There was an old lady who gave birth to twins. Knowing that she would not live long enough to see them grow up, she did what she could to help them succeed without her.
The first child she called Wun. She cut out Wun’s eyes and replaced them with her own, so that Wun would not have to see anything for the very first time, but would instead recognise everything that life put in his way.
The second child she called Mun. She cut off Mun’s ears and replaced them with her own, so that Mun would not hear anything that he could not understand, for her ears had already heard everything that had ever been said.
Then, unexpectedly, she gave birth to a third child. Before she could give any gifts to her daughter, or even a name, the old lady died, and the child was left to fend for herself.
The two brothers called their sister Undun, and they tried to raise her as best they could, for despite their young age they were already as wise as their dear dead mother. But Undun knew nothing, and although they tried to impress upon her their wisdom she would not learn what they wished, and they often found her ignorance exasperating.
One day, while out foraging for food in the forest, the three of them came across a lake as clear and as deep as the sky. Wun, upon seeing the stillness of the lake, and Mun, on hearing the sound of a stone dropped into its waters, knew how deep the lake must be, and how dangerous.
But Undun, having no fear and unaware of the danger, ran straight into the lake. Wun and Mun rolled their eyes in despair and disgust at Undun’s recklessness, but she laughed and laughed and laughed, for she found the act of swimming in the sun-warmed waters immensely pleasurable, and could not understand at all why her brothers would not join her.
Later that afternoon, the three of them were walking once more through the forest when they came upon a wandering minstrel, who was playing a merry song of his own devising. Wun, on seeing the minstrel’s face, and Mun, on hearing the seditious lyrics in his song, knew he was a disreputable sort, and they both hurried past as quickly as they could.
But Undun, having never seen other men before except for her two brothers, nor having heard any music save the birds’ sweet songs, just danced and danced and danced, for she found the music incredibly joyous and the man’s singing unendingly delightful, and could not understand why her brothers would not join her.
Eventually, the minstrel went on his way, and Undun followed after her two brothers, who had gone on ahead even deeper into the forest, and she found them there deep in conversation with a man upon a horse. Wun, who could see the finery of his clothes, and Mun, who could hear the refined tone of his voice, knew that the man must be a prince of great import, and if not a prince than perhaps even a king.
But Undun, ignorant of the distinctions and importances of class, was unimpressed by his status, and when he, after praising her beauty as the greatest he had ever seen, asked for her hand in marriage, Undun run away in fear, wondering why he wanted to mutilate her and take a piece of her as his own.
The prince (for he was not yet a king) was outraged by this behaviour, and despite Wun and Mun’s apologies, his fury would not subside. The prince ordered them to help his men search the forest for her, and although they looked in every place they thought she could be, they could not find her. After many days of fruitless searching, the prince, heartbroken and disgusted, ordered the execution of Wun and Mun, and that very night they hanged. The prince and his men returned to the kingdom from whence they had came, and were never seen again within the walls of the woods.
Undun, who did not know the sorts of places she should be, had spent the days playing in bears’ caves, sleeping in crows’ nests, and talking happily to strangers. There in the forest she lived until the very end of its days, when the trees withered away and all the world had changed, by which time she knew more about the joys of life than any other who had lived.
But that still was not enough for Undun, and where she went from there I could not say. Yet I know that she was happy, and happier still with every passing day.
1. Written in February 2014, and never much changed since__________patreon. Subscribers get not just early access to content and also the occasional gift, but also my eternal gratitude. Which I'm not sure is very useful, but is certainly very real. Thank you.