an American fish in & out of Estonian waters

Tema’s Twins: My Island Tale


If you’re a giant, the easiest way to get from one island to another is to walk. Of course. It’s just one of the many benefits of being so big. Near the island where Tema the Giant lived, the seas were so shallow that no matter where she walked, the water never rose above her waist.

When she went walking with a sleepy daughter nestled under each arm, Tema was grateful that she didn’t have to get completely wet. It was one of the small comforts she took these days. Ever since her twins had been born, she had had nothing but trouble.

Unfortunately, Meie and Nad – short for Nende – were not identical twins. In fact, you might even say that they were opposite twins. They were as different from each other as the night is from the day. Meie had raven black hair, skin the color of freshly pressed olives, and eyes as big and brown as a deer’s. Nad’s hair was the color of newly dried straw, her skin was as white as milk, and her eyes were as blue as a cloudless sky on a sunny day. Neither of them looked anything like their mother Tema with her flaming red hair, freckled skin, and grass-green eyes.

Meie was the good twin. Of course. Nad definitely was not. Meie never got into trouble. Nad always did. Most of the time you never even noticed Meie because she was so quiet. You always noticed Nad because it was hard to get her to shut up.

When Tema put the twins together, they would find like wild cats. Nad would always pick on Meie until Meie finally fought back. So, most of Tema’s life seemed to be devoted to keeping the two girls apart. If they were ever anywhere on the same island together, there was bound to be trouble.

When her daughters grew a little older, Tema’s life became a little easier. She finally figured out what to do with her two girls while she worked on her farm and tended to her cows. Each morning, Tema would wade across the sea and leave Meie on one nearby island and Nad on another. They were old enough to take care of themselves and far enough apart not to harm each other – especially since giants can’t swim.

On most days, Tema sighed as she approached the first island. She was grateful that her daughters were still half-asleep. It meant that she could enjoy a moment of peace and quiet before the day began. On summer days, she even had time to admire Dawn, the Son’s darling daughter. Looking wistfully into the golden sky, Tema would put Meie down on one island and Nad on the other. After kissing each daughter good-bye, she would head back home to begin her hard day’s work.

Meie loved her island. When her mother had first taken her there, she immediately named it Meiesaar. She enjoyed each moment she was alone there. She would spend hours and hours each day going around the entire island planting flowers, clearing rocks from the fields, and watering the trees in the forest.

Meie’s favorite play-spot was near a perfectly round lake. Tema had once told her a story about how the lake had been created. A long time ago, a careless Star had slipped from her place in the Heavens and had fallen to Earth. The water that had since filled the crater was a bright fluorescent green and seemed strangely alive. The whole lake appeared to shine with the light of a thousand pulsing glow-worms. For Meie, it was a wonderful and magical place that somehow reminded her of her mother’s eyes.

On the other hand, Nad simply hated being all alone on her island. She didn’t even bother naming it Nendesaar or anything else for that matter. She would spend each day storming all over the island uprooting trees, kicking stones, and yelling at the top of her lungs. All that she could ever think about was how to get away from her boring island trap. Soon, Nad’s play-land became even more unpleasant. After she had killed off all the trees, her island started to die.

Meanwhile, Meiesaar flourished thanks to Meie’s tender care. When she was not busy tending her island garden, Meie liked to spend her time building things.

One day, when she was playing on the beach, Meie decided to build a huge castle out of sand. She spent all day molding the towers, digging a moat, and creating thick sand walls. She was very careful as she piled the sand up as high as she could. She wanted to make sure that nothing would collapse. When she was finally done, Meie stepped back to admire her beautiful work.

Suddenly, a rock landed on her castle, knocking down the tallest tower. Over on her island, Nad was laughing. Of course. And preparing to throw another rock. Which she did. And then another one followed. And another. The storm of rocks continued until Meie’s castle was nothing but a pile of sand.

As she watched her creation being destroyed, Meie shook her fist in anger at Nad and then started to cry. She cried so much that a new lake was born near the edge of the sea. That night, when they were carried back home, Nad continued laughing and laughing even as Tema gave her a good spanking.

The next day, Meie decided to build a new castle on another part of her island. And this time she decided to build it out of something stronger than sand. So, she walked through the forest looking for fallen trees and branches before combing the beaches for driftwood. Finally, she had gathered up enough wood to build her new castle.

With the help of some mud and some tall marsh-grass, Meie began weaving the logs and branches together. She built ramparts and gates, made some flying buttresses, and then added a roof. When she was finally done, Meie stood back to admire her beautiful work.

Suddenly, a large rock landed on her castle, knocking down the tallest tower. Of course. Over on her island, Nad was laughing louder than ever before. Laughing because she had learned how to throw rocks further than ever before. As Meie watched in despair as her newest creation was destroyed, she shook her fist in anger at Nad and then started to cry again. And so, a new lake formed on Meiesaar. Tema’s spanking that night only made Nad happier than ever before.

On the third day, Meie had a different idea. She went to both the places where her earlier castles had been and gathered up all the rocks that her sister had thrown. She carried them carefully in her apron over to the other pile of rocks that she had carefully cleared from her own fields.

And so, Meie began building a new castle using nothing but rocks. Her new castle had bastions, and turrets, and even a dungeon. This castle was stronger and bigger than anything she had ever built before. When she was finally done, Meie stood back to admire her beautiful work.

Suddenly, a boulder landed on her castle, knocking over the tallest tower. Of course. Over on her island, Nad was laughing because she had learned how to throw boulders instead of just rocks. And under the constant bombardment of these boulders, Meie’s rock castle collapsed.

Meie was crying so much now that she even forgot to shake her fist in anger at Nad. Her tears were so big that they formed the largest lake the island had ever seen. That night, their mother didn’t even bother to spank Nad because she realized that it wouldn’t do any good – and it just made Nad even happier. Tema had no idea what to do now with her twin daughters. She couldn’t put them together. And she couldn’t keep them apart.

The next day, Meie decided not to build a castle at all. She was tired of watching her creations getting destroyed. Plus, she couldn’t think of anything else that she could use to build a better castle. After all, what could be stronger than the rocks she had just used? And so, Meie wandered all over her island watering the trees and flowers with her tears. Finally, she lay down to rest near the magic green lake.

As she lay there and thought, Meie noticed that the ground beneath her was unusually hard. So, she scratched away at the surface and found a solid layer of stone beneath her. The stone seemed to be harder than any of the rocks or boulders that her sister had thrown. That night, as she lay in her own bed, Meie came up with a new idea for a castle.

When her mother carried her over to her island the next morning, Meie hid an old saw blade in her apron. When was alone on her island, Meie then began sawing away at the stone and cutting it into huge blocks. As she pulled the stone from the ground, it seemed to come away easily. It almost felt damp. But as she lay the stone blocks out to dry in the Sun’s warmth, they became harder than any other rock she knew. By the end of the day, Meie had enough cut blocks to build a stone castle.

The next day, Meie set to work. The new stone castle she built was larger and better than anything she had created before. Unlike the rocks and logs, the stone blocks were smooth and they fit together perfectly. When she was finally done, Meie stood back to admire her beautiful work.

Suddenly, a large boulder landed on her castle, hitting the tallest tower. This time, however, the tower didn’t fall. As Nad’s boulders began bouncing off her new castle, Meie started laughing and laughing. She had finally built a castle that Nad couldn’t destroy.

After a while, Nad got tired of throwing her boulders and shook her fist in anger at Meie. Meie just kept on laughing with joy. After a while, she gathered up all the boulders that Nad had thrown and used them to build a protective wall around her new stone castle.

For days upon days, Meie continued playing in and around her castle. From time to time, Nad would throw a boulder or two but Meie’s stone castle held strong. Meie was so happy that she tended her island garden even more carefully than before. The trees began to grow taller and taller. And her flowers grew more plentiful and more colorful.

One day, as she was weeding the flower beds not too far from the magic green lake, Meie heard loud crashing sounds coming from near her castle. Afraid that Nad had found some way to throw even bigger boulders, Meie went running over. She was shocked to find Nad already there, busy tearing down her castle, block by block. Somehow, Nad had managed to get over to Meie’s island although giants can’t swim.

Before Meie could react, Nad finished tearing down the last of the stone blocks. They lay scattered helter-skelter wherever Nad had happened to throw them. Meie’s beautiful castle was a total mess. When Nad finally saw Meie, she started laughing her nastiest laugh. Instead of crying, Meie went up to Nad and slapped her across the face. And so, another giant fight began. Of course.

Meie and Nad chased each other all over the island knocking down trees. They crushed flower beds as they wrestled on the ground pulling at each other’s hair. They threw rocks at each other until they were both all cut and bruised. And throughout the entire fight, Nad kept on laughing and laughing and Meie kept on getting madder and madder.

Suddenly, their fight brought them to the edge of the magic green lake. As Meie tried to protect her favorite flower bed from being trampled, Nad pushed her into the water and then tried to drown her by holding her head under. But Meie fought back and dragged Nad into the lake along with her. Soon, they were both fighting near the deepest part of the lake. They could barely touch the bottom. By this time, both sisters were so angry with each other that they had forgotten that giants can’t swim.

Nad tried pulling Meie under the water once again. She tugged her sister to the bottom of the churning lake. As they sank down together, Nad locked her lips on Meie’s mouth and tried to suck all the air out of her sister’s lungs. To keep from drowning, Meie sucked back. And so, they both sank, each trying to steal the air from each other’s lungs. When they finally hit the bottom of the lake, Meie sucked so hard that she ended up swallowing her sister Nad whole.

The giant fight was finally over. A single giant emerged from the roiling fluorescent green water of the lake. She walked out slowly because her head hurt more than it had ever hurt before. And she felt very strange.

When she tried to think of her name, the only one that kept coming to mind was Mina. “We are Mina – I am Mina,” the giant girl kept repeating to herself over and over again. She felt very confused.

Mina walked around the island in a daze. Looking over at Nendesaar, she realized how Nad had gotten over from her island. By throwing boulder after boulder into the sea, Nad had built a rough causeway of stepping stone uniting the two islands. A brilliant idea.

Exhausted, Mina sat down and stared at her fallen castle. Not knowing what else to do, she slowly decided to put the castle back together again. But for some reason, she didn’t reassemble the stone blocks exactly as they had been before. She couldn’t do it because she kept on having new and different ideas.

As she worked, her latest castle became more elaborate and magnificent than anything she had ever built before. She even used all the earlier sand, wood, and rocks for decoration. When she stood back to admire her work, Mina realized that it was the most beautiful thing that she had ever built.

Walking away from her castle, Mina stopped to look at her reflection in the magic green lake. Her hair had turned flame red, there were freckles all over her skin, and her eyes were now grass-green. She even had trouble recognizing herself at first. But when Tema showed up that evening to take her home, her mother smiled and said: “I was wondering how long it would take for you to pull yourself together.” Of course.


Image: Wooden figure from Hiiumaa Island carved by Silja Reemets. You might find her peripatetic shop known as Galder at one of Estonia’s craft fairs.

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