Though the Kältheim Mountains may be the tallest mountain range, Kogo Mountain, across the continent to the west, is by far the tallest peak. It stands nearly six miles high, towering over its neighbors. Permanent snow caps the mountain down to about 20,000 feet.
Many people believe the kami of the mountain lives at the peak in a glorious palace made of pearl and gold. Many people have died attempting to reach the palace to ask Kogo for a boon. Kogo is confused and distressed by this. He can hear them just as well from his foot as from his summit. But he admires their courage and perseverance and, as Mother of Snows in the south has told him, people need to reach for their goals. So, to help the little mortals in their fleeting dreams, and because it amused him to do so, Kogo created the bear-dogs.
The Kogo mastiffs are not actually part bear; they just look like they are. They stand three to four feet tall at the shoulder, and are covered in thick black and brown fur with a thicker ruff around the neck. They also have an undercoat of black fur. They have long, square snouts perfect for warming the frigid mountain air before it hits their lungs. They are intelligent and, when tamed as puppies, fiercely loyal. They live and hunt in small packs of five to fifteen members. Whenever the dogs encounter hikers or pilgrims, the dogs will temporarily befriend, guide, and protect them. They will rescue lost pilgrims, keeping them warm, getting them food (raw meat, but still food), and guiding them back down the mountain.
Those lucky few people who make it to the summit find that there is no palace. There is nothing but rock, and snow, and wind, and sky. The kami they sought at the top was all around them the entire time. The boon they desired becomes insignificant, a pebble measured against the immensity of the mountain. They go back down the mountain suffused with Kogo’s wisdom and strength. Most of the survivors become hermits, seeking the peace and solitude of the high places. And, ironically, others come seeking their wisdom.
The beautiful photograph used in this week’s post is titled Tour To Mont Blanc, by Michel Bousquet.
You can find more of Michel’s work at http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/browse-author.php?a=9732
This work by Jean Headley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.