Lala, The Lava Woman

When Lala was a child she lived in a village with her mother and father who were simple, hard working folk. They grew potatoes, which they sold for a small sum at market . . . making just enough to live day to day. Lala enjoyed working in the fields with them. She would drop potato tubers into trenches, one after the other, and covering them with blankets of soil she would lean close and tell each one, “Rest and then grow little taties.” She would hand pick any beetles that came to eat the growing leaves and move them to wild plants that grew around the potato field. She loved to chase the butterflies and watch the bees kiss the dandelions. And best of all, she enjoyed twirling in the warm, sunny rains, only to search for the beginning of the rainbow afterward.

Her parents found her ways peculiar. Though she was their child, her speaking with plants was something they were not accustomed to. Nor were they comfortable with all the questions she would ask. “’T’aint natural,” they’d say to one another. Even odder were the fits of rage she’d fly into. These began as what they thought of as temper, temper. She’d get angry about a miscommunication or a glance or a disturbance of her reverie and scream or shout or stomp. Over time, however, they became longer and were accompanied by hot foam pouring forth from her mouth. Deeply disturbed and convinced something was wrong with their daughter her parents took her to every healer that came through their village. She was given the juice of toad’s eyes, stones from the belly of a fish, claw of fox cooked with nettles and stirred with a rooster’s tail feather, and many other such peculiarities. But nothing seemed to work, and soon everyone in the village knew of Lala and her fits, and they would stare at her, whispering, as she’d pass.

Her parents were at a loss. They would not accept their daughter as she was, and being unable to change her ways, they began keeping her locked in a room. They covered her mouth with a piece of cloth, to keep the hot foam from spilling out, and only removed it to feed her. Thus Lala grew to be a young girl of thirteen, hidden from the world on account of what everyone called “her horrible temper”, and who had been largely forgotten.

One evening her mother went to feed her and found the room empty. Lala was gone. She had left with nothing more than the clothes on her back and the shoes on her feet. And she never once looked behind. Down the dusty road she walked, leaving the world of her parents in the distance, looking ahead to see what else the world held for her. She walked all day for three days, eating fallen apples, drinking from creeks, and sleeping behind bushes slightly off the road. She had never been happier. One evening she saw firelight, and walking toward it she found a campsite with an old woman stirring a pot over the coals.

The old woman spotted her and called to her, smiling, “Come child, have some soup with me.”

Lala sat beside the campfire and enjoyed a bowl of hot herb soup.

“I’m Lala,” she told her hostess between mouthfuls of soup.

“Hello Lala,” was the reply, “Where are you headed?”

“Just down the road.”

“Well, spend the night here dear, and keep me company.”

And Lala did. They watched the stars in the sky and the old woman listened to Lala’s many questions with interest. Then she told Lala a tale about a little star that was eaten by a coyote, which Lala listened to raptly. So the night passed, and the next morning when the old woman invited her to travel with her, Lala was more than happy to do so.

The old woman, or Granny as Lala began to call her, was a healer who travelled from village to village with her wagon of medicines and stories, which she would share with those who needed them. She was known for her skill and she taught Lala all that she knew over the years, finding that the girl’s own curiosity often led her to new answers that she herself did not know. So Granny and Lala grew side by side, and when Lala would become angry, which from time to time she did, Granny didn’t seem to think much of it. Lala spent many nights wondering what the hot stuff was; she could feel it sometimes bubbling in her belly, rolling about. But no answer came for many, many years.

Lala was a young woman now and she and Granny were headed to a village on the banks of a river. It had been raining for over a week and the journey had been a hard one. They had to cross a bridge over the river to get to the village. The river was roaring and flowing over the bridge.

Lala asked Granny, “Perhaps we should find another way?”

“Nonsense, we’ll go ahead right here,” said Granny.

So they crossed the bridge and just as the horses’ hooves touched land, a huge wave came along and slammed into the wagon, tearing it off where it was hitched. Granny was in the wagon, and Lala watched in horror as the wagon began bobbing away. She jumped off her seat and began running on the bank toward it, calling, “Granny, Granny!!!” All she could hear in response was the water and the words, “Use your lava Lala, use your lava!”

Just like that, Lala felt a huge burst of energy inside her. It bubbled and boiled and rose to the surface hotly, bursting forth from her mouth in a gush that went flowing down the river and around the wagon. Just as quickly as it poured and spilled, it cooled and solidified into hard earth. Lala was amazed at what she had done, unbelieving, yet there was the wagon, safely marooned in the odd landforms, with the river rushing on harmlessly around it. She ran toward the wagon and Granny got out smiling. As they hugged tightly, Lala heard sounds on the bank. There the villagers were gathered, pointing at her in astonishment. By the time they got to the village tales of what she had done had spread. And this is how Lala came to know the lava inside her and came to be called Lava Woman.

Over the years, as Granny grew older, Lala was the one the villagers asked for. She became the healer and Granny her companion. From time to time she would let her lava flow out over flooded villages and lands. People far and wide knew of her. In their small village, even the simple folk who were her parents had heard the tales of Lava Woman, and nodding sagely they called her “blessed”.

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