The Weaving Maiden was such a dutiful worker, she would never leave her loom. Her father said, “You should go out and have some fun!”
She said, “Sorrow, age-long sorrow, shall come upon the Weaving Maiden when she leaves her loom.”
Her father put no stock in old sayings. He covered her loom with a cloth and gave her rich clothes. He crowned her in a garland made from the flowers of Paradise. Then he introduced her to the Herd Boy of Heaven, who tended his flocks upon the banks of the Bright River.
The Weaving Maiden fell deeply in love with the Herd Boy, and they had a love affair unlike any we had ever seen in Heaven.
She had no wish to weave anymore, or do anything but be with the Herd Boy. When her father grew angry, she laughed and said,
“Your hand opened the door, my father, and no hand, either of god or of mortal can shut it.”
In his rage, her father banished the Herd Boy for ever to the farther side of the Bright River. He summoned all the magpies, and we gathered from far and near. We spread our wings to make a frail bridge across the river,
The Herd Boy went over the bridge, and immediately we flew away to the ends of the earth.
I lingered in the quiet air and looked at the Weaving Maiden standing on the shore. In all my time in Heaven I have never seen a sadder sight. Long, long she stood there, holding her arms out to the Herd Boy. Long, long she lay and wept upon the sand. Long, long she brooded, looking on the ground.
Then she rose and went back to her loom.
Magpie of Heaven, The Star Lovers, Japanese Fairy Tales. Illustration by Warwick Goble.