RAT: A Chinese Folktale- adapted by Jenni Cargill
When I perform this tale, I play my Zyladrum along with it. If you havent come across one, it’s a form of tuned percussion invented in both Japan and ancient South America, apparently. It is in the shape of a wooden box. Mine was made locally of Australian spotted gum and is tuned to a pentatonic scale of G, which gives it a dreamy, gamelon-like sound- just right for this simple circular story.
Rat lived in a tunnel or a burrow with her family, on the side of a great mountain, overlooking a deep valley. Mostly, Rat liked her life. But sometimes, Rat had bad days and this was one of them. She was digging a new tunnel for her burrow, but this particular day everything kept going wrong. She was getting dirt up her nose or her snout, and she kept hitting her head on a rock just above where she was digging.
Ouch!” said Rat. “Im sick of this! I am going up to the surface to see what kind of a day it is.” And when she got up to the surface, Rat saw that it was a beautiful, sunny day.
Rat looked admiringly up at the Sun and said ”Oh, how powerful and golden the Sun is! How much better it must be to be the Sun, than a little rat! How I wish, how I wish, how I wish I were the Sun! How I wish, how I wish, how I wish I were the Sun!” And Rat turned into the Sun!
It was terrific to be the Sun. Her sunrays covered the Earth, she made the plants grow, and the people were happy because it was such a lovely day.
Until… along came a very black, very wide, very thick- what do you think? That’s right a storm cloud! And Rats sunrays were completely blocked from reaching the Earth and Rat thought: ‘Humph! It’s not so terrific being the Sun when you’re sunrays can get blocked out like that! Ohhhhh! But to be a cloud must be cool! So she said: “How I wish, how I wish, how I wish I were a cloud! How I wish, how I wish, how I wish I were a cloud” And Rat turned into a cloud!
It was cool to be a cloud. She made rain and thunder and lightning. She even blew around as a little white fluffy cloud to see what she could see of the world.
Until… along came a wind that blew her around in every direction until Rat who was the cloud was completely blown apart! Rat thought: ‘Humph! It’s not so cool being a cloud when you can get blown apart like that! Ohhhhh! But to be the wind must be wild! So she said: “How I wish, how I wish, how I wish I were the wind! How I wish, how I wish, how I wish I were wind” And Rat turned into the wind!
It was wonderful to be the wind. She blew kites across the sky, sailing boats across the sea, she blew hats off heads and the wind up skirts! (Cheeky wind!)
Until… one day, Rat was blowing around a great mountain, when she spied a huge boulder and decided to blow that rock off the mountain! So she started to blow. (You can blow with her: blow!) But the rock didnt budge, so she tried a gale force wind! (Ready? Blow!) Still that rock didnt move, so this time she blew a hurricane! (Ready? Blow!) But the rock just didnt budge, and Rat thought: ‘Humph! It’s not so wild being the wind when you’re there are things you cant even budge, but ohhhhh, being that rock looks good! So she said: “How I wish, how I wish, how I wish I were that rock! How I wish, how I wish, how I wish I were that rock!” And Rat turned into the rock!
Now surprisingly enough, it was really good to be the rock. You see, she felt safe and strong. The Sun couldnt burn her, the rain couldnt wash her away and the wind couldnt blow her down, plus she had a great view! Until….one day Rat noticed that she… had started… to….what do you think? That’s right- rock and wobble. Rat began to panic.
Oh dear! Why am I wobbling? Maybe there’s an earthquake! Maybe the earthquake will roll me down the mountain and Ill be smashed to smithereens at the bottom. Oh dear! I dont really like being a rock any more!”
Then Rat was quiet just long enough to hear something. Something was digging a hole underneath her rock! It was a ….what do you think?… yes a Rat! Then she realized there wasnt an earthquake at all. It was just a rats’ burrow making her rock wobble. As she listened to that familiar sound, she began to remember how good it used to feel to be herself- her cosy burrow, her loving family and her great view. So she said: How I wish, how I wish, how I wish I were a rat again! How I wish, how I wish, how I wish I were a rat again!” Rat turned back into a rat and she lived happily as Rat for the rest of her days!