Heads & Tales 2021: HUM 243


The Tale of Nimsay
The Hungry Man and Squirrel
A Tale of Just Desserts
Earthly Tallies
The Ocean and the Cliffside
Amanita and Sunti
Philipan Stag and the Hunter
Between Two Kingdoms
Globe Light
The Dawn of our Sun
The Secret of Silencing
The Tale of Clyfar and Graddfa Tan
Three Hairs
Serenade for the Little Butterfly
The Demon’s Trials


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The Ocean and the Cliffside

Jeannette Circe, ME’22

Art by Hannah Wu A’22 and Yeji Kim A’22

Tabh pronounced TOFF
Creag pronounced KR-REG
Biolachan pronounced BEE-OH-LA-HAN

The mighty ocean, Tabh, and the mightier cliffside, Creag, never really saw eye to eye. Creag spent the days singing her biolachan, a cheerful melody. Her song celebrated the joy of the breeze, the vastness of the land, and the beautiful sun that shined on her, providing the land with life. Tabh was not a huge fan of the song, for the ocean sat below the cliffside and never understood what was so great about soft grass or anything she could not see. Most of the time, the ocean could drown out the sweet melody coming from the cliffside, and they were able to coexist.

One year, the most bountiful of springs occurred on the cliffside and Creag’s sang more joyfully and louder than ever. She celebrated the harvest, the flowers and the overall excitement about a new beginning for life on land. Tabh’s frustration about how loud the cliffside sang led her to beg for the cliffside to sing quieter. But Creag was so blissful and focused, she could not hear the ocean’s pleas. If the ocean wanted the song to end, she was going to have to get her attention.

The waves started out small, their spray barely reaching a quarter up the cliffside, but the mighty ocean wanted the song to stop and her best idea involved sending some waves to shush the cliffside. Creag barely noticed the waves and was more focused on celebrating the new blooming flowers. For each new flower, another verse was added to the cliffside’s melodic biolachan. The song was not going to end anytime soon, and the ocean understood that more waves would be needed. She could create large enough waves to distract Creag and ask her to sing quieter.

Tabh sent more and more waves, each one crashing into the cliffside with increasingly violent intent. Rhythmic in nature, each wave allowed her to channel her frustration, and the song continued to fuel her anger. This anger blinded her to the damage caused to the cliffside. Cracks had formed in Creag. Upon seeing the cracks, the ocean paused in shock. But she had already sent another forceful wave.

Creag felt an unfamiliar cold dampness with each push of the water soaking in the spaces of the newly formed crevices. The experience differed from a gentle rain that nourished without a salty sting. She grew concerned, questioning why the ocean was sending such force onto her side. The water began tearing away at her, she soon felt pain in the small wounds. The final big wave had such momentum, it caused a large chunk of rock to break off, splitting from the mainland. The loud crash of the piece hitting the water shocked Creag, for she had never lost a piece of herself before. Her confusion so consumed her that she didn’t realize she had stopped singing.

The mighty ocean’s final blow crashed stronger than expected. The large chunk of the cliffside struck forcefully into Tabh. Like a reflex, she receded and the backwash revealed the broken cliffside and all the damage she had done.

The silence after the storm was more painful to Creag than losing a piece of herself. She had been singing for as long as she remembered. Then, she heard a sound that she did not make. When she realized the chunk of fallen cliff was calling out to her, she exclaimed in immense joy. The cliffside saw in the destruction a chance to teach the large rock about all the beauty of land and the wonders of nature.

At first, the young rock babbled along with the cliffside, trying to keep pace with the song. Eventually the rocked tuned in, like a child speaking its first sentence, and sang along cheerfully, happy to be a part of something so wonderful. Creag, full of ideas and energy to teach the young rock the song, created harmonies. Singing with someone was so new and exciting to her that the biolachan that celebrated life became more elegant and charming than she ever could have imagined.

During the next moon cycle, the ocean got pulled back towards the cliffside. Gentle, small waves approached Creag. Tabh felt remorseful and was still coming to terms with the damage that had been done, almost ready to apologize. When the harmony that was rolling down the cliffside became audible to her, any whims of apology were drowned out by the new song. Never did she think the damage would make the song happier or that she would create another to laud baby birds or fruiting trees or soft grass. The waves started speeding up. She realized that she had done this to herself and felt betrayed by her own actions. Wind gained speed towards the cliffside. Her frustration at one rock singing grew tenfold at the two. The sky darkened, a large storm was now moving towards Creag, and there was nothing that could be done to stop it. The singing had to stop, Tabh could take no more.

Creag saw the storm headed straight for her and her new partner. She wondered what had upset Tobh, but before she could figure it out, large powerful waves crashed into her, breaking off all sizes of rock. She had felt pain like this before and survived, but now in the face of such enormity, she just wanted to stay whole. The broken pieces fell slowly, not wanting to be lost in the storm. Creag begged the ocean to know why she had sent such a storm, but the winds and rain and waves drowned the cliffside’s pleas. The storm was of such size and strength that it went on for many seasons. Creag kept hope that it would end so she would survive for another spring, after spring, after spring.

Eventually the once mighty cliffside was too broken down. She felt weak and unsteady, pieces of her had been scattered all about where she once stood. She had been made into so many pieces, too small to summon her song as she once did. Creag could feel herself fading away, knowing she would be unable to sing and teach the song to anyone else. All the pieces of herself had spread too far and wide from her grasp.

Finally satisfied, the ocean ended the storm. The wind slowed and the waves retreated. The rocks were broken down into such small pieces that the mighty ocean had created a large beach where the cliffside once stood.

No longer was there a mighty cliffside blocking the ocean’s view of the land that Creag once sang joyfully about. The ocean finally could see— she saw everything. She saw flowers and trees and grass, all the lovely verses she had begged to stop hearing. She beheld vividly colored plants and animals, birds flying and chirping, trees swaying in the breeze. Such beauty opened her eyes to why Creag so passionately celebrated the land.

Tabh could hear a faint something coming from the beach. Larger rocks were murmuring and mumbling, trying to communicate with each other and with the ocean. They wanted to know what had happened and where they were. The mighty ocean was mortified that she did not remember all the words to the song, she regretted her destruction and wanted to make it right.

The ocean was not an elegant singer like the cliffside, but she tried with all her might to chant all the wonders of land. She taught the rocks on the beach the history of the mighty cliffside and why she sang her song. Together, the larger rocks and the ocean were able to teach all the grains of sand about the song, and they harmonizd more gracefully than Tabh could have ever predicted. As a reparation to the land, the mighty ocean brought up seashells to the beach and they sang with the sand. The now mighty beach sang for the land, for the ocean, and for the memory of the cliffside.