Earlier this year, there was a call about a story competition. I needed a break, having been caught up in reading some pretty dry academic texts, and this sounded like fun. I was working on a story about a worm whisperer (no surprises there!) telling the tale of a woman who was able to communicate with worms and helped improve composting. My brain was in story mode and I was thoroughly enjoying myself.

Then I had two dreams, one night after the other. The first night, I dreamt of a small, squat tower in a green land and watched as red rivers bubbled up from the four corners of the tower. The second night, I dreamt of otter women going out into the land and communicating in their varied ways. Both dreams were vivid and stayed with me through the days that followed. I’m not sure what these dreams say about my state of mind!

I stopped writing the story about the worm whisperer, sat down and the following story came out of my fingers. I can’t explain it any other way than that it nagged me until I wrote it down. It came out pretty much as it is on the page below, but once written down, it nagged me again – it needed to be read out loud. Gavin agreed and he asked me to read it to him.

As I told the story, there were a couple of words that didn’t quite sit right, like bumps in a smooth road. Hearing it out loud, I knew that the written words had got in the way when I typed it up at first, that I had put in too many words in one place and the wrong word in another. With minor changes, the story became as it now is.

I submitted it for the competition, but I knew already that the competition team were looking for something more like the worm whisperer story. Then I thought it would work well as a children’s book, so I looked up publishers. Like the difference between reading on the screen and reading out loud, none of the options felt right.

This story is not mine to own or sell, so I’m offering this under a Creative Commons licence so that other people can tell it. I have probably picked up these story ideas over my lifetime, so I’m sure someone will recognise them from somewhere and tell me where they come from. I have a plan to record an audio version with photos from my local area as a backdrop, but I know that will take me time to do.

In the meantime, I’m sharing this with you. I look forward to hearing where the otters journey to and who they meet along the way.

The Otters’ Children

Once upon a long ago, a tower stood at the heart of a green, green island. The tower was small, square and squat, made of large blocks of stone that were a dark, dark grey. The tower was old and had been there longer than memory.

One day the same as any other, as the sun rose, light glimmered on the earth around the tower. From each side of the small, square, squat tower, a thin trickle of water ran and seeped into the earth. The trickle became a steady flow, the water finding a path through the earth until four streams chuckled from the tower and travelled into the land. More water, and the streams became rivers, reaching from the tower to the sea. As the rivers touched the sea, the land sighed and the rivers from the island’s heart flowed red as blood.

All was quiet except for the sound of water gurgling and murmuring. Then a flash and a splash and a ripple in each river as something moved in the depths. Four she otters lifted their heads, one in each red river rising from the small, square, squat tower at the heart of the island. They scented the sky, looked to the land, and turned their noses to the sea. They dived and swam and played along their rivers until they reached the sea. They dived and swam and played in the sea until they reached land again, one to the east, one to the south, one to the west and one to the north.

Reaching new shores, they stepped out of the water. Gone was the silk fur, the claws and tails. Four women walked on the land, leaving otter prints in the sand and silt. The otter woman in the north spoke to the many creatures of the land, water and sky. The otter woman in the west spoke to the many faces of the land, water and sky. The otter woman in the south spoke to the many plants of earth and water. The otter woman in the east took clay from the river and a twig from the earth and started to draw on the walls of caves. She spoke through her drawings with the voices of the many creatures, the many plants and the many faces of land, water and sky.

The earth was filled with the sounds of many voices. Time passed, as it does, and other creatures walked upon the earth. The otter women laughed and loved and lived in harmony with all their companions. Their children were many and each child carried the gifts of the otter women into an uncertain future.

Like four red rivers, the children of the otter women travelled out into the lands. With time comes forgetting and some forgot that they could talk to the creatures, to the plants, to the land, water and sky. And yet, the children of the east continued to talk through pictures, some pictures became words, and the words spoke in many voices. Words and pictures spread across the earth and in the mesh of communication, a truth became clear. Some of the voices were falling silent, voices of the creatures, the plants, the earth, the water, voices of the descendants of the otter women and their kin. The waters ran red once more and the heart of the world wept for loss.

And then the children of the otter remembered. They remembered that they could speak to the creatures of the land, water and sky. They remembered that they could speak to the faces of the land, water and sky. They remembered they could speak to the plants of earth and water. They remembered that they could speak to each other with different words, words of hope and growth and change and future. Together, they worked to save the voices that were falling silent, the long work of restoring lands, waters, airs and kin across the earth. Together, they worked to find the way to live lightly and in harmony with all their companions.

One day, not so very long ago, a small group of the otters’ children had an idea. They could tell a different story, call out to the otters’ children across the earth and remind them of what could be achieved together. Tell a story, they called, tell a story of our future, a story of hope and growth and change. The stories spoke in many voices and each was a flash and a splash and a flicker of something deeper. A deep change was coming from the heart of the earth and the hearts of all the otters’ children.

A tower stands at the heart of a green, green island. The tower is small, square and squat, made of large blocks of stone that are a dark, dark grey. The tower is old and had been there longer than memory. From the four sides of the tower flow four red rivers. They flow from the tower to the sea and from the sea to the future. And the future is good because we remembered.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Image is: Fischotter, Lutra lutra by Bernard Landgraf {GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)} from Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fischotter,_Lutra_Lutra.JPG

3 thoughts on “The Otters’ Children

  1. Wow, I love this. Thank you so much for sharing. This story begs to be read over and over, out loud as well as in print. I’d love to see what you might do with it. Perhaps with music as well as pictures and the spoken word?

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