In Samal myth the milky way is seen as a gigantic trapped dragon (referred as a Naga). The legend goes that it was put in the sky when a couple prayed to God to save their lives from the terrible beast. At the end of days, it is said that the dragon will be freed and will devour all those not faithful to the Almighty.
The Tale of the Imprisoned Naga
Over the sky and in the firmament, the stars hear your prayers.
They stay as silent witnesses to the unfolding of history, but even they must stand aside when the Almighty displays His power.
The stars do not mind. They have prevailed since the world was young and humanity was but a glimmer in the Almighty’s eye.
The stars remain and they endure.
Our story begins with an answered prayer.
The naga was ravenous. It did not show mercy to the humans living in its territory. From its eyes shot pillars of flame, incinerating all those that it considered prey. The poison flowing from its nine forked tongue spread through its victims without pity.
There were only three souls left after the monster had devoured the wicked, a mother, a father and a son.
And it was their prayer that the stars overheard.
“Almighty deliver us from this great naga, only you have the power to stop it,” the father implored.
Their prayer was answered but not by the Almighty.
The stars watched as the great naga swung its tail and sent a terrible gale towards the couple. They saw the mountains shiver in fear at the beast’s power. It would not allow the humans to survive, the naga’s cruelty would not allow it.
Fury and flames surrounded the family, even the earth seemed to cry out in pain. In the naga’s path trailed misery and suffering, the broken bodies of its victims littered the monster’s passage until the great beast came face to face with its final prey.
“If this is the Almighty’s will then let it be so,” the mother sobbed. She held tight her family, the only comfort left in their plight.
The naga leapt into the sky and opened its titanic maw.
The family closed their eyes and waited for the inevitable, but the Almighty heard their pleas and showed his benevolence.
The dragon leapt, but it did not meet its target. It rose high into the heavens, past the clouds and into the realm of the stars, gigantic gouts of flame and smoke trailing in its wake.
When it seemed the naga could not go higher it stopped, suspended between the stars and surrounded by its blaze.
The family thanked the Almighty for His mercy, forever remembering the day they were saved from the savagery of the beast.
And what of the stars?
They surrendered to the will of the Almighty, accepting the naga’s new place betwixt their realm.
But even they know it will not last.
For the stars hear the naga’s whispers. They await the end of days when the dragon will sweep towards the earth and devour all those wicked souls that do not obey the Almighty.
And so the stars remain patiently until the heavens are theirs once again.
Adapted from ‘The Dragon’ in Sulu Studies 2. Rixhon ed. 1973.
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Speculative fiction writer. Philippine folklore and heritage researcher.
Author of The Spirits of the Philippine Archipelago.
Currently in the middle of fixing up an encyclopedia of Philippine Mythical creatures.
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