Image: Embroidery Library

We finally had some rain yesterday. It’s been a while since we had a good rain at our house and it’s been pretty warm. The heat I don’t mind so much but watering the plants every day or every other day is a bother. When I sat down to think about what tale to discuss today, I thought I would go with a rain story.

“The Four Dragons” is a tale from China where long ago, the story says, there were no lakes or rivers, only the Eastern Sea, home to four dragons: the Long Dragon, the Yellow Dragon, the Black Dragon, and the Pearl Dragon. These dragons swam in the sea and flew in the air above. One day, as they were playing in the clouds, the Pearl Dragon saw a disturbing sight he shared with the others. He saw the people down below praying for rain. The land was in a drought, the plants were withering, and the people had nothing to eat. The dragons realized that the people would die if it did not rain soon, so the Long Dragon suggested they visit the Jade Emperor, who was in charge of all the affairs in heaven and earth, and beg for rain. After they made their request the Jade Emperor agreed to send rain.

The dragons happily went back to their home, but the rain never came. After ten days, the dragons realized that the Jade Emperor didn’t truly care about the people and that it was up to them to provide rain. The Long Dragon came up with the idea of scooping water out of the Eastern Sea and spraying it towards the sky, where it would fall on the earth like rain. All the dragons agreed and followed through with the plan, even knowing that the Jade Emperor would be displeased when he found out.

The people were overjoyed when the rain fell, but the god of the sea reported the dragons’ behavior to the Jade Emperor who was furious. He had the four dragons arrested and imprisoned under four mountains. “The Dragons never regretted their decision and determined to continue to do good for the people, they turned themselves into four rivers, which flowed past the high mountains and deep valleys, crossing the land from the west to the east, and finally emptied into the sea. Thus they became China’s four great rivers-the Heilongjian (Black Dragon), the Huanghe (Yellow Dragon), the Changjiang (Long Dragon), and the Zhujiang (Pearl Dragon). ”

You can read the story on-line in several places, including here.

I especially enjoy creation myths, stories that helped people make sense of the world. In this story we have four higher beings giving up their freedom for the lives of the people. I don’t know much about Chinese culture, but dragons seem to be powerful, wise, strong. They are revered, not creatures to be slain as in European stories.

I have to admire the dragons. They saw a problem, saw how desperate the villagers were and became determined to help. They went through the official channels first, making their request to the Jade Emperor, but when that didn’t accomplish anything, they took matters into their own hands. People in charge are not always right, do not always have others’ best interests at heart. The dragons knew they were risking punishment, but they all agreed that it was worth the price and did what needed to be done. Even when they were imprisoned forever, they never regretted their decision and continued to do whatever they could to help the people.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.