High in the mountains there is a spring, flowing wild and rushing through the rocks, changing into sparkling waterfalls and continuing as a wide river into the valley. A water spirit is master of the spring.
Once a village was in the valley. In ancient times people of the village had paid honor to the water spirit for the clear water it provided for the people. As time went by people forgot him and they started to disrespect the water. They even dumped all their garbage into the water, for the river to carry it away. On top of that they started to use the river as bathroom so they would not have to go to the longer distance to the edge of the woods.
The spirit of the spring became angry and stopped the flow of water. The river in the valley became smaller and smaller and dried up totally. The people had managed to save the last bits of water in jars and bottles. It was all the water they had now. It was decided to form a delegation to send to the mountains to find the water spirit and to ask him why he had closed the spring. After many days of climbing they had found the location of the spring and offered two young goats. They asked for the reason of the closure of the spring. A mighty voice came out of the rocks: when you will honor me in the right way by respecting the water that I give you, then I will reopen the spring.
The delegation came down from the mountains and the people decided to ration the remaining water. Every day, when the sun was at its highest, the community came together at the dry river bed and each person drank three drops of water in complete silence to honor the water spirit.
In the village was a poor orphan boy, called Joy. He lived in a old shack at the foot of the mountain and begged for a living. He had been going with the community to the river bed for six days and had drank the three drops of water each day. During the night of the seventh day, he became so thirsty and feverish that he had visions. He saw how the entire valley became one green meadow, full of beautiful flowers and tall trees. In the middle of the valley he saw a deep and dark lake. He laid down at the edge of it and drank all the water he could. The he started to run to the center of the lake. The water rose to his knees, his waist, his shoulders and finally he was submerged. He found the most shining colors all around him, even more beautiful than the rainbow. He heard music: flutes, drums, harps…and it was so much more beautiful than he had ever heard. Invisible hands were caressing with every step he made. He walked on and on, deeper and deeper, as he cared only for one thing: to find the center of this wonderful world of a lake.
He woke up and his thirst was bigger than before and it was almost noon. Good he had woken up just on time. He took his water jug and rushed to the river bed to join the now daily ceremony. He was just on time. The elder of the community made the sign to start drinking the three drops of water. In that moment of silence, Joy put his water jug to his lips and drank and drank as much as he could. The rest he pored over his body enjoying the coolness of the water. The entire community was shocked! Somebody shouted: “He has insulted the water spirit!” They grabbed Joy and decided he should die at the very spot he had insulted the water spirit. They would to burn him alive to wipe out all traces of this horrible crime. A tall pole was erected in the river bed and wood was carried and gathered around the pole. Joy was tied to the pole and the fire was lit.
Suddenly the mighty voice of the water spirit sounded: “Stop! Stop your disgusting work! Joy is the only one who has honored me!” At the same moment the water came rushing through the river bed, extinguished the fire and smashed the pole down. Joy was standing in the middle of the water, drinking it and letting himself be carried away by the oncoming waves.
Source: Parabels van Grote Spin (Stories of Big Spider) by Bob Papelard, a small Dutch booklet containing folk stories from Africa.