Once upon a time, in the heart of an ancient kingdom, there was a garden. The master of the kingdom would often walk through the garden in the cool of the evening, and there he would visit his favourite tree, the lovely and gracious Bamboo.
Year by year, Bamboo grew lovelier and more gracious. She loved the master, and her greatest desire was to dance for him. When the breeze blew through her branches, she would sway backwards and forwards, tossing and bowing, and dancing her very best, just for the master’s eyes. And the master’s heart leapt with joy to see his beloved Bamboo.
One day, the master came to visit Bamboo. His brow was furrowed, and he was in deep thought.
Bamboo saw him approaching, and she danced for him, full of passion and adoration, her fronds sweeping the ground before him in a loving greeting.
“My Bamboo,” said the master. “You know how I love you. Today, I would ask you to help me in an important task.”
Bamboo was thrilled. There was nothing she would not do at her master’s request. “Tell me master,” she replied. “What can I do for you? I am ready. Tell me what I can do. Use me as you will.”
The master’s eyes were troubled as he spoke the words: “My beloved Bamboo. I need you, and I must cut you down in order to use you for my great task.”
Bamboo shook with horror. “Cut me down?” She cried. “But master, how shall I dance for you? How shall I show my love for you? Shall I never dance for you ever again?”
But the master was firm. “My dear Bamboo, if I do not cut you down, I cannot use you.”
Despair froze the heart of poor Bamboo as she consented. “Then do what you must do, master,” she said quietly.
And so the master cut down Bamboo. She lay trembling at his feet, with only her fronds and leaves to shelter her from the cold air.
And again, the master bent over her, and gazed at her with compassion.
“If I am to use you, dear Bamboo, I must cut off your leaves and fronds.”
A sick cold feeling seeped into Bamboo’s heart. She gave her grieved consent as the master cut off her fronds and leaves and left her naked and shorn on the bare earth of the garden.
But the worst was still to come. Again, the master spoke gently to his beloved: “If I am to use you, I must now split you in two and cut out your centre. I must scoop out the heart of you.”
“Oh master,” cried Bamboo. “Must this really be? Would you do this to me?”
“I cannot use you, dear Bamboo, unless you consent to be split and emptied.”
“Then,” consented Bamboo, “do what you must do. Split me and cut me and hollow out my centre.”
So the master split Bamboo, and hollowed her out, and gently lifted her to a place in the garden where a fresh, sparkling spring flowed. There he laid her down, placing one end of her in the sparkling spring, and the other in the dry field beyond the garden. The water sang to Bamboo as it leapt along the channel of her broken, empty heart. The water flooded the dried field, and the master planted a new crop. The days passed. Fresh green shoots appeared. Soon it was harvest time.
At harvest time, Bamboo, once so gracious as she danced to the master of the garden, was even more gracious in her brokenness, bringing new life to the whole field. Once she had been life abundant; now she was the bringer of abundant life to the world beyond the garden.
Retelling of a traditional story