The Woman who Painted the Sky

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A Ziannan myth

Julie Côté
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

The sky was created by Kitsa to cover and protect the earth below. It was dark at first, lit only by the stars. The first time the sun ever rose it became clear that the sky was a beautiful, light blue. For hundreds of years, these were the two colours of the sky. Black and dotted with stars at night, blue with white clouds during the day. Kitsa loved both versions of her sky.

The first humans lived their lives under the two different skies. For generations this went on until a young girl was born in a small, poor village. Her name was Mysma, and she loved to paint. As a child, she used plants to create different colours of paint. Any colour she could imagine, she made, and she painted everything. She painted on rocks, on leaves, on bark, on the small buildings of her village. With each project, she became more and more ambitious.

It was when she was a young woman that she gained fame outside of her village. Her paintings were so beautiful that people travelled from all over the land to visit her small village. Mysma was very kind to every visitor. She painted small rocks or shells and handed them out for free, even though her parents urged her to earn money.

“No,” she always said. “My art is meant for everyone.”

Kings and queens called her to their castles, where she painted huge murals for them. She would fill whole walls with scenes from the world around her, and when they tried to pay, she would politely refuse and go back to her little village, as poor as she was before.

“Mysma,” her parents would cry. “You must ask for money. We’re so poor, we can hardly eat.”

“Art is meant for everyone,” Mysma said, as she always did.

But as the years passed, her family became more and more annoyed with her. People became more demanding. Kings and queens tried to hoard her art in private collections. Mysma was devastated. One night, with only the stars to light her path, she climbed to the top of the highest hill near her village. She stared up at the sky.

“Please, if only one of you could help me,” she said. Above, the gods heard her and turned their attention to the young woman on the hill. “I only wish to share my paintings with the world. I want everyone to see them, young or old, rich or poor. I want nothing else in this world.”

The gods and goddesses looked to one another. They all wanted to help Mysma, but none of them knew how. Then, Kitsa had an idea. She turned herself into air and floated out of the clouds to land in front of Mysma. She appeared suddenly, and Mysma gasped.


Kitsa nodded. “I heard your plea, and I believe your wish to be a noble one. I know how to help you, but the task will take you many, many years.”

“I do not care about how long it will take.”

Kitsa smiled and gestured at the sky above them. “I would like you to paint the sky.”

Mysma looked up. The sun was just starting to rise, and the sky was changing, as it always had, from black to blue. “But how?” she asked.

“Look to the sun,” Kitsa said. “It is golden yellow. Could the sky around it be the same?”

Mysma turned to the sun, and in her mind she could imagine what Kitsa described, and much more. “It could be orange and red and yellow,” she said, slowly at first. “The clouds could glow pink. When the sun is high the sky can be blue, but it can change - light some days and dark some days. When the sun is setting the sky can be dark red and purple and dark blue until it becomes black again.”

Kista was delighted. “My sky will be beautiful.”

“And at night,” Mysma continued, distracted as she often was while painting. “Sometimes there can be streaks of colour. Green and purple and pink. And if it rains, an arc of colour can soar across the sky. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue and then purple. As if a giant bow were tied across the earth. A rainbow.”

“Yes, yes, a rainbow!” Kitsa agreed, but then something occurred to her and her spirits sank. “What you’re imagining will not only take many years. To change the colours of the sky every day will take until the end of time. And you do not have that much time.”

Mysma was not discouraged. “I will do it every day for as long as I live. Please, let me paint the sky.”

Kitsa took Mysma’s hand and they both became air. Mysma instantly got to work. All over the land, people woke up and looked out their windows, awed at the beauty of the sky. Those who had seen Mysma’s paintings recognized her work instantly.

And so for many years Mysma worked on the sky. Everyone, human and god alike, fell in love with her work. Every day people woke up wondering what the sky would look like, and Mysma never disappointed them.

Although Mysma lived in the sky, she continued to age. When she was a very old woman, Kitsa went to Zianesa, the eldest of all the gods.

“Sister,” she said. “I have an important request. I fear that Mysma is close to death, but I cannot bear the thought of losing her. She has become my greatest friend, and she makes the world so beautiful. There must be something we can do.”

Secretly, Zianesa had been having the same thought. “We can make her one of us. Bring her to me.”

That night, when Mysma could take a break from painting, Kitsa brought her to Zianesa’s palace. As they landed, they became solid. Mysma was startled, as she had not noticed so much time passing. She moved stiffly, leaning on Kitsa for support as they walked through the palace. When they entered the throne room, Zianesa climbed down from her throne to greet them. She lay her hands on Mysma’s shoulders.

“I’m giving you a gift,” Zianesa said. Mysma felt her strength and her youth returning to her. In a moment, she had become the same young woman who had first spoken to Kitsa. And yet, something had changed.

“You are one of us now,” Zianesa said, smiling kindly. “Paint the skies forever. Teach humans how to create art as beautiful as yours. Show them how to paint, draw, sculpt, make music, sing, dance, and act. Decorate this world, Goddess of Art.”

And so Mysma did.

NOTE: The Woman who Painted the Sky is a myth from my novel, Without a King. To learn more about the series, please visit

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