The Stag

Translated by Wendy Cross

Once upon a time there was a storyteller, who decided one day to broaden his repertoire. After all, the village was starting to get tired of always hearing the same tales. They no longer made the people dream at all. The fashion for princesses and dragons was long gone, and the fantastic creatures of today needed to be more sophisticated and majestic.

So the storyteller dreamed up a legend about a magnificent creature, slender and with a regal presence. Its four legs were delicate, its coat shone and the creature's head was adorned with the most beautiful branches from the forest over which it reigned. The animal's eyes shone with humility and calm, and the storyteller gave it the name of Stag, simple and discreet.

Over the course of his story, the man gave the Stag a dream home: a luxuriant forest inhabited by peaceful animals, where food grew abundantly. In the middle of the forest was a large lake where all the animals went to drink at a precise time, and where they shared the gossip brought by the wind from the four corners of the earth. In this paradise, the Stag reigned supreme and ruled his subjects with goodness and tolerance.

The storyteller, satisfied with his creation, then made up several adventures for the Stag. These new tales were sure to bring him glory among all lovers of stories. The man had never been so excited; he felt that the Stag was the most successful and realistic of all his fabled animals.

And he was right. The story was indeed realistic. The Stag attended to his royal occupations and did his best to ensure calm reigned in the forest. He continued to fight monsters on the fringes of the woods and to adorn his head with intertwined branches. The Stag was happy in his imaginary forest, because for him this world of words was the most tangible reality there could be. He had everything he needed: contented subjects, a splendid forest, as much food as he could eat, a female companion, and a daily life that was varied enough to prevent him from sinking into boredom. Day after day, the creature continued to exist and to enchant all the inhabitants of his world and of that of the storyteller.

But one day, the popularity of the Stag was over, and his stories were forgotten. Forced to abandon his creation if he wanted to continue living off his writing, the storyteller cast aside the majestic sovereign and stopped making up adventures, monsters, and subjects for him. He went on to other subjects and created new characters, all of which, however, were less exciting than the Stag.

The Stag noticed that something had changed in his daily life. All of a sudden, there were no longer any monsters. At first he was pleased to have succeeded in establishing peace in his kingdom and made the most of the tranquillity resulting from this sudden calm. However, after a few days, he noticed that he was always coming across the same animals and that no children were being born in the forest anymore. Worried, he looked for an answer, and when he could not find one, he resigned to always seeing the same faces and watching his subjects die out without leaving any successors. The Stag then sought refuge with his female companion. Weary and bored, and disoriented, the fabulous creature began to think about his happiness and what had brought him to be lord of such a beautiful kingdom. Faced with torment, he realized he had never been sad or angry; he could not even give a name to these feelings as they were so alien to him. His whole life had been nothing but glory, love and happiness.

Finding this strange, the Stag decided to explore his kingdom to seek the reason for all of this, and he asked his companion to go with him so that he would feel less alone during his quest. 

Day after day they walked through the depths of the forest, without finding the slightest incoherence, except for a terrifying absence of life when they ventured into unknown places. It was as if this part of the world was not meant to be seen and was scarcely more than background scenery, to look nice and not spoil a certain coherence within a meticulously organized whole.

And one day, as they explored, the two lovers stopped dead. The forest had come to an end. One more step and both the Stag and his companion would have fallen into nothingness. 

The forest had no heart; it had no soul. The Stag, alarmed, dashed towards the edge of the woods and began to run aimlessly around the plains surrounding his home. Having been created with intelligence and lucidity, he was beginning to understand the workings of the world he had been living in for so long.

Soon, the Stag realized the terrible truth: his forest had never existed, and perhaps it was even going to disappear altogether, along with its inhabitants, his companion, and himself. The Stag had thought himself the only god in the world, but now he realized that somewhere there was another divinity, more omniscient and supreme, who acted as the god of all gods. But the Stag did not want to disappear. He hastily found his companion who agreed to follow him while he returned towards the heart of the forest.

Then, fearless, they jumped into the void and immediately disappeared... reappear in another forest, duller and colder, but very real. Hardly able to believe his eyes, the Stag began to explore this new world, accompanied by his partner; there were no borders to be seen. They had escaped from their prison of illusions.

As soon as a villager caught sight of a real Stag in the neighboring forest, the storyteller became so famous that he was able to live in comfort for the rest of his life, telling stories about the Stag, and happily bringing back to life the imaginary forest he had abandoned on his desk years ago.

Ever since that day, Stags have continued to prosper and enchant our reality with their heavenly presence, all the while, curiously, observing us.

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