Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
The narrator arrives at the Yann, where, as prophesied, he finds the Bird of the River. Singing sailors swing the ship out into the central stream, while the narrator is interviewed by the captain about his homeland and destination. The ship sails from Fair Belzoond, whose gods are “least and humblest,” not very threatening, and easily appeased. The narrator discloses that he hails from Ireland, in Europe, but is mocked, for captain and crew deny the existence of any such places. When he reveals the lands where his fancy dwells, they compliment him, for these places are at least imaginable, if unknown. He bargains for passage to the Gates of Yann.
As the sun sets and the darkness of the adjoining jungle deepens, the sailors hoist lanterns and then kneel to propitiate their gods, five or six at a time, so that no god will be addressed by more than one man at any moment. Meanwhile, the helmsman, holding the ship in midstream, sings the helmsman’s prayer, common to all helmsmen of whatever faith. Not to be alone, the narrator also prays, but to a god long ago deserted by humankind. Night descends as the prayers die out, yet the sailors feel comforted in the face of the Great Night to come.
During the night, under the guidance of the ever-singing helmsman, they pass a number of cities and tributaries with exotic names. Finally, shortly after daybreak, they harbor at Mandaroon. While the sailors gather fruit, the narrator visits the...
(The entire section is 957 words.)
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