"Now what kind of story would you like me to tell ya?" "Hmmm! The meaning of life? That's a tough one. Good question from a beginner though, I must admit. Still, you're kind of young to be askin that question. Okay then, we'll give it a try, but answer me this. What is life anyway? Is it more than a dream perhaps? And what of dreams, are they more than just night thoughts?"
"On this Earth there's a lot of people, most of them won't ever get to meet each other, in this life anyway. Each one of them wonders what his or her life is all about. Some folks get born, grow up and die and never know what it was all about. They wonder if there is some master plan? Some wonder if we live other lives? They ask, have we met before, in other times, and will we meet again in another life someplace else?"
"You ask, how did it all begin? You mean in the very -- very beginning? Oh! Not quite that far! Boy! It sure doesn't take much to please you, does it? Okay then, we'll give it a try: Well -- next, after the beginning of Time, I mean after that big pot of stew on the stove exploded, The Big Bang they called it. Well, after that mess settled down and the storytellers began keeping records, you had the gods and goddesses. No, don't ask me how many there were. Perhaps thirteen or maybe thirty, then again the number could be millions, some big number anyway. You might as well ask me how many grains of sand there are in the Australian Outback.
Look! My own idea on the creation story is that every star is a god or has a god inside it. Of course in the very beginning, when the whole soup exploded, an awful lot of gods and goddesses got born, all at once.
The trouble started right then and there. For, if you were a god, you could do anything, or almost anything and you might live forever, or else for a long time. If everybody you knew was also a god and could do as much as you, then that wouldn't be much fun. There had to be someone else, somebody who could be impressed with your miracles.
So, at first the gods played marbles with the stars and planets, organizing them into galaxies and universes. But after a while that game got boring. Then they created trolls to live on those worlds and soon they made humans, as an afterthought. On other planets they made different things, but we haven't got to that part yet. Actually we might not even get to it in this story. So!
Trolls were a bit troublesome as they -- I mean we-- had some of those magical powers of the gods, but humans had none of that stuff. The gods could do anything to people and get away with it, since there was no bill of rights for humankind. Though, sometimes the gods got together with humans and made babies. Well, those babies were something special, having all the good and bad parts of both humans and gods and they could do a miracle or two.
At length the gods would sit together and make plans. "Let's start a war here," one would say, "to see how the humans will handle it."
Another favorite was to start a plague to thin out the numbers of the living, when the playing board got too full. Of course wars did their part in keeping the population down and in some circles, cannibalism was in favor but that hardly made a dent in the growing wave of humankind.
Often the gods would appear to humans in dreams, giving them clues as to what the future would bring.
Then, in time, their game-- the game of the gods-- became more subtle and they would meddle as little as possible in human affairs, just enough to get a story moving. Afterwards they would sit back and be entertained by "the story," or as they called it, "the game."
In the beginning the gods experimented with all forms of life, from dinosaurs and wooly mammoths, to centaurs, fairies, goblins and werewolves to vampires and witches. After a while the dinosaurs, who were much too big, were eliminated, most of them anyways; a giant comet was spiraled in to crash with the Earth. Then things were allowed to settle down and new creatures were made.
Some of the children of the gods and humans became cyclops or wizards and witches. They had great power, given to them by the magical forces of the Earth itself. Yggdrasil, the tree of life, was one of those powers. She was a mother to the world in the struggle of all living creatures to live side by side.
But the witches and wizards were jealous of that power and brought forth what remained of the extinct dinosaurs These were critters who they had put into a deep sleep during the time of the comet. Those dinosaurs were given special powers and became what we call dragons. Then for many years the might of the dragons ruled the land, much to the amusement of the witches and wizards, who used the beasts in their own games.
What games you ask? The dragons became a weapon against Yggrasil. How? Well, deep down in the earth, they gnawed at her roots. They might have destroyed her too, if it weren't for us trolls. That's right. The elves helped too. It wasn't easy but we trained griffins to fly down into the earth and attack the dragons. Now dragons, as you know, hate griffins and they ran for cover when the griffins attacked. So, Yggdrasil had time to grow new roots to replace the old before the dragons attacked again. It's been a delicate balance over the years.
Now, back to the gods. Finally, in their boredom, the gods began to make bets on their human and animal creatures and to take the games that were played much to seriously. It was then that the gods began to fight among themselves, at first using humans as their pawns, then in direct combat. The gods loved this. That's the time when heros first became popular. But there came a day when a great battle began in the land of the gods itself.
When that great war was over Ragnarok, the kingdom of the gods was in
ruins and many gods died in the fight and found themselves lost in the
Underground, banished forever from the land of the living. Even Bifrost,
the rainbow bridge between worlds was broken. Now there were fewer gods
to play "the great game," and their moves were usually more subtle. Then,
with the gods and goddesses out of the way the wizards and witches began
their time of power.
"I think you'll like this story which starts back in the 1600's . . . Actually it began before that but . . . Well, let's begin: Once upon a time it was noticed by wizards and witches that their magic didn't work like it used to. Sometimes their spells didn't work at all. Now, we all understand that magic is connected to the Universe's magic field. You know, you can see that shimmering glow in the sky of the northern lights. One of those lights used to be the bridge Bifrost which was the gateway to all points in the Universe. But, after the final battle of the Gods at Ragnarok there wasn't much left, though the bridge wasn't completely gone."
"Okay! okay! I'm getting to the characters, just give me a minute."
"Once when I was on holiday and walking in the hills beyond the Elysian Fields. I stopped by a pretty little brook and couldn't help but overhear the conversation between two beautiful folks, god and goddess of course. They were looking into the water, using it as a viewer to see down to the lands of the humans. Sort of a crystal ball, only better."
"Here is an interesting fellow," said the god Silenus to the goddess Thalia. "Samot, elf-boy. Let's use him for a new story."
"That's fair. My turn now," said the goddess, "There are some girls, two sisters, Electra and Raven, about to ask an interesting question about Time. I'll use them as my starting point. Your move."
"I'd like some trolls," said the god. "There! Those two, Rolfling and Foderwing. "Let me see. I'll destroy their home, their bridge and set them in motion, have them search for a new place to live. Yes! And see here, their ancestors on a quest from their king, to find out why magic is disappearing from the land. That should make a good plot. Add those two as my players."
"You're getting too complicated," said the goddess. "The rules say you can't mix characters from different times."
"Who says so? I never saw that in the rules. That's what I want."
"All right then," said the goddess. "I'll take this lad Tenzin and his father who they call Gatekeeper; both were captured by that witch Margrek, and locked up in Celestron, the Clock of Ages. And, their zoomer friends too, that should be an interesting addition. And, of course we need that one, over there, Jocko, the wizard's grandson."
"How about these boys over here, three of them, friends almost at the edge of childhood and ready for a boring adult life. Eric, Max and Alex. Let's give them the ride of their lives."
"Good, that sounds like a fine beginning," said the goddess. "Let's
add this one over here, a boy piper, Jared from the sea. There's magic
in his tunes. Say! I'm liking this story already and we haven't even begun."
"Me! Wha for?" said the half-boy whose other half was elf..
"A quest," said the lady, "Your mission is to cross the bridge Bifrost and rediscover the lost garden of the ancients."
"Garden! I don know no garden," said Samot.
"Oh! But you will when you go on a long search with your brother. Perhaps you will find it."
Samot scratched his belly, "Ok! Me go," he said.
"Be watchful on your journey," said the Lady of the Clouds, who was really the goddess named Thalia in disguise."The world is full of danger to one so young as yourself."
"Samot stay wake," replied the boy-elf as he walked beneath the branches
of a great old ash tree, on his way down the trail into the land of enchantment.
"Welcome Samot," said the satyr Silenus, "We've been expecting you for
some time now."
"No tricks! No games!" replied Samot.
"What is your quest then?" asked the satyr.
"I looking for garden. Get to Bifrost. Is bridge dere. Do you got some?"
Silenus smiled, "Yes indeed, I can show you the way, but beware that which you seek may be more than you bargained for.
"I take chance," said Samot.
"Enter the grove then, and explore where you will. Somewhere among the
trees is a clue to the bridge. But don't stay beyond the hour of midnight
or you'll become as stone." He pointed to a group of trolls which lined
the walkway. "Those were once living beings, your ancestors perhaps, but
they stayed too long."
"I careful," said Samot.
"Yes! yes!" replied Silenus, "Just remember: beware of the clock for Time is occasionally your friend but most often she is also the enemy."
Samot scratched his head, not knowing quite what to think about that
"I careful, watch out for clocks," he replied.
"I don't know," smiled Thalia, muse of comedy. "He looks like a clever lad, perhaps he'll survive the evening."
"We'll see now, won't we?" replied the satyr, "We'll see. Wake him now, your elf-boy, and let him begin his adventure. Wake the others in the game too, all of them. They can start together. Let's get this sport under way."
- continued: Push Button to go to: "Time Enough For All: Chapter 1"
NASA: Hubbell Telescope images: