9th December

The People of the Plain

The people of the plain built their houses low, one storey tall or sometimes with only half a storey above ground, and the rest of the accommodation below it. He who built a two-storey house was considered daring but arrogant. These people had a god who lived in the sky, though none had ever seen him. They only felt his breath, which was the wind and which blew without cease. Sooner or later it blew away the arrogance of humans. Always.

The people of the plain had long traded with people from the mountains. In exchange for meat, cheese and wool from their herds of goats and sheep, they received timber. They used the timber for firewood and for houses, which they built so that the wind would flow over them without causing too much damage. They covered the roofs with wooden tiles, nailing each tile with three nails: one for summer, one for winter and the third for luck.

They were small people, with flattened foreheads and a permanent stoop from walking into the breath of their god. Most of the year it was a warm breath, but in winter it came from the north, icy or snow-laden. Then they brought their beasts indoors and asked their god not to rip their roofs off before spring.

The mountain people asked them why they did not move. In the mountains, although the seasons were more varied and unpredictable, the valleys were well protected from the wind. The people of the plain said they could not leave their god. If they did, he would be very angry and sure to punish them.

The mountain people did not understand. They had no god. The people of the plain liked them, but considered them foolish children.

One spring only a few people came from the mountains to trade. Terrible calamities had befallen them. First, in late summer, a fire had destroyed much of the forest, then winter floods had swept through the valleys, drowning nearly everybody.

The people of the plain gave thanks. They knew they had been right to stay where they were. And their god blew his warm breath on them, and they stooped before it.

Reader: Sam Stopford
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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