Houyi and the Ten Suns

“Ten Suns” by Hilary Farmer (2009) Link.

I got into a discussion recently where the other conversant expressed the sentiment that good and evil were both needed in the world, in a balance. I disagreed, because to me, good and evil were value judgments: the notion of balance would be good, and imbalance would be evil. We don’t need any evil itself, but it can be confusing when some odd version of evil is conjunct with something such as darkness, which is itself actually…only itself. Neutral. The value judgment put to darkness is not innate.

It reminded me of a story from Chinese legend, about how ten suns rose in the sky one day and razed the earth. Light isn’t good when it does that much harm.

Then again, I also remembered how the people, in their suffering, called upon an archer by the name of Houyi to shoot down the birds that lived in the heart of each sun.

He shot down nine, and was about to shoot down the tenth when this Godly voice bade him stay his arrow and leave a single sun in the sky to grant light and warmth to the earth in a moderate measure.

Part of me is more used to stories about wobbling to find balance, like in “The Otter Fat Wishes” where, as Carl Jung himself said, “Frightful things must happen until (we) grow ripe. But anything else will not ripen humanity.” In the Otter Fat Wishes, the heir had to die so that the king would appreciate him enough to put aside his ego. If this story followed the pattern that I expect, all suns should have been shot down and the world to suffer darkness and winter, and the heroes would journey to earn the sun’s revival with understanding and respect for its part in the grand theme of things. Then everybody would fully understand their duty to keep the balance.

Well, Houyi ripened far more easily: he adjusted right away to the voice of common sense and transcendental wisdom. Leave one sun. Of course.

The need for balance would have been too easy to forget. When the entire realm and all its people are enveloped, inescapably, in a merciless and overwhelming sunlight…then even a little bit of that can be a threat, and a reminder of the worst suffering.

In such circumstances, evil associates itself inextricably with light.

So, I completely understand the impulse to shoot them all down. I wouldn’t even have listened to the voice of the sun God, who brought about all this trouble in the first place with no explanation.

What stayed Houyi’s hand?

Is that in me? I must ponder more on this to find that quality.

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This entry was posted in Tales.