The Origin Of Lightning

: Nature's Riddles and Their Answers
: Laos Folk-lore Of Farther India

There was once a great chief who desired above all things to be happy in

the future life, therefore he continually made feasts for the priests

and the poor; spending much money in making merit. He had ten wives,

nine of whom helped him in all the merit-makings, but the head wife, his

favorite, would never take part. Laughing, and making herself beautiful

in soft garments and jewels, she gave naught to the priests.

And on a day, when the great chief and his nine merit-making wives were

no more, but had gone to live in the sky on account of their

merit-making, the great chief longed for his favorite, and taking a

glass, he looked down on the earth to see her. After many days, he

beheld her as a crane hunting for food on the border of a lake. The

great chief, to try her heart and to see if she had repented, came down

from his home in the sky in the form of a fish, and swam to the crane.

Seeing the fish, the crane pecked at it, but the fish sprang out of the

water, and when the crane saw it was alive, she would not touch it.

Again the fish floated near the crane and she pecked at it, but on

finding it was alive let it escape. Then was the heart of the great

chief glad, for he saw that his favorite wife would not destroy life

even to satisfy her hunger, and he knew that her merit was such she

could be born in the form of a woman again.

It happened on a day that the crane died, and, when again born, had the

form of a gardener's child. As the child grew in years and stature, she

was fairer than any other in the land, and, when a maiden, the father

and mother made a feast, inviting all the people to come. During the

feast, they gave a wreath of beautiful flowers to their daughter and

said, "Throw this into the air, and on whosesoever head it falls, that

one will be to thee a husband."

The great chief, her husband of old, seeking her, came down to the earth

in the form of an old man, and, when the maiden cast the wreath into the

air, it fell on the head of this old man.

Great sport was made of him, and tauntingly the people cried, "Does this

bent stick think he is mate for our lotus flower?"

But the fair maiden placed her hand in the old man's hand, and, together

they rose into the air. In vain they sought to detain them--the father

even shot at the old man, but they were soon lost to sight, and to this

day, when the people see the chain lightning in the sky, they say it is

the wreath of the beautiful maiden; when the lightning strikes, they say

it is the gardener shooting at the old man, and, when the heat lightning

flashes, they say it is the great chief flashing his glass over the

earth in search of his favorite and beautiful wife.