Once I thought all fairies were wise," I confessed to her as I had to Carabosse.

"Oh, no," Mama said. "Wisdom is not a great thing among The Sidhe. I have heard a legend about that." She settled herself in the saddle and told me the story

"It is said that the Holy One, Blessed be He, first created mankind as he created the Sidhe, marvelously fair, and he set The first of them in a garden much like Faery except that day and night came there, spring and fall, warm and cool, dry and wet, and every animal which has ever been, and every bird and every fish"

"I think I've heard this tale," I said, remembering

Father Raymond.

"Very likely. The story is very old. And it continues that He set in the middle of the garden the tree of the hunger for wisdom, and He told them what it was.

'Eat of it or not,' He said, 'as you choose. Except, you eat of it, you must leave the garden of ever-life, for wisdom brings a terrible price, the price of pain and death and loneliness. But if you will be immortal, do not eat of it, and you may live here forever in peace."

And she went on to tell me the whole story of Eden, as though she were reading it out of the Bible, as Father Raymond had used to read it to me.

"Until the first woman could bear it no more., said Mama, "and she went to the tree of the hunger for wisdom and picked a fruit from it and ate it. Then she sat down beneath the tree and cried, for all the questions of the world percolated about in her head, like fish she could not catch, and she knew herself and all her children forever would be adrift in mystery, that as soon as one thing was found out another would present itself to be discovered.

"And the man found her there. When she told him what she had done, he took the core of the fruit she had eaten and tasted it and put the seeds in his pocket. 'For.' he said, 'if you must leave the garden, so will I. And if you must die, so will I. I will go with you wherever you go, leaving all the garden behind. And of the tree of knowledge you have given up paradise for, we will take the seeds to plant in every land we come to, and we will find the fruit bitter and we will find the fruit sweet."

Mama sighed. "And that is why man was cast out to be no better than a beast, dirty and itchy and covered by smuts from the lire. And it is why he creates, and why he may grow wise, and why he is numerous.


Beauty, by Sheri S. Tepper