said farewell.

Her good advice

Slipped from my foolish head.”

The water covered her face and rose above her head, and thus for her disobedience beautiful little Yarn-Mah died.

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