FOUR years ago, a magnificent soul crept into my dwelling and taught me that mothers are lions, and lions are mothers. She had suffered much, and little could I do but weep as I heard her tale.
Today, May 12, as the night of Jenaris grows old and the stars are hid from the land by ghostly clouds, and as the spirits of the earth and of the air whisper to one another in an unknowable tongue, she returns once more.
She slips into the small and well-lit hall the way she once did. I am beguiled and cannot lift my gaze from the lovely form. From her limbs shine the lustrous colour of strength, from her large eyes the stirring spirit of boldness. There are many scars about her, but they scarcely dim her beauty.
I desire that she again tell me of the day she abandoned her child and gave up all hope. For I am persuaded, and this I say with great regret, that I did not relate to you her story well enough four years ago.
My eyes meet hers to seek an understanding of the events that have passed, and thus is renewed the sorrows and tears of old.
It is a warm day in the plains. She has gone off in search of food for the little ones. Three had she, but only two remain alive. For one was mercilessly taken into the depths of death as the family fled from persecution.
The search for nourishment is hard, but the cries of the offspring are greater. So it is that she takes to stealing from a band of rough and surly characters.
But the price of thievery, even in the cause of love, is high. For the “victims” are also vengeful spirits. That night, they march on her abode, and pour their wrath on the helpless ones.
Ma di Tau is not at home, so she does not witness the savage deed. When she finally returns, a shadow of dread overcomes her. She calls out to her children, but only the echoes of silence hail back. Long does she peer here and there, and long does she silently weep, before she finds a female child.
The little one is crying in pain for her back and spirit are broken. Ma di Tau gently carries her away to the refuge of a river, her sad eyes betraying the heaviness of a mother’s heart.
She sets the child down and looks to the heavens. Above her, storm clouds gather. Is it but hea-ven preparing to weep with her?
Why must a mother suffer so?
Why does this world so cruel be?
Oh, my pain and despair grow,
Why God, this burden from thee?
Ma di Tau, stirred by an ancient maternal instinct, does not want to leave, but there is sorrowfully little else she may do. She will willingly bear the child on her back for 1,000 miles, yet she knows they will find no healing. Only deepening bleakness.
She walks away, each step a piercing stab in the heart. She looks back; in the tall grass she sees the pleading eyes as the child calls to her.
There is no hope. Head bowed, heart broken, she drags herself away. And the winds begin to carry her lament across the plains, and into the hall in Jenaris.
Part of Ma di Tau died with her child. But another part of her yet lives.
Did she do wrong in abandoning the little one? Is she comparable to Lady Macbeth? Do you dare judge her, and other mothers too?
If you would know more about this tale, about the lion-heart of a mother, watch the The Last Lions by Dereck and Beverly Joubert.