Sometimes, the most interesting and scary stories play out in people’s heads. One summer evening, on our vacation down in mainland Europe, my daughter and I were lying in the grass, looking up at the stars. My daughter loves the stars. I love the fact that she does.
In this particular instance, she became fiddly and nervous.
– You alright?” I asked.
– I’m scared, daddy. Aren’t you scared?
– No.” I said, turning to her. “What is it that scares you?”
– You said the stars are very far away. How can that—hey, what was that?” she pointed towards the sky before she continued. “Daddy, did you see that? Why did that star move and then disappear, daddy?”
– That was a shooting star.” I said. “Like in the books, only real.”
– I forgot to make a wish!
– That’s ok.” I said. “The next one will come.”
– While we wait, I can tell you a little story.
– Oh, yes! I love storytime!
Once upon a time, there were two starlings called Æðra (read: Ethra) and Forvitni. Those are old Norse words meaning “fear” and “curiosity”. And that was how these starlings were. As they flew between the stars, searching for their flock, Æðra was always afraid, while Forvitni always wondered about things, wanted to know more.
One day, they came to our solar system. As they flew past Saturn, Æðra stopped, terrified. He turned to look at himself and saw that some of his feathers were singed.
– What was that?” he asked. “Hold on, wait for me! Don’t leave me alone at this dreadful place!”
Forvitni had made no answer, but had flown off to find the source of whatever it was that had singed her friend’s feathers.
– Here, Æðra!” she called from behind a moon called Enceladus.
The horrified Æðra joined Forvitni and watched where his friend pointed with her beak. A geysir of hot liquid and gas erupted from the surface of the moon and into the space around Saturn.
– Awful!” Æðra said.
– Wonderful!” Forvitni said.
– I want to get away from here.” Æðra said. When he tried to fly away, he heard a call from behind him.
– Hey, there!
Æðra did not know the voice. Reluctantly, he turned to see who had spoken.
– My name is Frækn.” another starling said to Forvitni.
– My name is Forvitni.” said Forvitni. She pointed to Æðra. “His name is Æðra.”
– Why is he flying away?” Frækn asked.
– He is afraid.” Forvitni answered.
– No, I’m not!” Æðra called from afar.
– Frækn means valiant.” Forvitni said.
– I am valiant!” Frækn said.
– Shall we travel together and look for our flock?” Forvitni asked.
– Forvitni means curiosity.” Frækn said. “We shall travel together and look for our flock.”
And thus, it happened. Æðra protested, but followed at a distance, though never so far away as to not see the others.
My daughter was lying there silent, watching the stars.
– I like Forvitni best.” she said eventually.
– Yes, but the other two are there, too, aren’t they?
– You said you were afraid. You’re still looking up, though, and, if I know you well enough, you’d like to know a little more about the stars, too, right?
– My brave and curious girl.” I said.
To my surprise, the comment earned me a kiss on the cheek. We spent the rest of the night counting the shooting stars of the Perseids, making wishes, and talking about the universe.