Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for beginners. The name of the story is The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Cow. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Cow. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
Today’s story is from Chinese mythology. Actually, there are lots of interesting Chinese myths. I studied Chinese for a year and I think the myths from China are really interesting. This one is very sad, but also very beautiful. I actually want to start studying Chinese again at some point, but at the moment I am focussing on Spanish and French because sometimes I teach Spanish and French.
OK, so I will just talk about some words in the story.
“Weave” is a verb and the past tense is “wove”. Weave means to put together pieces of thread to make fabric. For example, to make silk you have to put lots of threads together. After you weave fabric, you can then make clothes, but you have to weave it first. Nowadays all weaving is done on machines, so people don’t have to weave themselves, but in the past people had to weave. People wove and it took a lot of time and effort.
Cowherd. A cowherd is someone who looks after cows. Just like a shepherd looks after sheep, a cowherd looks after cows.
Heaven. Heaven is the place where good people go when they die, and gods live in Heaven. However, in this story we actually have goddesses. So goddesses are female gods.
Dew. Dew is the water that you find on grass in the morning. So in the early morning if you go to grass you will find there is water on it, and this is dew.
Earth. Earth is where we live. We live on the planet Earth. We don’t live in Heaven. Or at least, I don’t live in Heaven!
Human. A human is someone who is not an animal and not a god. So normal people.
Wing. Wings are what birds use to fly. So birds move their wings and fly. Dragons also have wings, and in this story, it is faeries who have wings.
Skin. Skin is also a body part. Skin keeps your body safe. It is the outside part of your body. For example, if you cut yourself with a knife, you damage the skin. If your skin gets very dry, maybe in winter, you can use cream on it.
Separate. Separate means to move two things apart. For example, when you wash your clothes, you should separate the coloured clothes from the white clothes, so that the colour doesn’t go from the coloured clothes. So you separate the clothes.
Remember, you can find a full transcript of this episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Cow. This has the full story in text format with the conversation and story.
So, listen and enjoy!
The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd
In Heaven there were seven goddesses. They were sisters. Each sister had her job. One goddess mixed things in a pot to make fire for volcanoes. She was called Fire Maker. One goddess pushed together cotton to make snow for the mountains. She was called Snow Maker. One goddess cried tears that became dew in the morning. She was called Dew Maker. One goddess painted the stars so that they shone in the night sky. She was called Star Painter. One goddess threw salt in the ocean so that the fish could live there. She was called Sea Salter. One goddess painted the trees orange in autumn. She was called Tree Painter. Finally, there was one goddess who wove together silk to make the clouds in the sky. She was called Cloud Weaver.
One day, the seven sisters sat in Heaven. They were bored. Fire Maker said, ‘Sisters, let us go down to Earth. It is more interesting there.’
Snow Maker said, ‘No, Earth is not our place. We must stay in Heaven. If we do not stay here, who will make the snow? Who will make the clouds? Who will paint the trees? Who will cook the fire for the volcanoes?’
‘That is true. And the humans must not see us,’ said Star Painter. ‘If the humans see us, Mother will be very angry.’
‘I have heard of a lake,’ Dew Maker said. ‘It is near some mountains. There are no people nearby. It is beautiful, and very warm. We could go and bathe in the lake.’
Sea Salter said, ‘We should bathe in the sea. It is much nicer.’
‘I agree,’ said Tree Painter. ‘There are no humans in the sea. There are only fish.’
‘No!’ said Cloud Weaver. ‘The sea is too salty. Let us go to this lake.’
Snow Maker, Star Painter and Tree Painter didn’t want to go, but all the other goddesses did want to go. So they planned to go down to Earth.
Cowherd hated his name. He had a real name, but everyone called him Cowherd. The people in the village said, ‘You only talk to your cow. Are you in love with it?’
He did love his cow, Bessie, of course. Without Bessie he could not live. She helped him work the fields. She gave him milk. She was his friend when he was alone.
Many days, Cowherd sat with Bessie. He looked up at the sky and said, ‘Bessie, who do you think makes the clouds? They are so soft and beautiful.’
Bessie could not answer, because she was a cow. But she liked the clouds, too.
Cowherd and Bessie both had to work hard to live. Cowherd came from a small family. He only had a brother and a sister-in-law. When his parents died, his sister-in-law said, ‘Leave our house. There is not enough food for three people, only two. We don’t want you.’ She had always hated him. So he left and took Bessie with him. He walked for many days, and found the field where they lived now.
Bessie grew older, and work became harder for her. Finally, she was so old that she could not work at all. Cowherd sat with her, and looked up at the sky, and asked her the same question as always, ‘Bessie, who do you think makes the clouds?’
But that day, Bessie answered him: ‘I know who weaves the clouds.’
Cowherd was amazed! ‘Bessie, you can talk!’
‘Yes. I am a magic cow, but until today I could not talk. Listen to me, Cowherd. The girl who weaves the clouds is a goddess from Heaven. Today, the seven goddess sisters will come down from Heaven. Tonight, they will bathe in the lake. It is a few hours east of here. They will fly with their wings, but they will take off the wings to bathe. If you steal Cloud Weaver’s wings, she will not be able to leave. You can make her your wife.’
‘Bessie, is this true?’
‘It is. And now, I must leave you. I have lived a long and happy life, but it is time for me to die. Keep my skin. When you need me most, my skin will help you.’
And then Bessie closed her eyes. She had died.
Cowherd cried and cried. But he took Bessie’s skin, as she said. Bessie’s story interested him. Cowherd knew about the lake. It was hard to get to, but he could go there on his own. So he walked east, and the sun started to go down. As he walked, he thought about Bessie. Did she really talk? Or did he imagine it?
But when he arrived at the lake, he heard women laughing. He looked and saw seven beautiful women in the lake. One of them was very beautiful, and her laugh sounded like a song. Cowherd knew that she was Cloud Weaver. Next to the water, their wings were on the ground. Cowherd could go and steal them. The goddesses would not see him.
Cowherd went up to the wings. One pair of wings shone white, like clouds. He knew it was Cloud Weaver’s, but he could not steal them. He felt love for her, and he could not steal from her.
He looked up and saw Cloud Weaver in front of him.
‘Goddess, I am sorry!’
He fell to his knees.
‘Why are you sorry?’ she said softly.
‘I…’ He had not stolen anything. But he could not lie. ‘I wanted to steal your wings, so you would stay on Earth. But I could not…’
Cloud Weaver laughed. ‘I want to stay on Earth, anyway. Shall we go for a walk?’
Cloud Weaver and Cowherd fell in love, and they lived together on Earth. They had two beautiful children together, a boy and a girl, and they were very happy.
But one day, Cloud Weaver woke up and cried.
‘My love, what is wrong?’
‘I had a dream. My mother knows I am here.’
‘I don’t understand,’ said Cowherd. ‘You have been here for many years. How did she not know before?’
‘Time is different in Heaven. One day on Earth is a hundred in Heaven. We have had more time here, but she has only had a month. But now that she knows I am here, she wants me back in Heaven. Someone must weave the clouds.’
Without Cloud Weaver, the sky did not have beautiful clouds in it anymore. But Cowherd did not care, because Cloud Weaver was more beautiful than any cloud.
‘Oh, but I don’t want to go!’ she said.
‘Then don’t go,’ said Cowherd.
‘You don’t understand. My mother is extremely strong. If I do not go, she will come and take me. And she will kill you.’
‘You can’t go!’ said Cowherd.
But in the night, Cloud Weaver left. Cowherd woke up and cried and cried. He had lost Bessie and Cloud Weaver.
Then he remembered what Bessie had said. When he most needed her, her skin would help him. He took his children, and they all wore Bessie’s skin.
Magically, they started flying. The skin was like Cloud Weaver’s wings. They left the Earth, and moved upwards, towards Heaven.
‘Wait for me, Cloud Weaver!’
Cloud Weaver’s mother heard his shout. She saw him and was angry. ‘Cloud Weaver! Why is this human coming to Heaven? Did you make him wings?’
‘No, mother! I didn’t make him wings!’
Her mother moved her hand. A great river appeared in the sky, made of stars. The river was miles wide, and very deep. Cowherd put his foot in the water, and it fell very quickly. So Cowherd put Bessie’s skin on the water, and climbed on with his children. But they fell even more quickly.
‘I don’t understand!’ said Cowherd. ‘How can I cross?’
Cloud Weaver’s mother laughed. ‘This is the River of Heaven. It separates humans and gods. You are not a god, and you will never cross it. Your body is too heavy. You took my daughter, and you must pay for it.’ She moved her hand, and Cowherd’s children flew into the air.
‘No!’ shouted Cowherd.
‘Mother, do not hurt them!’ said Cloud Weaver. ‘He did not take me. I chose to stay on Earth.’
Her Mother looked angry, but she let the children go.
‘Go back to Earth, Cowherd. Heaven is not your place. Humans and gods must be separate.’
But Cowherd could not leave Cloud Weaver. He stayed there in the sky, between Heaven and Earth. Many years passed. He shouted and shouted to Cloud Weaver on the other side of the River of Heaven. Their children cried and cried to see their mother.
Finally, Cloud Weaver’s mother changed her mind. She saw that Cowherd really loved her daughter. But he was not a god, so he could not enter Heaven. So, one night each year, she let them meet. This night is called Qixi. On Qixi, thousands of birds fly together to make a bridge over the River of Heaven. Cloud Weaver, Cowherd and their children meet on the middle of the bridge, and for one night, they are together.
People say that, on this night, if you stand by a certain lake, you can hear Cowherd and Cloud Weaver talking to each other. Their words are quiet, and full of love.
I hope you enjoyed the story. You can support the podcast by leaving a review on iTunes. Search for Easy Stories in English, give us a star rating, and say what you like about the show. It would really help us grow. Thank you for listening, and until next week.