Getting a Head Start on Halloween

For this week, at least, I need a break from things in general. So I’m turning my attention toward the end of the month when that most peculiar (and controversial) holiday will once again arrive: Halloween. I’ve written many times in the past about Halloween and its origins, so to start out this October I thought a good, scary story would be appropriate.

The following story is based on a folktale from northern Brazil. There are many stories like it in other cultures but this one appeals to me for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I like the way the ending remains unresolved – the reader (or listener) is left to create his own ending. I also like the way the stranger’s song echoes legends and stories reaching back to Homer’s famous sirens, and the unflagging faithfulness of the dog. I’ll let you judge the story for yourself (and by the way, the words of the song have no meaning, which adds to the mystery of the story).

Maria was a lonely woman who made her home by the sea. Day after day was always the same: waking at sunrise she carried heavy buckets of water from the well, dried meat in the sun, worked in her gardens, and washed her clothes. Her only companion was her dog who followed her throughout her day and slept at the foot of her bed each night.

One evening, just as the sun set, Maria heard a song from afar. The melody was so moving that tears formed in her eyes and her heart felt as though it would burst from her chest. As the song neared she recognized a man’s voice that was at once mysterious and strangely familiar. Yet, try as she might, she could not understand the words.

leepha leepha

conchoron chorea

kama owai

de mina partae leehda

The voice continued to approach Maria’s home and with each refrain, Maria felt ever greater desire to be with whoever could possess such a voice. Just as darkness fell, Maria could see a silhouette at her door. She raced to open the door, but before she could turn the handle the dog suddenly sang back, “Go away, if you seek Maria, for Maria is not here.”

When Maria opened the door there was no one there. Still under the spell of the hypnotic voice, Maria was angry beyond all reason and she kicked the dog and cursed it.

The next evening Maria again heard the song. Quickly she grabbed the dog and tied it to a stake in the backyard. Then she bound the dog’s jaws shut with rope and went back inside to await the arrival of whoever was singing the beautiful song.

Yet, when the silhouette appeared outside her door, the dog’s voice came again from the backyard, “Go away, if you seek Maria, for Maria is not here.”

Angered again, Maria raced to the backyard and killed the dog, her only companion, and buried it in the backyard. The next day, she waited impatiently for nightfall, eager to meet the owner of such a beautiful voice.

As darkness fell, the song again came to her ears. Yet, just as the silhouette appeared outside her door, the dog’s voice came again its grave, “Go away, if you seek Maria, for Maria is not here.”

Maria was nearly hysterical with anger. She ran to the backyard and dug the body of her dog from its grave then built a great fire and burned its remains until nothing was left but ashes.

The following evening, the voice again came and the silhouette once again appeared at Maria’s door. But once again, just as she was turning the handle to open the door, the dog’s voice rose from its ashes, “Go away, if you seek Maria, for Maria is not here.”

Maria was out of her mind with anger. She gathered all the ashes from the fire, even digging down into the earth to ensure she got every ash from the dog, then carried them all to the shoreline where she cast them into the sea.

The next evening the voice again came calling from afar and Maria waited anxiously at her window. When, at last, the voice reached her house and the silhouette stood outside her door the dog’s ashes again tried to call out, but the voice was lost in the roar of the waves.

There was no other voice to call out.

Maria opened the door.

And the Beast came in.