The Girl Weaver
by Marina Colasanti
Translated from the Portuguese by Adria Frizzi
She woke when it was still dark, as if she heard the sun coming from behind the edge of night.
And she immediately sat down at the loom
A light-colored yarn, to start off the day.
A delicate thread the color of light, which she wove through the warp, while outside the morning glow outlined the horizon.
Later, brighter yarns, hot yarns, wove themselves away, hour by hour, in a long never-ending rug.
If the sun was too hot, and the petals drooped in the garden, the girl put thick grey yarns of the softest cotton in her shuttle. Shortly after, in the shadows brought on by the clouds, she chose a silver thread and embroidered long stitches across the fabric.
A light rain came to greet her at the window.
But if the wind and the cold quarreled with the leaves andscared the birds away for days, all the girl had to do was weave with her beautiful golden threads for the sun to return and quiet nature down.
Thus the girl spent her days, throwing the shuttle from one side to the other and beating the large reeds back and forth.
She lacked for nothing. When she was hungry she wove a beautiful fish complete with scales. And there was the fish, on the table, ready to be eaten. If thirst came, soft was the milk-colored wool that ran through the rug.
And at night, after casting her thread of darkness, she slept peacefully. Weaving was all she did. Weaving was all she wanted to do.
But as she wove away, she herself brought about a time when she felt lonely, and for the first time she thought how nice it would be to have a husband by her side.
She did not wait another day.
With the care of someone attempting something never before experienced, she began to weave through the rug the yarns and colors that would give her company.
And little by little her desire began to emerge, plumed hat, bearded face, proud stance, polished boot. She was about to weave the last thread through the tip of his boots when there was a knock on the door.
She did not even need to open it. The youth put his hand on the knob, took off his plumed hat and walked right into her life.
That night, as she lay against his shoulder, the girl thought about the beautiful children she would weave to increase her happiness even more.
And happy she was, for a time. But if the man had thought about children, he soon forgot them. Because, after discovering the power of the loom, he thought of nothing else but all the things she could give him.
--A better house is in order—he told his wife. And it did seem to make sense, now that there were two of them. He demanded the most beautiful brick-colored yarns, green threads for the shutters, and haste for the house to happen.
But when the house was ready, it no longer seemed enough to him. –Why have a house when we can have a palace?—he asked.
Without waiting for an answer, he immediately ordered that it be made of stone with silver trim.
Day after day, week and month the girl toiled, weaving roofs and doors, and courtyards and staircases, and halls and wells. Outside the snow was falling, and she did not have time to call the sun. Night fell, and she did not have time to cast off the day. She’d weave and grieve, as the reeds beat ceaselessly to the rhythm of the shuttle.
At last the palace was ready. And, from among so many rooms, the husband chose for her and her loom the highest room in the highest tower.
--So no one will know about the rug—he said.
And before locking the door, he warned her:
--You have yet to make the stables. And don’t forget the horses!
The wife wove her husband’s every whim without pause, filling the palace with luxury, the coffers with coins, the halls with servants. Weaving was all she did. Weaving was all she wanted to do.
And as she wove she herself brought about a time when her sadness seemed to her greater than the palace with all its treasures.
And for the first time she thought how nice it would be if she were on her own again.
She waited just until nightfall. She got up while her husband slept, dreaming of fresh demands. And barefoot, not to make any noise, she climbed the long staircase leading to the tower and sat down at the loom.
This time she did not need to choose a yarn. She grasped the shuttle backwards and, throwing it quickly from one side to the other, she began to undo her weaving. She unwove the horses, the carriages, the stables, the gardens.
Next she unwove the servants and the palace and all the wonders it held.
And once again she found herself in her little house and smiled at the garden beyond the window.
The night was coming to an end when the husband, wondering at the hard bed, awoke and looked around, bewildered. He did not have time to get up. She was already undoing the dark outline of his boots, and he watched his feet disappear, his legs vanish. Swiftly, nothingness crept up his body and took his proud chest, his plumed hat.
Then, as if she heard the sun coming, the girl chose a light-colored yarn. And slowly wove it through the threads, a delicate streak of light which the morning repeated in the line of the horizon.
Marina Colasanti (1937) is a writer, journalist, and artist. Born in Eritrea, she has lived in Libya, Italy, and Brazil, where she moved in 1948. She writes short stories, poetry, essays, and children’s literature, with over fifty books published in Brazil and abroad. In addition to her work as writer and journalist, she is a translator and illustrator of her own books. Her work has been translated into several languages and recognized with numerous awards, most recently the prestigious Jabuti Dourado prize for best work of fiction of 2014.
Translator Adria Frizzi has published Nine, Novena by Osman Lins (Green Integer) and has completed a book of fairytales by Colasanti, Uma idéia toda azul (A True Blue Idea), which is available for publication.