“Spider web” by Kari Siren
The Boar of Gloucester
Everyone knows that for time out of mind, boars are the most irritable, vicious, and hence dangerous beasts in the forest. Many theories have been proposed to explain the reason for their ill temper. Some say that their feet hurt while others insists that their tusks are too tight. This one says that their hides constantly itch and that no amount of scratching brings relief while another says that their bellies are continually sour from the rough diet upon which they subsist. But the real cause of the boars” distemper is their vision – though they have eyes, they cannot see.
A boar spends its days hiding from the sun and its nights scavenging for food. Its eyes are always on the ground foraging for roots, grubs, small carrion, and insects. A boar never gazes on the blue sky when the sun is at its height or on the brightness of the stars at midnight. It never listens to the song of the leaves overhead as they rustle in the breeze or the call of the water as it rushes over the river stones. Flowers do not entice them with their fragrance and birds do not stir them with them singing. It is all mud and muck and grubs beneath their feet.
But there was one boar that was different from the rest. He was the Boar of Gloucester, a bold, beautiful beast (if a boar can be considered beautiful.) He was a boar, to be sure, with all the characteristics of his kind: stocky frame, grizzled coat, bristling fur, and deadly tusks. The Boar of Gloucester was like the other boars in that he hid from the sun during the day and foraged for food at night. But while the other boars kept their eyes on the ground in their prosaic pursuit of sustenance, the Boar of Gloucester continually marveled at the sights, sounds, and smells beneath his feet. There was beauty to be found in the world on the ground and the Boar of Gloucester had eyes to see it.
Patterns of all designs and shapes, patterns of delicate intricacy filled him with joy and wonder. The spiral of the lichen growing on a tree, the swirl of the mud on a riverbank, and the interlacing of roots all delighted his eyes and nourished his heart. His ears caught the sound of each little beetle and grasshopper making its busy way across the forest floor. He counted all the blades of grass and all the thorns on the briar and was glad.
The other boars kept well away from the Boar of Gloucester; they were bored by his lack of practical attention to the things that mattered. Mud was mud and moss was moss. And if neither contained a bit of food, why bother? Boars by nature are solitary creatures and so the Boar of Gloucester little minded his solitude. But once in a while he sighed and allowed himself to long for another being, another boar, with whom to share his vision.
One day, the Boar of Gloucester emerged from his resting place just before sunset. As he sang his silent song of praise to the vanishing light, the rays of the sun briefly blazed green and purple before slipping into darkness. The colors illuminated the silken threads of a spider’s web close by. At the sight, the Boar bowed his great head and wept. Would that another soul were by his side to rejoice and mourn with him at such transcendent beauty!
“Ah, me,” piped a tiny voice. “It is such a bother that I cannot sit on my web without the bellow of a boar disturbing my quiet and peace.”
The Boar looked up in surprise. A small spider was making its way down the end of its web, clicking and twittering until it sat near the Boar’s nose. The spider looked annoyed.
“Oh, I beg your pardon,” said the Boar. “I had no idea I was disturbing your web. It’s just that I have never seen such a lovely display of colors and light before. It moved me so.”
“Yes, yes,” said the spider impatiently. “That’s what the other one said. But however gracious your apologies, it doesn’t alter the fact that you both intruded on my rest.”
“I only…” the Boar began and then stopped, taken aback. “Did you say…other?” he asked. “Was it by any chance another boar, like me, that disturbed you?” The Boar held his breath waiting for the spider’s answer.
“Of course, it was another boar. When I said other, I certainly was speaking of
a boar. Weeping and moaning just like you.” The spider turned and skittered back to its hiding place.
“Wait, please, wait,” begged the Boar. “I must know. You said the other boar was weeping; did it happen to say the reason why?”
The spider did not halt its progress as it called over its shoulder. “Beauty! It wept for beauty.”
Oh, how the Boar of Gloucester rejoiced upon hearing those words! There was another like him, another kindred heart that saw with inner eyes just as he did. But where was it? The Boar decided then and there to seek out and find this noble beast. For days upon days and years upon years, he traveled the length and breadth of the forest, along the rivers and streams, up rocky tors, and down hidden fens. He inquired of the spiders in their webs, the beetles under the leaves, and the ants along their trails. And every time he paused to contemplate the swirls in the mud or the march of the mushrooms, he wondered whether the other boar had passed this way.
The Boar of Gloucester never found the other boar though he sought it diligently for the rest of his life. He ended his days alone in a hidden bower looking up at the stars at midnight. His heart soared at the thought that another boar was also rejoicing in their brightness. Somewhere across the limitless sky, two kindred souls joined together in thanksgiving as the Boar of Gloucester breathed his last contented breath.