Or, to be less poetic, Who you are will direct what you see.
Some years ago I was in a storytelling workshop where we analyzed and discussed a Native American tale.
In it a girl sleeps beside a lake no one is supposed to visit alone. A snake comes out of the lake and impregnates her. When her pregnancy begins to show, the other villagers drive her into the wilderness. It is there that Lightning, the shining daughter of the old man of the mountain, finds her and brings her home.
The girl ends up marrying Lightning’s brother, Thunder, and after the young woman has his baby she wishes to take the child back to her village to show him off.
When she returns she tells the villagers who had been so unkind about her new family. They are fearful of her powerful new relations, but she tells them not to be afraid, because they are all family now.
It was a fabulous example of how much story can be crammed into few words (the original was less than half a page), and we spent a fair amount of time with it, discussing images, motifs and how one might learn to tell the story.
My favorite part of it all was the ending, I felt it was a wonderful picture of forgiveness and reconciliation. I thought it was beautiful how the girl was able to forgive her home village and be happy after her tragedies.
I said so, and another woman present looked at me as if I had three heads.
That’s not the way she saw it at all.
“I thought it was about getting revenge. You know, ‘Don’t be afraid of the storm’ so they’ll be careless and get zapped by it.”
And I’m sure I gaped.