Before there was a castle, there was an open meadow where herd of elk lived and played. The field was lush with tiny flowers tipping the tops of tall grasses as they bent in the breezes. Sturdy trees with acorns and tall trees with pinecones provided shade surrounded the field. The pasture was idyllic. It is no wonder that the King chose this location for his new castle.
The elk that lived there had wiry fur that was various shades of brown and dark noses that were nearly black. Their ears stuck out. Their tails swished left and right. Their brown antlers were pointy much like the elk found nowadays.
The first job of the castle builders was to shoo the elk out of the meadow.
“We need the field to build a great castle,” the construction foreman explained to the head bull.
The bull pawed the ground as if to say that the elk had no intention of leaving their meadow.
“It is not your choice,” the foreman said. “The King gets to decide what happens here. He wants a castle in this very place and we must bow to his wishes.”
The elk let out a snort and stomped the ground. All of his elk friends joined in until the ground began to rumble.
“You simply must go,” the foreman demanded. “Please pack up and leave by morning.”
The elk showed their independent spirit and stayed in the meadow so the next day when the workers arrived, they found the elk in the middle of a great game of butting antlers. When their antlers locked, sparks shot out in all directions creating a display of glittery light. One elk jumped over another and kicked his friend’s antlers with his hoof, discharging a mass of shimmer. Another shook his head and twinkling lights streamed from his antlers. They rollicked and rolled and ignored the workers.
The workers were so enthralled with the spectacle that they completely forgot to work on building the castle.
“You wasted the whole day!” The foreman yelled at his workers when he found them watching the elk the field. “We have a job to do!”
The workers apologized for their behavior.
“Tomorrow you must work doubly-hard to make up for this,” said the foreman.
But the next morning, the elk were still entrancing and the workers were captivated once again. In fact, for the next several days, the workers began every day with the intention of building the castle, but every day the elk diverted them with a new and more amazing show of sparks.
It was obvious that the workers were not going to succeed while the elk remained so the foreman sent for the sorceress Ohapi Day. She arrived by air in a cloak of royal blue with a circle of sapphires atop her head. Ohapi Day was always a tad taller, a bit more beautiful and a smidge smarter than anyone else around. She was also irritated to be summoned for a mere elk problem.
“You interrupted my busy life for elk?” Ohapi Day said to the foreman. “Surely you can handle a herd of elk on your own.”
“Normally, yes. But these elk are special.”
“Well, they are clearly smarter than you are,” she said with a laugh. The foreman was embarrassed.
“I wouldn’t say they are smarter,” he said. “They just have this ability to shoot sparks from their antlers and they are distracting my men. I need the elk to be removed from the field.”
“They are smarter than you because they are using their special talents to thwart you.” She laughed at him again. “No bother. Show me the elk and I’ll solve your problem.”
She twirled her cloak and followed him to the field where the elk were in the middle of a team game that mixed butting antlers with hopping about and running in circles. Sparks were flying every which way.
“You have a herd of rare pyrotechnic elk,” Ohapi Day said when she saw them. “They are curious and independent and very, very stubborn. I can remove them but only for a short time. They always return. When they do, they will have seen different things, eaten exotic food, and had new experiences. They will be changed forever.”
“Anything you can do would be appreciated,” the foreman said without thought.
Ohapi Day walked out to the middle of the field where the elk were playing. She spread her arms wide and began to spin, her cloak flying out like a saucer around her. She picked up more speed and her cloak stretched wider and wider until it covered the entire field. The elk went up on their back legs and poked the cloak with their antlers until they caught in the cloth. Faster and faster she spun with the elk spinning with her. Ohapi Day’s feet lifted off the ground. Upward she floated with elk in tow, higher and higher into the sky. They vanished into the clouds.
A few minutes later, Ohapi Day drifted down on a gentle breeze without any elk.
“I left them in the stars,” she said. “You should have enough time to build your castle before they return.”
With that, she flipped her cloak and was gone.
Construction delays put castle completion behind schedule. Even so, the stones were set for the outer walls and the four corner towers were complete before the elk reappeared in the field. The foreman panicked, afraid that the elk would again give off sparks and distract his men.
Yet, he need not have worried. By removing the elk from the field, they had been changed forever just as Ohapi Day had predicted. The elk could no longer shot sparks from their antlers. Instead, they just wandered about eating the grass in the field all day long.
The workmen talked for years about those sparkly elk that used to live on the grounds of the castle before it was built, but after a while, no one believed them. Because the current elk no longer sparked, people began to believe that pyrotechnic elk never really existed. Eventually everyone was convinced that the stories of elk that could shoot sparks from their antlers were all untrue.
But there is evidence that such elk still exist. A few of them stayed up in the sky. Every now and then on a summer night, one of them will butt his antler against the moon and a spark will fly. The light will travel across the dark sky and shimmer before it burns out completely.
Nowadays, people call those sparks shooting stars.