Once upon a time, a young man passed his exams to become a teacher. He traveled to take a position in a brand-new school in a faraway village. He moved into a tiny hut on the edge of the river because the school was not yet built. He waited eagerly for the coming school year.
One evening, he stood by the river and watched the sunset. The night was very quiet, and the colors dancing on the river were beautiful. He inhaled deeply, enjoying the summer scents. Suddenly, he noticed a gleaming light on the riverbank, and he walked closer to see what it was.
He was startled to find a coffin there, with light emanating from inside. For a long while he stood and wondered what to do. He thought the light might be coming from jewels buried inside the coffin -- jewels sent to help the dead find their way in the darkness.
"This is as it should be," the teacher murmured. The dead must be honored.
He turned away, but he could not resist the thought of all those jewels, and soon he forgot about respecting the dead. Overcome by greed, he picked up a rock and broke open the coffin lid. He bent over and looked inside.
There lay a young man, his face gaunt, a mourning turban wrapped around his head.
The teacher was suddenly filled with awe, sorrow and fear. As he stood up, he saw the corpse's eyes look directly into his. Before the teacher could run away, the corpse started to rise.
The teacher was terrified. He ran up the hill toward his hut. He heard the corpse climbing out of the coffin and begin to chase after him.
The teacher could hear the corpse's footsteps coming closer. He ran as fast as he could to his home. Inside, he quickly locked the door behind him. He was just in time.
He sat on the floor to catch his breath and listened at the door. But he heard nothing.
"Perhaps I was dreaming," he said to himself. "My imagination has gotten the better of me." He tried to laugh.
He stood and walked to the window. He peered outside, but saw nothing, as the sun had gone down and it was dark. He listened but heard only the flowing river, chirping crickets and a light breeze. He opened the window and looked down.
That's when he saw the corpse leaning against the wall of his hut. The moment the window opened, the corpse jumped inside.
Terrified, the teacher ran for his door and escaped outside. But he was running so fast, he tripped and fell and hit his head hard against a rock.
A few days passed, and the schoolchildren arrived at the teacher's hut for their first lessons. They discovered the door was locked, and so they called inside, "Hello, sir. We are here for school."
No one answered their calls or their knocks. The children walked around and peered into the window but saw nothing.
The oldest boy turned to the others. "Let us break in," he said. He was big and strong, and he pushed on the door until at long last it flew open.
When the students walked inside, they discovered their teacher collapsed on the floor.
As they had learned from their elders, the children sprinkled the teacher with ginger. They knew that this might wake someone from a deep slumber. But the teacher did not move.
The children then called a doctor. Soon after the doctor arrived, the teacher opened his eyes and sat up.
"What happened?" the doctor asked him.
Ashamed of his greed, the teacher confessed to everything that had happened. The schoolchildren, the doctor and the teacher then searched the house for the corpse.
They found it lying dead outside, where the teacher remembered falling.
The next day, the teacher announced he would resign his position. He explained to the children, "I am not fit to be your teacher, for I let greed overcome my honor, goodness and integrity. Learn from my errors. I almost lost my life because of this, and I have lost the right to call myself a good man and your teacher."
The children were sad, but they understood and learned the lesson well. As for the teacher? He returned to his native village and lived the rest of his days working to be as good and generous a man as he could be.
"Tell Me a Story 3: Women of Wonder," the third CD in the audiobook series, is now available. For more information, please visit www.mythsandtales.com.