The Dancer

Long ago there was a very good dancer. He spent most of his time dancing. He didn’t have a real job. This made the townspeople unhappy. They thought the dancer was lazy. Other folk thought he was charming and fun to have around. The dancer showed up to every party and got very drunk most nights.

One night, after many hours of dancing, the dancer was feeling more restless than usual. As people were leaving the barn (they danced in barns, typically) the dancer said, townspeople why do you turn to your beds so early? The night is yet young, and there is time yet to dance! Many of the sleepy villagers ignored him. A pauper said, dancer, we cannot dance as long as you. We tire just by looking at you dance away with your many dances. It’s very exhausting for us simple folk to dance. But if you wish to dance this night away, I’m aware that the next town over is having a party much larger than our small town. They will likely be dancing until the dawn, if you ask me.

And so the dancer danced to the next town over. It was quite a short distance from his own town. When he arrived he was feeling strong. The music and the lights and the people of the party that the pauper mentioned excited him. He danced his way into the crowd and danced and danced and danced. the townsfolk stood in awe at the dancer who danced many dances. He brought new life into the revels and indeed the dancer eventually drew more folk to the party. The people of the town were so impressed with his dancing that they extended the duration of their celebration by a whole ten days, a period during which the dancer had not slept at all, and many began to wonder about his health. But regardless, the dancer kept on dancing until these new townsfolk tired and began to leave after about two weeks or so. Again the dancer, still dancing, said to the townsfolk, why do you turn away from the wine and dance floor and sulk towards your plows and desks and anvils? We have just begun to enjoy ourselves, and there is time yet to dance! And very similarly to the first time, the tired townspeople ignored the dancer, except for a nobleman who had newly arrived and was vastly intrigued by the dancer’s dancing. The nobleman said, exceptional dancer I sympathize with your disappointment as I have just arrived from the capital to settle some affairs here in the country, but I have yet good news for you. The capital, which is my permanent residence, is currently celebrating the coronation of our new king, and as you can rightly imagine in this time of peace, the revels will very likely last many months.

And so the dancer danced to the capital, a journey which took a few days to complete. He danced through the cobble streets, and many of the sharp dressed nobleman, lawyers, and even some well armed knights were impressed with the dancer’s dancing, especially seeing how he had learned many new dances by dancing so much in the past weeks. He had, in fact, invented many new dances, and these dances in particular drew a sizable crowd from the capital folk who walked out of their ornate houses, towers, and chapels to watch the dancer dance the fresh dances. When the dancer reached the palace gates, he danced by the guards and into the court, where he joined the knights, the king, and danced and danced and danced. He quickly became a popular guest during the subsequent days, and it could even be said that the dancer changed the whole paradigm of the court. The king himself was so delighted by the dancers dancing that he invited more guests and called for more provisions for the celebration, and even ordered the construction of a new ball room in which more dancing would ensue. As the nobleman had told the dancer, the celebration lasted many many months, and during this time the dancer had not ceased his dancing, not even for a wink of sleep. The dancer ate and drank while dancing, and his behavior was quite a surprise to the many revelers of the palace, especially since by this time many different folk from all over the world had arrived to take part in the celebration. Indeed, it was true that the dancer had accumulated a great deal of fame. Many townsfolk from distant lands, who after spending a few months or even just a few hours at the kings palace returned to their homelands and simply could not stop talking about the dancer who danced many dances. Stories began to circulate about the dancer, of which this tale is an example, if you want to know the truth. And because of these tales, even more people flocked to the kings palace just to see the legendary dancer who would not stop dancing. It could be said that the fascination with the dancer established a global peace, which lasted many months and was as surprise to everyone. The celebration went on, and did not seem to end, especially with the dancer propelling it forward with his fervor. Two full years of celebration passed when finally the king observed that the nation’s supplies had dwindled significantly, and the crop fields were barren and dusty, and the cleanliness of the city streets were being compromised due to the prolonged holiday. And so the celebration finally ended, albeit with great reluctance from practically everyone. As you might have guessed, the dancer, still dancing, was devastated when he noticed folk leaving the palace and returning to their homes. Oh fellow dancers! The dancer cried, Why do you drag your feet so reluctantly towards your distant homes? There is still more dancing to be had in our lifetimes! I tell you, hark! There is time yet to dance! Some revelers turned at his words, and looked longingly in the dancer’s direction, only to turn homeward once again. But there was a crouching, cloaked figure whose white beard dragged upon the dance floor, and he addressed the dancer in an old withered voice. Be not sad dancer, the cloaked figure whispered, I know of a place in the forest where fantastic creatures congregate at night, and these creatures have the most remarkable revels.

And so the dancer danced into the forest, an infinitely dense limbo on the outskirts of the capital. He danced his way through fallen trees, the foliage, and the towering pines and birches — for this was a northern forest, after all. He danced for hours, and it was getting quite late. Then he heard sweet music. The dancer followed the distant melody until he came to a moonlit clearing where little pulses of white and yellow fairies bobbed up, down, and round and round in circles. The fairies were singing, and dancing to their music. The dancer hopped into the procession and started dancing. He danced and danced and danced. He danced for so long, that he began to wonder at the world while he danced. The fairies did not stop dancing, and the night would not give way to dawn. This did not matter to the dancer who was quite content with dancing in the forest with the fairies, and didn’t much question the state of affairs. But after what seemed like centuries, one of the fairies asked, Oh dancer, what are you? Contrary to your perception, we are not beings who revel in dancing. We lure mortals with our songs and cast a spell on them to force them to dance until their death. But why are you alive? For surely we have been dancing long and your legs have not been driven into a bloody mess yet. What sort of immortal being are you? For surely we are growing tired of your dancing, because even fairies must rest. The dancer said nothing. He only went on dancing. Eventually the fairies became so depressed by their failure to slay the dancer that they took their own lives, but their malicious spell that forced men to dance remained on the dancer.

And to this day, some very learned scientists still believe the dancer is still dancing, and quite accurately have predicted that he may continue to do so until the inevitable heat death of the universe. Indeed, many scholars admit that much of what we see today in the arts and suffering of men is due to the dancers nonstop dancing and many devout dancers still believe that if the dancer were to stop dancing, the whole world might even be thrown into chaos.

It could be said that some dances were never meant to end, and that perhaps the pathetically short parties that many mortals throw ought to be extended, for surely there will always be a dancer who wishes to go on dancing.

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