This fairy tale is centred around a beautiful maiden called Orihime who lived on the banks of the Silver River of Heaven. She was the daughter of the Sky God. All day long, Orihime sat by the loom, weaving colourful silken threads to make clothes for her father. Orihime’s skills were admired by all of the Gods. She was known as the Weaving Maiden. Orihime worked so hard that she had no time to spend with the other maidens or look for a husband herself. Her father worried about her but he couldn’t persuade her to step away from the loom and enjoy the pleasures of life.
One day, her father told her that he’d found a husband for her. He brought her to the oxherd, Hikoboshi, who looked after his beasts along the Silver River. She immediately fell for him. They married and Orihime was very happy. She didn’t want to sit at the loom anymore. She wanted to dance, sing and laugh with her husband whilst he tended to his oxen.
The Sky God waited for his daughter to return to her duties, but she never did as she had found happiness with her husband and her life. He grew angry because he wanted her to weave his spring kimono. He asked her three times but she just smiled and played around with Hikoboshi in the blossom trees. The Sky God eventually banished Hikoboshi to the other side of the Silver River.
Orihime was devastated, she cried until she couldn’t shed anymore tears. It didn’t matter how much she begged, the Sky God would not listen to her. Orihime continued to make clothes for her father, but everything that she made was drab. Eventually, he felt sorry for his daughter and compromised. He said that on the seventh day of the seventh month he would summon all the magpies from the ends of the earth to build a bridge across the Silver River.
Every year on the 7th July, Orihime’s eyes sparkle brightly in the sky as she laughs once more with her love. If the rain falls, the magpies don’t spread their wings and the Weaving Maiden has to wait for a year to meet her love!
An extract from A Year Full of Stories, by Angela McAllister, illustrated by Christopher Corr (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2016)