How the Seeds Came into Being

By Georg Dreissig, Re-told by Arie Boogert and Anna Marchant

The Lord God really did create wondrous things. First, He had created light and darkness, then, from light and darkness, the heavens, water and wind. Thereupon, He had told the waters to flow together, and land, dry land had been uncovered. Silently looking on, the angels, led by archangel Michael, had followed all this closely, admiring what had been created with wonder and deep reverence. God then turned to his angelic hosts and said: `Now you, too, will help me. Let us cover the earth with a multitude of different plants, that the Earth be one big garden, where it will be good to dwell.’

You should have seen the joy and happiness on the faces of the angels, as they heard this invitation. Straight away they obeyed God’s commandment and quickly set to work, and under their hands innumerable flowers came into being, small and big, beautiful and inconspicuous, countless in their diversity. Gently floating, colorful blossoms hung suspended in the air. It was as if a rainbow had been broken up into countless pieces and scattered over the earth. No human eye would even for a moment, have been able to look at what had come forth out of the hands of the angels, so tender and shining, of such undreamed-of beauty.

Michael and the angels too thought they had made something quite beautiful, and God agreed fully. But still – He wasn’t quite satisfied. For a long time, He looked at the beauty of the floating blossoms, without saying a word. Taking God’s silent cue, the angels began to feel too that something was amiss, but what? Scrutinizing their work, they recognized the incompleteness of each blossom. Indeed, the blossoms were extraordinary beautiful, but they were too light to take root in the earth, to belong to it.

They asked God to help, and the Lord God brought down his hand–going down, not to the light, out of which the angels had created their blossoms, but to the darkness. The angels were astonished, the more so when they saw how God molded tiny, unpretentious kernels which He put in the empty flower cups. As the dark kernels touched the blossoms, part of their shining radiance was lost. But something else happened, as well: stems and stalks, leaves and roots began to grow out of the blossoms, and the roots sunk themselves into the earth. Now the blossoms did not float in the air; they belonged to bushes and plants, to trees and hedges. Quite astonishing! What an incredible miracle! Now the angels thought that really the plants were complete.

Moreover, the angels would soon discover that the seeds carried a great mystery within themselves. They discovered this, when the devil came face to face with the flowers. You must know, dear children, that the devil is a shady character who loves to ferret around in the deepest corners and crevices of the earth. He tremendously enjoys finding ore in abundance. His eyes begin to glow when he sees the vein of gold lode, which his well-developed keen nose has picked up from afar, or a silver or copper lode. In times past, he had been an angel of good character but he had been thrown out of heaven because he wanted to keep the light for himself. What he first had wanted to pursue in heaven, now he tried to achieve on Earth: he wanted to be lord over all earth’s treasures. In his well-known way, he had been underground, nosing around a rich vein of gold which meandered endlessly through the earth, and during this pleasant occupation he had incessantly told himself: `All this is mine, totally mine.’

It was precisely at this time that the flowers were being created by the angels. Do you imagine the devil found it a nice surprise to see all this heavenly beauty as he surfaced from the depths of the earth? No way! The flowers’ fragrance irritated his nose in such a way that he had to sneeze repeatedly. He really was angry! He cursed the angels in an awful devilish way and accused them of having disfigured with weeds the country where he lived. God help him, for would you believe he had the nerve to be indignant, as if where he lived belonged to himself? `Keep your greenery to yourself, you big pious moths’, he yelled. And you must know that this was only one of the kindest things he said. Well, the angels did not act on his ravings. They very well understood all which the devil yelled, and it was not in the least comfortable to have to listen to his ramblings. In fact, they began to feel compassion for this bleak customer who could not enjoy their beautiful handiwork.

The devil became more and more annoyed, as he perceived that no one was overly concerned about his complaints, and so eventually he began to pull flowers out of the ground himself, and to break off branches. Even the leaves he tore off, and in his passion of destruction he scattered seeds savagely all around. He began to remove all plants totally from a colossal and vast area. He even commanded wind and weather to help him. It was not enough that the poor plants were lying around broken and trampled. He did not want to see a trace of them any longer, not a trace. So, the devil brought about a sizable earthquake, and with tremor after tremor, the earth shook and opened to swallow all that remained of the wondrous creations of the angels, so that not a colored petal or a leaf remained.

After this feat, the devil was quite pleased with himself, and his self-conceit grew as he perceived how shocked the angels were. `I have shown you once and for all who is boss on Earth,’ he laughed. He turned to the heavenly host and swore with incredible pride: `Take care, you nitwits, and believe me: Under my dominion everything that you will send here to Earth will die!’

After the devil had made this terrible promise it became quiet in heaven, very quiet. Provocative, the devil stood waiting for an answer. But the angels were so shocked, they did not know what to answer.

Suddenly the silence was broken, not by the angels, nor by the devil, but by a delicate and tender sound. `Ting-a-ling-a-ling’, one could hear, `ting-a-ling-a-ling.’ Where did this come from? Tormented, the devil looked around. `Ting-a-ling-a-ling’–there it was again, soft and kind. At once, the devil’s head began to ache awfully, because to him `soft’ and `kind’ are intolerable. Nor could he shut off those sounds. He could not but hear, even if he pressed his fists tightly against his ears, for, like the angels, he is compelled to listen.

At last, the devil identified where those sounds were coming from: from a small yellow flower, her petals making a small bell. `Ting-a-ling-a-ling’, this flowery bell sounded, ‘ting-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling.’ As if paralyzed, the devil gaped at this little flower. He had ripped out all the flowers, hadn’t he? Where did this one come from? As he stood, glowering at the little flower, a delicious flower fragrance tickled his nose; and he had to sneeze again and again. Looking around, he saw that all the flowers that he with his own hands had pulled out had come back and in even more abundance than before.

`Ting-a-ling-a-ling’, all sounded, ‘ting-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling.’ It was not only a sweet sound which floated on the air, as you might think, it was a message, a message that the devil did not want to hear; yet, he had to understand. If you were to transpose the song of the flowers into our human language, you would have heard: `All that dies will live, all that dies will live.’

The devil fled. He crawled away deep into the earth to hide himself. And when he arrived there, he discovered where all those new flowers had come from. They had grown from the seeds that God had first put in the empty flower cups. Indeed, from the same seeds that he himself had scattered over all the earth, in his own fit of anger. Only now the devil could see how tiny flames of light were blazing around the seeds, giving new life to the seeds.

`All that dies will live, all that dies will live?’, the devil asked annoyed. `Will I then never win?’

The devil has not given up the battle. He keeps sending out wind and weather to destroy the flowers, and for a moment he may believe he really can exterminate them. Yet, every year in spring again he has to listen to the `ting-a-ling-a-ling’ of the flowers — All that dies will live, all that dies will live — because the Lord God Himself has put the seeds in the flower cups: so that death will be conquered.

SOURCE:`How the Seeds came into Being’ has been retold in the `Denver Letters to a Diaspora’ [47], after a story by Georg Dreissig in his `Das Gold der Armen’ which with its 53 stories covers the whole of the year (published Stuttgart, 1993).

Arie Boogert and Anna Marchant, 1996