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In part 2 of this Burmese folk tale, a snow-white crow took word to the Sun God that his wife, a naga princess, was about to give birth. The Sun God sent a precious ruby to celebrate, but the foolish crow left the parcel unattended…

When the crow had stuffed himself on rice from the cart, he returned to his hiding place. Not knowing that the parcel had been tampered with, he continued on his way. Zathi was in her underground palace, curled around her three golden eggs. The princess was sad to hear that her husband could not return to her, but she cheered up when the crow presented her with a silk-wrapped gift. Imagine her shock to find a piece of dried dung inside!

“Is this what my husband thinks of me?” she cried. “I thought we were happy together. How could he despise me and our children?”

Zathi sent the crow away and shut herself up with her eggs. She brooded for days, unable to bear the Sun God’s cruel scorn. Before the eggs could hatch, she had died of a broken heart.

When the Sun God heard this news, his shining face went dark. He mourned his lost love and demanded news of anyone he could find. Eventually he learned that Zathi had received a piece of dung instead of the ruby he had sent. Immediately, he summoned the snow-white crow.

“You selfish, irresponsible creature!” bellowed the Sun God. His flames blazed with searing heat, and he blew a blast at the crow.

“Forgive me,” wept the crow. “I am but a humble creature of the world.”

The Sun God knew his beloved Zathi wouldn’t have wanted the crow to die, so he caught back his fiery breath. The white crow’s feathers were blackened and scorched, and every crow in the world has been black from that time on.

The three eggs lay in Zathi’s chamber, with no one to care for them. When the rainy season came, a flood washed them out into the Irrawaddy River. The tide tumbled one egg into the rocks near a town called Mogok. It shattered, scattering millions of blood-red rubies over the shore. Since then, Mogok has been famous for the beautiful gems that are found there.

The current bore the other two eggs down to Central Burma, before another one broke against a half-submerged log. Out burst a fierce tiger, roaring with all the pride of Zathi’s great heritage. It climbed up the log and slunk into the forest. That is how the jungles of Burma came to be the home of mighty tigers.

The last log tumbled on until it was caught between two rocks in Southern Burma. That egg, too, cracked open. A huge crocodile swam away, its heart cold with all of Zathi’s despair. Whenever people travel by boat on the Irrawaddy River, they have to watch out for crocodiles lurking in the water.

You see, this is why the crocodile and the tiger share the same nature, even though they look different. They are the lost sons of Zathi and the Sun God. Because of the merchant who stole their heritage and broke their mother’s heart, they will never miss a chance to get revenge on any humans they encounter.

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In my previous post, I began a traditional Burmese folk tale that related the love and marriage of the Sun God with a Naga princess, Zathi. After the Sun God was called back to the Heavens, Zathi sent a snow-white crow to tell him their children were about to emerge from their eggs.

The crow, who had a vain nature, held his head high and preened his feathers to their finest. “Just think, I have been chosen to carry a message to the Heavens!” Up he flew, boasting to everyone he met about his important job.

When he reached the Sun God’s palace, the deity beamed with joy at his news. “Alas,” he said, “I cannot come down just now. It gets too hot when I am on Earth, and that is dangerous for all living things. I know my dear wife will understand.”

However, he searched among his treasures for token to show Zathi his love. He chose a huge, blood-red ruby and wrapped it in silken cloth. “Give this precious stone to my beloved Naga princess. Ask her to buy a kingdom with it. Our children will grow up to rule over that kingdom, and I will always be able to smile upon my family.”

“I will guard it with my life!” cawed the crow. “You have chosen your messenger wisely. No other could be a more trustworthy servant.”

Down he flew, with the parcel in his beak. But as he flew over the Burmese countryside, he spotted a merchant’s caravan bumping along the mountain roads. The cart was loaded with sacks of rice, and bits dribbled out as it jolted over the ruts. Noisy birds swooped in, chattering as they grabbed bits of grain. Despite his best intentions, the crow’s nature took hold of him.

“I am tired and hungry,” he said to himself. “I deserve a reward for my hard work.” So the crow landed in some bushes and hid his precious bundle there before darting off. Soon he was thick among the birds, cawing and snatching up the rice.

While the crow was gone, one of the merchants passed those bushes. He spied a gleam of silken fabric and went to see what it was. Under the bushes, he gasped to see the magnificent ruby folded into the cloth.

“What luck!” the merchant cried. Looking around to see that no one was watching, he tucked the gem into his belt. Then he took a piece of dried dung from the ground, wrapped it in the cloth, and returned it to its hiding place. The merchant strolled off as if nothing had happened.

Uh-oh! Check back on Tuesday for the final chapter.

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One of the ultimate winter sports is actually an art: ice carving. Teams of competitors use power tools to sculpt blocks of ice into majestic works of art. Generally there is a time limit, and much of the work is carried out at night to help keep the ice frozen. When completed, the sculptures resemble fantastic glasswork. They are displayed with colored lights for a magical glow.

From the early 20th Century, Alaskan spring fairs featured thrones carved from ice for beauty queens and such. This gradually morphed into more elaborate ice carving as a special local event. Now, almost 80 years later, ice carving attracts teams from all over the world.

The annual world championship is held each March by Ice Alaska at the Ice Park in Fairbanks. Ice is brought from O’Grady Pond, where the water is believed to be especially pure, so the ice is especially clear. The 2015 championship was held March 17-20th. The weather was unusually warm this year, leading to rain and fear of premature melting.

Still, the show went on. This year’s winner was “Fighter,” by Junichi Nakamura and a US/Japanese team. It features a magnificent dragon squaring off against a Medieval Warrior. Another entry, “Peace in Spite of Evil,” depicts a fairly demonic female naga preparing to attack a meditating Buddha. This was created by Manu Songsri and a team from Thailand.

The images are proprietary, so I can’t post them, but here’s a link to a photo essay by CBS News.

This art form is ultimately perishable. Over several weeks, the sculptures melt or are eroded away by wind. We keep their images only in our minds — but wasn’t this always true of dragons?

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