Die Reusagtige Olifant, The Giant Elephant and the Rain

Die Reusagtige Olifant, The Giant Elephant and the Rain

Die Reusagtige Olifant and The Giant Elephant and the Rain are the next chapter in die babadiertjies van Afrika, baby animals from Africa series you can enjoy here, on my blog.

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Die Reusagtige Olifant
The Elephant
The Giant Elephant and the Rain, a Folktale Retold

Die Reusagtige Olifant

Die geboorte van ‘n olifantkalfie is ‘n besondere gebeurtenis in die olifantwêreld. Die hele trop kom kyk gewoonlik hierna, en die moeder het regte olifant – “vroedvroue” wat haar bystaan.

Wanneer hy in die wêreld kom, kan die kalfie ‘n massa van tot ‘n honderd kilogram hê. ‘n Volgroeide olifant het ‘n massa van nagenoeg vyf duisend kilogram, wat hom die wêreld se grootste landdier maak.

Die jong olifantkalf word met ‘n slurpie gebore, maar vir die eerste paar weke van sy lewe is dit ‘n nuttelose liggaamsdeel . Hierdie slurp is eintlik net ‘n lang neus wat die olifant het. Hy gebruik dit om voedsel mee in sy mond in te voer. ‘n Olifant se tande slyt baie gou af omdat hy so ‘n groot hoeveelheid kos moet fynkou.

Hierdie kos is grof en gevolglik word sy maaltande gedurigdeur deur nuwes vervang. Die oues skuif geleidelik meer na agtertoe en dan groei splinternuwe tande in hulle plekke uit. Wanneer hy sestig jaar oud is, het die olifant gewoonlik al ses stele tande gehad. Dan kry hy ook nie weer nuwe tande nie.

Die pragtige voortande van die olifant is sy sierlike wapens wanneer hy om die leierskap van die trop meeding.

Die olifant kan allerhande toertjies geleer word.

Sy oë is swak, maar hy kan baie fyn hoor en ruik. Verder help sy sensitiewe slurp hom om sappige takkies en blaartjes bo van die boomtoppe af te pluk.

In droogtetye grawe olifante met hulle voorpote gate in rivierbeddings en dan slurp hulle die syferwatertjies op.

The Elephant

Die Reusagtige Olifant, The Giant Elephant and the Rain
Photo by Matthew Bradford, Unsplash

The birth of an elephant calf is a special event in the life of a herd of elephants. The entire herd usually comes to assist, and the mother has real elephant – midwives who assist and support her.

When he is born, the calf can weigh up to a hundred kilograms. It sounds like a lot, but an adult elephant has a mass of almost five thousand kilograms, which makes it the world’s largest land animal.

For the first few weeks of its life the baby elephant is quite helpless, and he doesn’t even uses his trunk. Elephants use their trunk, that’s nothing but a long nose, to pick up food and deposit it into their mouth.

Interesting, because the food an elephant eats is pretty coarse, his teeth wear out very quickly as he has to chew such large amounts. So his molars are constantly being replaced by new ones. The old ones gradually move backwards and then brand new teeth grow in their place. By the time he is sixty years old, the elephant can have up to six sets of teeth. After this age he will get no more new teeth.

An elephant’s tusks, his beautiful ivory front teeth, become graceful weapons when he competes for the leadership of his herd.

Elephants are very intelligent and can learn all kinds of tricks, although their eyesight is weak, but they can hear and smell very well. Furthermore, their sensitive trunk helps them to pick juicy twigs and leaves from the tops of the trees. Much like giraffes do.

In times of drought, when water is scarce, the elephants dig holes in riverbeds using their front paws and then swallow the seepage water.

The Giant Elephant and the Rain, a Folktale Retold

Die Reusagtige Olifant, The Giant Elephant and the Rain
Photo by Richard Jacobs, Unsplash

Long ago, when the Sun and the Moon were the best of friend and none even thought to compete over the blue skies, when man still lived in caves and had just learned to make fire, long ago the Elephant was one of the greatest powers of the world. All animals accepted him. Even the African Crowned Crane. And Elephant was a good king. A powerful one too. Except that the Spirit of Rain, was just as powerful.

But although he was kind, being the only leader among all the animals, men included, the Elephant was quite boastful. He enjoyed to remind everyone what a great leader he was. And everyone agreed, over and over, except for the Spirit of the Rain.

Quite often, the boastful Elephant and the Spirit of the Rain fought. It was very noisy. The Elephant, never losing an opportunity to try convince the Spirit of the Rain into agreeing to what a wonderful leader he, the Elephant, was. The Spirit of the Rain, never giving in.

One hot morning, while they were arguing, again, the Spirit of the Rain burst with anger like never before. He sounded like a cascade throwing its waters over the rocks and into the ocean, not like the young spring he once had been.

‘How dare you?’ The Spirit of the Rain bubbled. ‘How dare you, but an Elephant, to think of yourself being more than me? Me, who quenched your thirst. Me, who made the trees grow to feed you. Me, who cooled your skin and that of your entire herd?’ he plummeted further, from the celestial height of its clouds.

At this, the Elephant lifted his trunk, trumpeted twice, then turned around and left, only his little tail swishing, nonchalantly. After a few steps he slowed down and replied, throwing the words over his shoulder, ‘You do not feed me and thus you are wrong in presuming that you do. For I feed myself. With my trunk.’ And to prove his point he picked a bunch of soft leaves from the heights of the closest tree and swallowed them. ‘Hmm, tasty.’

The Spirit of the Rain let out a low rumble that rolled along the entire length of the horizon, then frowned with the darkest clouds one had ever seen. Then he exhaled the chilliest blow, turned and stormed away.

Die Reusagtige Olifant, The Giant Elephant and the Rain
Photo by Geran de Klerk, Unsplash

And life went on. Sunny days came, turned into moon-lit nights that rolled into more bright mornings, hotter as the days became weeks, weeks baking into months. And soon, the only smile left was that of the stars. At night.

Had they seen it all? Is that why they beamed? For no one else was.

The land animals were boiling on the hot slopes, water sources reduced to meager ponds not enough to house two fishes. The sea animals were crowded worst than a mall on Christmas Eve would be today. The birds suffered too, out of heat, thirst, withered trees and lack of fruits and insects.

Everyone suffered. Some even pretended they forgot the sight of clouds, the feel of the breeze, the taste of fresh water. Had it even existed? Had it all been a dream?

So they went to see the Elephant. After all, he was their leader. He was the only one who could make it right. Make it rain.

The Elephant did not like to be cornered like that, from the land, from the air, from under the ground. So he tried to shake them off as quickly as he could. And once alone, he called for the majestic Eagle. Who, among others, could make it rain by using only its powerful beak and strong wings.

But the Eagle just shook his head. He was powerless without the clouds.

The Eagle said ‘no more’, he just gave the Elephant a side glance, no more clouds without the Spirit of the Rain.

At this, the Elephant turned red in the face – if this was possible since he was already burning hot. But he shrugged and turned towards the White-breasted Crow, wise old Crow, a bird of many tales…

Crow shook his head, twice left, not in negation but as a twitch he had developed a while back, after the Snaked lost its legs – but this is a story for another time. So Crow shook his head, twice left, and flew away. And no one knew how, but that evening it rained. A bit. Yet it rained.

How animals partied! How they thanked Elephant who was rather full of himself. Again. Basking in the general attention, not for once mentioning Crow’s help.

Until… until one day (actually three days later) when the water that rained was all gone, drank, sipped into the ground, evaporated, and the animals came to Elephant again. To ask for more rain. And the Elephant turned to Crow. But the spot where Crow always stood, the branch he called his own, was empty.

Elephant scratched his head with his trunk. He looked left, searching for Crow, he peered above, he even bent on his front knees and to seek below. But no sign of Crow. Not even a feather. Where was Crow? And what was he to do now? He was alone. Alone he could not make it rain. Alone he could not face all the angry animals. Alone was just that, alone. Cold and lonely, abandoned amidst all the animals that once were his friends.

You might ask about his herd. Well, truth is that Matriarch had taken control over it long ago.

So Elephant did what he should have from the beginning. He turned around and headed for the horizon. And for an opportunity to say he is sorry.

Well, the Spirit of the Rain was not that far away, just at the end of the Savannah. And was very happy to accept Elephant’s apologies, for he, too, was missing the animals, the sea creatures, the green forests and the tiny insects.

But Matriarch, she never abdicated the leadership of the herd. To teach Elephant a lesson or perhaps, perhaps because she quite enjoyed it.

As retold by Patricia Furstenberg, after a Bushman story

More elephant stories:

The Elephant and the Sheep

When a lamb meets an elephant calf the two are happy to share a small patch of grass and a tiny water puddle available during the Big-Bad Thirst.

die Olifant en die Skaap

Twee klein stertjies het een dag ontmoet,
Heel per ongeluk onder warm sonstrale het hulle gegroet:
“Hallo, kom ons speel!” met swaaiende sterte wat wys.
Hulle was nie dieselfde nie, tog albei was grys.
Een het groot voete, die ander was korter;
Een glimlag wyd, die ander se mond was kleiner.

Die Mahem and the Legend of the African Crowned Crane

Mahem Crowned Crane story

Die Mahem and the Legend of the African Crowned Crane is the next story in die babadiertjies van Afrika, baby animals from Africa series you can enjoy here, on my blog.

Die Mahem

Mahemvoëls bly verkieslik lewenslank in groot reoppe by dieselfde poel of watersloep saam.

Die mahem, of gekroonde kraanvoël, is ‘n pragtige, kleurvolle voël met ‘n flyn kroontjie van goud en swart veertjies wat ‘n mens aan ‘n speldekussing laat dink, op sy kop. Daar is ‘n halfsirkel syagtige swart vere reg onderkant sy snawel. Agter sy oë en onderkant sy kroontjie is daar ‘n gladde helderooi en ‘n spierwit kol.

Die mahem hen bou haar nes tussen die digte riete waar sy dan gedurende Augustus of September haar eiers lê. Pas nadat hulle uitgebroei is, lyk die mahemkuikens net soos klein eendjies, met sulke klein klossies op hulle koppe.

Elke jong mahemkuiken moet sy besondere kolonie se kenmerkende ‘taal’ aanleer, omdat elke trop mahems sy eie besondere manier van gesels het wat waarskynlik vir ander voëls onverstaanbaar is.

Wanneer hy feitlik volgroeid is, word die mahemvoël die tradisionele huweliksdans geleer. Hierdie dans is seker een van die uitsonderlikste skouspele wat mens maar kan sien! Dis ‘n gebuig en edraai dat dit ‘n aardigheid is! Vorentoe en agteruit, dit trippel, die knieë buig, die vlerke word geklap en dan wip die danser skielik hoog die lug in – en alles lyk of dit op die maat van musiek gedoen word! Aan die einde van die dans, bied die een mahem die ander gulhartig geurige stukkies mos aan.

Die mahem eet graag grond, paddas en insekte. Hy jaag gewoonlik die insekte uit hulle skuilplekke deur met sy poot op die grond te stamp.

Wnneer die herfstyd aanbreek, verlaat die mahems hulle tuiste in groot swerms om na warmer woonplekke te gaan soek. Hulle vlieg op ‘n hoogte van tot vyf duisend meter in die tradisionele V – formasie oor die woenstyn, en het slegs hulle instink om hulle na hul bestemming te stuur.

Die Mahem and the Legend of the African Crowned Crane, babadiertjies van Afrika
Photo by Peter Neumann, Unsplash

The African Crowned Crane

The African Crowned Cranes are birds that prefer to stay together at the same pool of water for most of their life in large herds of cranes, or a dances of cranes.

The Mahem, or Crowned Crane, is a beautiful, colorful bird with a flying crown of gold and black feathers that reminds one of a pincushion perched upon its head. There is a short brush of silky black feathers just below its bill too. Behind his eyes, towards its temples, towards the crown there is a smooth bright red spot near a pure white one.

The Mahem hen builds its nest between the dense reeds; there she lays eggs during August or September. Just after they have hatched, the Mahem chicks look just like little ducklings, with tiny tufts on their heads.

Every Crowned Crane chick must learn its colony’s distinctive ‘language’, because each herd of mahems has its own particular way of talking that is probably unintelligible to other birds.

When he is almost fully grown, the Mahem chick is taught the traditional wedding dance. This dance is probably one of the most exceptional spectacles one can see, full of bending and twisting! Then forward and backward it goes, the bird bends its knees, it flaps its wings and then the dancer suddenly swings high into the air – while everything seems to be executed to the beat of a happy music! At the end of the dance, one Mahem bird offers the other one a generous, fragrant piece of moss.

The Crowned Crane likes to eat grass seeds, frogs and insects. He usually chases the insects out of their hiding places by bumping the ground with his foot.

When autumn arrives, the Mahems leave their homes in large flocks in search for warmer lands. They fly at an altitude of up to five thousand meters in the traditional V – formation over the desert and across great distances with only their instinct to guide them to their destination.

Their Afrikaans name, Mahem, is a good imitation of their call.

The Legend of the African Crowned Crane, a story

Long, so long ago, when the clouds still held hands with the foamy tips of the waves and the sun and the moon still smiled at each other all day long, an African king found himself separated from his companions while they were all out hunting in the hot, dry, inhospitable grasslands.

Had the king strayed away while watching some small game? Had his men moved on, presuming the king was following them? Nobody knew. Fact was, the king found himself all on his own on this side of the grassland. And his men found themselves without their ruler – on the other side of the savanna. Unable to spot one another, no matter how high his men jumped.

When the king realized he was lost he gasped for air, even if he was a king. And he felt his heart beating faster, a lot faster, like he’d been running, although he hadn’t. And his palms turning sweaty on his spear. He felt like this all of a sudden and then he felt his mouth dry and reached for his water. Which he had none of, for being a king he carried only his kingly spear, and nothing else. His men carried his water. And his soft blankets to set upon the dry grass for rest. And the tents to make good shade. And the food.

But mostly the water, that he craved now more than ever. And so the king, lost and alone, looked left and right, front and back, and all he saw was dry grass stretching forever. And realized he did not know how to find the oasis where the royal court had set up camp. He did not know it for he never cared for such things, such findings, he always had his men which he paid to do it.

Which were not with him anymore.

And the day was hot, suddenly even hotter, the sun right above his head, and the king was lost and alone, with not even his own shadow for company. Later, when he thought back on that day, the king remembered stomping his foot and thinking that he might die of thirst if he did not find water soon enough. Only that on that precise moment, lost in the grassland, all alone, without not even his shadow for company, the king just thought of water and how he’d even trade his famous spear for some.

Then he saw some movement in the distance. ‘What was that?’ thought the king. ‘His court?’ He better get there. ‘But what if it’s lions?’ So he used his hunting skills, approaching without being known. It took him a while, and half way through it he realized he was stalking Zebras, not his men. But Zebras were horses with stripes, right? Zebras were friendly, Surely they will help the king.

Eventually he reached the Zebras, who were swishing their tails, their ears perched, grazing nearby. They knew well he’s coming and they knew he was alone.

‘Please help me,’ said the king to the zebra that looked like a chief, for it ate the most abundant spot of grass. ‘I am all lost and without my court. I want to find my men. Can you lead me to them?’ But the zebra chief just munched quietly. Eventually it turned away from the king, snorted a message to its herd, then replied, ‘Why should we help you, since you and your men have hunted us, chased us from our waterhole, taken away our weak and our old?’

The king sighed and looked down, for he knew he’d done wrong and had no answer to the zebra’s words. Except that he was sorry. But by the time he opened his mouth the zebras were already far away.

When a trumpeting reached the king’s ears and a thumping shook the ground… The elephants! Surely they will carry him to his men. Surely.

So the king approach the matriarch, the elephant queen, and asked her, like from one royalty to another, asked her for help. Yet she, too, refused! ‘We do not help those who want to kill us,’ she said while gently, ever so gently touched, with her gigantic trunk, the ivory necklace the king carried around his neck. The king gasped and lost his words, for he thought that was the end of him, but the elephant slowly moved away, taking her herd with her. Leaving but a cloud of dust behind. And a lost and lonely king.

Next, the king saw a herd of antelopes and, although he suspected their answer, he asked them too. Of course they refused, had he forgotten that the majestic antelopes were a king’s favorite hunting pray?

Photo by Charl Durand, Unsplash

The king let himself drop to the ground, not minding the prickly grass. He even let go of his spear, for what use will he have of it? And let his head drop on his knees and shut his eyes tight. What went through his mind? Remorse? Fear? Thoughts of a final, desperate plan to reach his men again?

The king was so lost in thought that he did not feel the shadows circling overhead. He did not feel the flutter of the wings. He did not hear the ‘mahem-mahem-mahem’ sudden chatter. He did feel, however, a soft brush against his arm just as he was dreaming he was in his kingly tent again, with his men.

When the king looked up, he saw that he was surrounded by a flock of long-legged, long-necked birds. The king could not remember their names, for he felt so weak and so thirsty. Yet he tried, for he was still a king, skilled in fighting for survival, he tried once more and, with his voice barely a whisper, he begged the big birds to help him.

Can you imagine? The birds did not turn away. The king thought he’s surely dreaming.

Can you believe it? The big birds made shade for him, while a few only flew away, shortly to return with water in their strong beaks, which they gave to the king. The king was sure he’s imagining.

And, can you picture it? The big birds led the king to his court. No, they did not picked him up, using their strong beaks to hold onto his garments and they did not flew him to his court. That would have been a sight! They simply walked near him, nudging him, pushing him, dragging him slightly, to the oasis, the nearest one at that, where his court was.

As soon as he saw his men, as soon as he felt safe, as soon as he drank and sat in the thick shade of his kingly tent, the grateful king ordered his personal goldsmith to make a crown of gold for each one of the crane birds. He had remembered now what they were. Of course, he ordered a feast for them too. A feast fit for kings.

And the following day, the entire dance of cranes flew off wearing their shiny, gold crowns gleaming in the sun so bright that the king had to shade is eyes. Calling good-bye, ‘mahem-mahem-mahem.’

The king and his court waved good-bye and the cranes called back, ‘mahem-mahem,’ till they were out of sight. The king smiled and felt his heart filled with gratitude, wondering if he’ll ever see his saviours again.

He saw them, sooner that he imagined, for the following day the cranes returned with bare heads, telling the king and his men that the other animals had become envious and angry when they saw the golden crowns upon their heads, and heard how they got them. From whom they got them! So the animals, the zebras, the elephants, the antelopes, had ambushed the cranes and stolen the crowns. Not for themselves, but to destroyed them and what they stood for.

The king bowed his head and thought. Then he gave two orders.

One, that no zebras, no elephants, no antelopes, no rhino, no hippos… ever to be hunt again.

And second, that new crowns made, but not of gold, like his kingly symbols, but of golden feathers, as light as the freedom, feathers that could not be removed. And as soon as the new crowns were made, each crane flew off wearing its gold-feathery diadem. Never to be taken away.

This is the story of how the African cranes received their beautiful, shimmering crowns of gold that they still carry today, perched upon their heads, and became known as the Crowned Cranes.

(as retold by Patricia Furstenberg)

Books by Patricia Furstenberg on Amazon

Die Onooglike Vlakvark and Why the Warthog is on his Knees

Die Onooglike Vlakvark and Why the Warthog is on his Knees

Die Onooglike Vlakvark, the Strange-Looking Warthog and Why the Warthog is on his Knees is the next story in babadiertjies van Afrika, baby animals from Africa series.

Die Vlakvark, the Warthog, is a really cute animal and he can become quite tame once he learns that food is easily available 🙂 as you can see from these pictures I took during one of our outing in the African bush-veld.

Die Onooglike Vlakvark

Die klein vlakvarkie word in ‘n sorgvuldig uitgesoekte gat of onder die grond gebore. Die toegewyde ouers pas hulle kleingoed baie getrou op. Die ou moedervlakvark sal selfs ‘n olifant aandurf as sy vermoed dat haar kleintjie in gevaar verkeer. Die ou beer het weer die gewoonte om die lêplek agteruit binne te gaan om seker te maak dat geen aanvaller op sy hakke is nie.

Die vlakvark is ‘n baie lelike dier. Hy het ‘n plat kop met yslike groot, krom slagtande en sulke eienaardige, vratagtige uitgroeisels aan sy gesig. Op sy rug langs het hy ‘n maanhaar van herde, stekelrige hare, en sy growwe, grys vel het en daar sulke yl. grys bruin haartjies. Sy gevaarlike slagtande is sy wapens, maar hy gebruik hulle ook om wortels mee uit te grawe. Die vlakvark eet graag boomwortels, gras en selfs voëleiers of klein soogdiertjies. Verder is hy ook lief vir bessies en veldvrugte.

Hierdie dier het baie vyande, en die kleintjies kry dit nie altyd reg om die gevare wat in die lang gras skuil, te ontduik nie. Wanneer gevaar dreig, maak hulle soms of hulle dood is, en sodra die vyand ‘nentjie weg is, laat vat hulle s al wat hulle kan na die opening van hulle blyplek. Die aanvaller skrik gewoonlik só geweldig dat die varkie reeds diep in die veiligheid van die gat is voordat hy weer tot verhaal kom.

Terwyl die klein vlakvarkies wortels en ander lekkernye uitgrawe, ontstaan daar dikwels sulke ‘onderonsies’ tussen hulle, wat dan op luidrugtige wyse uit die weg geruim word.

The Strange-Looking Warthog

The baby warthog, called a piglet, is born in a carefully selected den underground. The den was made by aardvarks. The devoted warthog parents take good care of their little piglets. The warthog mother. the sow, will even dare an elephant if she thinks her little one is in danger. The warthog often enters his lair backwards to make sure no enemy is on his heels.

The warthog might not be the prettiest of animals. He has a flat head with huge, curved fangs and strange, warty growths on his face, but these are just thick growths of skin, paddings for when males fight during mating season. Along his back the warthog has a mane of long, thick, prickly hair. His skin is coarse and gray and here and there there might be a few sparse gray hairs. His fangs are dangerous weapons, but he also uses them to dig out roots. The warthog likes to eat tree roots, grass and even bird eggs or small mammals. He also loves berries and wild fruits.

This animal has many enemies, and the piglets don’t always manage to evade the dangers lurking in the tall grass. When danger threatens, the warthog piglets often pretend to be dead, and as soon as the enemy is gone they make it for the opening of their den. The attacker is usually so surprised by their sudden awakening that the piglets are already safe before he even recovers and realizes that his meal has run away.

Quarrels often spark between the little warthogs while they dig up roots and other delicacies, but the noisy piglets are dutifully and lovingly silenced by their mother.

Why the Warthog is on his Knees

Warthog was very proud of his cozy home, warm and dry, made in an old termite mound. It had taken him a long tome to get it ready. He had worked and worked on his house through day or night, not knowing of their passing, through rain and thunder, not hearing their rattle, not feeling his muscles aching, nor his tummy growling, never stopping until it was perfect.

And eventually he went out and about. To look for tasty roots, more now for he had a pantry to stuff. To quench his thirst after the long labor. But also to chat. For whenever he was at the watering hole Warthog would brag, to Giraffe, to Gazelle, and to anyone who would listen – or just step within his voice range – brag about how perfect his home was. How his home was the best in the entire world. How it was the coziest, the driest, the darkest, the deepest…

He was particularly proud of its entrance which he dug out a little bit extra, okay, a whole lot extra, spending more time on it than on the rest of his home, to make it very wide and oh so grand.

Till one day when Warthog saw Lion approaching his home and panicked.

“Oh, no! I made my entrance so big and grand, and look at me now! Lion will have no problem following me in,” he cried. “Lion will eat me in my own home!”

Warthog knew he had to act quickly. But what was to be done? Luckily for him he remembered one of Jackal’s old tricks. So he ran outside, to the side roof his house, and pretended to hold up the roof with his body.

“Help!” soon cried the Warthog, “I am being crushed! Run Lion, before the roof falls.”

But what Warthog didn’t know was that clever Lion had seen this trick before. And he had learned his lesson. And now Lion was roaring mad that the Warthog had tried the old trick on him. He roared so loudly that Warthog fell to his knees. And Warthog begged Lion for mercy, right then and there, by his home he was so proud of and had told everyone about it. Over and over.

So Lion decided that, as a punishment, Warthog should stay like way, on his knees.

“You shall remain on your knees,” the mighty Lion roared. “Or else I’ll come back, storm right through your grand entrance, and eat you.”

And that’s why, to this day, you see the Warthog feeding on his knees while his bottom is in the air and his snout digs in the dirt.

multicultural kids books

Now in Afrikaans: Drie populêre kinderboeke, nou beskibaar in Afrikaans. Helder en kleurvolle illustrasies en beminlike karakters wat opwindende avonture deel. Vir kinders en ouers om saam te geniet.

Die Krokodil and How the Crocodile Got its Scaly Skin

Die Krokodil and How the Crocodile Got its Scaly Skin

Die Krokodil and How the Crocodile Got its Scaly Skin is the third story in die babadiertjies van Afrika, baby animals from Africa series you can enjoy here, on my blog.

Die Krokodil

Krokodile word in die lang, stil kuile van riviere en in die groot, tropiese mere aangetref.

Gedurende die droë seisoen lê die wyfie tussen vyf-en-twintig en ‘n honderd ovaalvormige eiers in ‘n holte in die grond. Hierdie eiers word deur die hitte van die son uitgebroei onder die immer wakende oog van die wyfiekrokodil. Kort voordat die eiers uitbroei, laat die klein krokodilletjies binne-in die doppe van hulle hoor. Met ‘n uitsonderlike kwaak-geluidjie begin die baba-krokodil met sy spesiale ‘eiertand’ sy weg na buite oopknaag. Hierdie ‘tand’, wat voor aan sy snoet sit, val af net nadat hy uit die dop gekruip het.

Onmiddellik nadat hy uit die dop is, begin hierdie jong diertjie groei. Die groeiproses is baie stadig, maar duur sy lewe lank voort. ‘n Ou krokodil kan tot selfs sewe meter lank wees, en nog steeds groei!

Daar bestaan ‘n besondere soort vriendskap tussen die krokodil en die klein renostervoë ltjie. Dié ou voëltjie sorg naamlik dat die ou krokodil se tande mooi skoon bly en hy sorg sommer terselfdertyd vir homself want hy eet al die stukkies kos en vleis wat daar vassit.

Die Krokodil and How the Crocodile Got its Scaly Skin

The Crocodile

If you love swimming, watch out for crocodiles are found in the long, quiet pits of rivers and in the large, tropical lakes.

During dry season the female crocodile lays between twenty-five and one hundred oval eggs in a cavity dug in the ground. These eggs are hatched by the heat of the sun under the ever-watching eye of the mother crocodile. Shortly before the eggs hatch, one can hear the small crocodiles moving inside their eggs. Making an exceptional croaking sound, the baby crocodile uses its special ‘egg tooth’ to gnaw its way out. This ‘tooth’, which sits in front of his snout, falls off just after he crawls out of the shell.

Immediately after emerging from the shell, the young crocodile begins to grow. The growth process is very slow, but continues throughout its life. An old crocodile can grow up to seven meters in length, and even longer!

There is a special kind of friendship between the crocodile and the little plover bird. This old bird makes sure that the old crocodile’s teeth stay clean and while doing this the bird takes care of herself too, by eating all the bits of food and meat that are stuck between the large crock’s teeth..

Die Krokodil and How the Crocodile Got its Scaly Skin

How the Crocodile Got Its Scaly Skin

At the beginning of time, the crocodile was not one of the chattiest animals, perhaps because so many asked him how come he lays eggs, yet he is not a bird? So the crocodile kept to himself, enjoying the water and the night, but mostly the mud. Which gave him a luscious, smooth golden skin. And it remained like this for the crocodile spent the hot days laying in muddy waters only to come out at night. When most animals slept.

Now, once word got out about the strange creature that was not a bird, yet could lay eggs, news spread like fire. And plenty of creatures came to look at the crocodile, as he lay in the mud, his skin glistening and looking smooth and golden. Inviting to touch. Yet non dared get close to that long, strong mouth lined with huge, sharp teeth.

So soon enough the crocodile forgot all about the nasty questions and felt quite proud of its smooth skin that no other animals seemed to have. Except maybe for the snake, but he is so thin, one can barely spot him. Unlike him! And crocodile started coming out of the water more and more during the day, and bask in the sun – or rather bask in the other animals’ admiration. And he did so even while the sun was at its hottest, for it was then, at midday, that the sun was shining the most. Making his skin glisten like a star fallen onto the earth. And crocodile soon began to forget how hurt he felt about being different because he could lay eggs yet not being a bird, and began thinking how much better he was. Better than any other animal, because of his skin. So he started ordering them around. 

Now nobody enjoys a creature that shows no respect, no matter how beautiful it is. For it is the inside beauty that always shine through – or the inside nastiness. And soon the other African animals became bored with the crocodile’s change in personality and, with time, fewer and fewer showing up to admire his skin while listening to his bossy remarks.

And with each day that crocodile exposed his skin to the hot African sun, its one smooh and shiny coating would get sunburned, becoming uglier and bumpier and thicker. Until one day when it transformed into what looked like bulging armor.

Die Krokodil and How the Crocodile Got its Scaly Skin

It is said that the crocodile never quite recovered from the humiliating shame of having lost something as precious like his smooth and shiny skin, all due to his arrogance, and even today he will disappear from view when one approaches.

Only his eyes, ears (situated right behind) and nostrils surface above the water. For he still watches the visitors, hoping that someone still remembers his once beautiful skin.

(Retold by Patricia Furstenberg, based on a Namibian folktale)

Die Fennek of Woestynjakkals, the Fennec or Desert Jackal and a Story

Die Fennek of Woestynjakkals, Jackal

Die Fennek of Woestynjakkals, or the Fennek or Desert Jackal, is the second story in die babadiertjies van Afrika, baby animals from Africa series, and for your reward you can also read The Jackal and the Lion, a Khoisan folktale, down below.

Die Fennek of Woestynjakkals, babadiertjies van Afrika

Hierdie woestynjakkalse is wilde diere, maar hulle maak steeds vriende met die honde van die Arabiere wat in die woestyn woon. Nogtans word woestynjakkalse nooit heeltemal mak nie, en raak hulle ook nooit ontslae van hulle sluwe, agterdogtige natuur nie. Die geringste verdagte geluidjie laat hulle halsoorkop op die vlug slaan.

Vir die jong jakkalsie is dit van die allergrootste belang dat hy baie gou vyande soos gevaarlike insekte, skerpioene en dies meer moet kan uitken en vermy. Dan moet daar ook aan hom geleer word hoe om ‘n grondverskuiwing te laat plaasvind. Dit is baie belangrik dat hy moet weet hoe om sy eie grondtonnel blitsvinning te laat intuimel as die een af ander giftige slang of ongedierte hom probeer volg.

Om in die barre woestyn te kan bly voortbestaan, moet hierdie dier feitlik alles eet. So bestaan sy dieet uit klein knaagdiertjies, insekte, voëltjies en selfs voëleiers as hy dit in die hande kan kry.

Water is skaars, en daarom leer die klein jakkalsie baie gou dat hy die bloed van sy liggaam te verskaf.

As hy eers volgroeid is, staan die woestynjakkals ongeveer veertig sentimeter hoog. Sy pels is dik en het ‘n goudbruin kleur. Sy ore is spits en hy het twee donker vlekke naby sy oë.

Hierdie diere is nagadiere. Soms sal die klein jakkalsies, terwyl hulle wag dat hulle ouers vir die jag gereed moeet maak, heerlik saam vir die maan sit en tjank. Vir alle ander jakkalse in die omgewing is dit dan die teken om by die jagparty te kom aansluit.

Die woestynjakkals, of fennek, word heel selde buite Afrika aangetref. Vroeër jare is hulle gevang en na dieretuine oorgeplaas, maar hulle het nog selde die koue oorleef. Hulle treur hulle letterlik dood or die warm, sonnige woestynwêreld waar hulle vandaan kom.

(Charl Durand, Unsplash)

The Fennec or Desert Jackal, baby animals from Africa

The fennec or the desert jackals are wild animals, but they still make friends with the dogs of the Arabs who live in the desert. Yet desert foxes never get completely tamed, nor do they ever lose their cunning, suspicious nature. At the slightest strange sound they get spooked and make a run for it.

For the young Fennec it is of utmost importance that he learns from a very young age how to identify and avoid his enemies, such as dangerous insects, scorpions and the like. Then he must also be taught how to cause a landslide… This skill is very important during his defense, as desert jackals hide in underground tunnels if a poisonous snake or vermin attempts to follow him.

In order to survive in the barren desert, the Fennec has adapted by eating virtually everything. So his diet consists of small rodents, insects, birds and even bird eggs if he can get his paws on them.

Water is scarce here, therefore the little fox learned quickly to make use of any resources that will increase the liquids his body needs.

Once fully grown, the desert fox stands about forty centimeters high. Its fur is thick and has a golden brown color. His ears are pointy and he has two dark spots near his eyes.

These animals are rodents. Sometimes the baby desert jackal, while waiting for their parents to get ready for the hunt, will sit and howl together at the moon. This is the sign to join the hunting party and all the other foxes in the area know it.

The desert fox, or Fennec, is rarely found outside Africa. In earlier years many were captured and transferred to zoos around the world, yet they rarely survived the cold weather. In the zoos the Fennec literally feels homesick, missing his African lifestyle and the warm, sunny desert world he come from.

Image courtesy Geran de Klerk, Unsplash)

The Jackal and the Lion, a Story from the Khoisan Folklore

Once upon a time, long ago, when humans still foraged for food, Jackal was scurrying through a narrow, rocky pass in the Omatako Mountains, today’s Namibia.

He was half laughing at himself over how silly humans were to give this mountain such a hilarious name, for its two tops, looking like buttocks, gave way to its name, Omatako Mountains. Snickering and sniffing Jackal was, trying to find something juicy to eat, perhaps caught underneath a rock or burried shallow, to fill his growling stomach and quench his thirst. When his eye suddenly caught some movement ahead of him, in the pass.

Something that shouldn’t have been there.

Jackal froze in his tracks. And swallowed hard, his tail already tucked between his hind legs. The mighty Lion, his mane glowing under the setting sun, was coming straight toward him. Had Lion gotten bigger since I last saw him? thought Jackal to himself.

Out of the corner of his eye Jackal looked left, then right. There was no way of escape! And his hind legs trembled a little. Jackal cursed his streched muscles, not allowing his fright to steal into his mind. But a claw clutched at his heart already.

Alas! He’d lost count of all the tricks he’d played on the king of animals over the years… Was this it? Will he pay today, of all the days? Will Lion prove to be just a beast and use this sudden encounter to get his revenge?

A breeze tickeled Jackal’s nose, carrying with it the scent of open planes, of the Namib desert. Of freedom. That Jackal loved above everything else. So he thought of a plan.

His tail left its place of safety and swiped the dirt behind its feet, sending it up the cliff. When it rolled down, Jackal howeld.

‘Help! Help!’ cried Jackal and crowched, half crawling half sliding down the cliff, looking back at every other step.

Lion stopped, an eyebrow lifted. Annoyance? Surprise?

‘Help!’ Jackal yelled again and looked over his shoulder at the boulders piling high. ‘The rocks are about to tumble over and crush us. Oh, great Lion, I am but a mere wild dog, but you, the king of animals, with your great strengh, you can save us! And all beasts will learn of your bravery and praise you.’

Then he looked back again and yelped for help again, covering his head with his paws.

On hearing this and seeing how destraught Jackal was, Jackal who was always laughing and joking, Lion looked up at the towering rocks, feeling most alarmed. But pretending he is as cool as ever.

‘Oh, great Lion, put your shoulder to the rock and prevent the mountain from tumbeling over, for only you can do it,’ yelped Jackal further.

So Lion, without giving it a second thought, put his strong shoulder against the rock. To heave and stop the mountain from rolling over.

‘Oh, great king, thank you!’ yelped Jackal, ‘for you have saved us. Let me fetch that spear over there and we will use it to prop the mountain.’

And with that he sprang out of sight.

Lion waited and waited, shouldering the mountain and trying his best to chase away the flies, but he had only his tail as a weapon. All the time listening, waiting to hear Jackal’s footsteps.

When the last rays of the setting sun became blunt and their heat turned to a gentle embrace, Lion felt as if the weight of the mountain was resting on his shoulders. So much so that his hind legs were trembling and heat grew inside his chest, ready to erupt in his throat.

While Jackal was already reunited with his folk, all laughing and admiring his cunningness and bravery.

Now in Afrikaans: Drie populêre kinderboeke, nou beskibaar in Afrikaans. Helder en kleurvolle illustrasies en beminlike karakters wat opwindende avonture deel. Vir kinders en ouers om saam te geniet.

Die Leeu en die Hond
Die Olifant en die Skaap
Die Jagluiperd en die Hond

multicultural kids books

I hope you enjoyes die Fennek of Woestynjakkals, the Fennec or Desert Jackal from babadiertjies van Afrika, animal cubs from Africa series.

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Die Woestyn Dromedaris, the Desert Dromedary

woestyn dromedaris, desert dromedary

Die Woestyn Dromedaris or the Desert Dromedary is the first installment in a series of posts about babadiertjies van Afrika, animal cubs from Africa.

Die Woestyn Dromedaris, babadiertjies van Afrika

Die dromedaris woon al vir langer as ses duisend jaar in die Sahara-woestyn. Anders as die kameel wat twee bulte op sy rug het, het hy net een groot ou boggel. Hierdie boggel word met reg sy ‘spens’ genoem. Met net ‘n klein bietjie water en baie min kos, kan hierdie diere baie lank in die woestyn aan die lewe bly. Daroom is hulle sulke nuttige pakdiere om in die droë woestynwêreld lang togte mee af te lê. Geen wonder dan ook dat hierdie dier die ‘skip’ van die woestyn genoem word nie.

Met sy fyn reukvermoë, kan die dromedaris van baie ver af water ruik, of dit nou by ‘n verafgelseë oase of selfs onder die sand is! Ook het hy ‘n baie skerp ontwikkelde instink wat hom help om koers te hou, al het sandstorms ook alle spore uitgewis.

Die Woestyn Dromedaris, the Desert Dromedary, babadiertjies van Afrika
(Image Wolfgang Hasselmann, Unsplash)

By geboorte is die klein dromedaris bedek met ‘n pragtige wollerige vag. Geleidelik verloor hy egter hierdie wollerigheid en daar bly uiteindelik net so ‘n klossie daarvan op sy groot ou boggel oor. Alhoewel dit seker nie ‘n vreeslike mooi versiering is nie, bied dit darem aan die dromedaris ‘n mate van beskerming teen die moordende strale van die woestynson.

Die dromedariskalfie drink ‘n volle jaar lank aan sy ma. Dit maak sy verhemelte taai genoeg om die droë woestynstruike te kan vreet. Gedurende hierdie tyd ontwikkel sy herkoutjiemaag ook heeltemal. Hierdie magie van hom bestaan uit vier kompartemente: in die eerste drie word die kos gedeeltelik verteer, om dan eindelik in die vierde gedeelte opgeneem te word. Hierdie laaste kompartement word die melkpens genoem.

Die dromedaris het lang, sierlike wimpers wat beskutting aan sy oë bied wanneer sandstorms woed.

Dit is ‘n bekende feit dat die dromedaris tot sestien kilometer per uur kan aflê. Soms lê hulle tot agt honderd kilometer in minder as vier dae af!

The Desert Dromedary, baby animals from Africa

The dromedary, or Arabian Camel, has lived in the Sahara desert for more than six thousand years. Unlike the camel that has two bumps on its back, the dromedary has only one big hump. This hump is rightly called its ‘pantry’. With only a tiny bit of water and very little food, these animals can stay alive in the desert for a very long time. That’s why they are such useful pack animals to take on long journeys through the dry desert world. No wonder that this animal is called the ‘ship’ of the desert.

Die Woestyn Dromedaris, the Desert Dromedary, babadiertjies van Afrika
(IMage Mads Severinsen, Unsplash)

With its fine sense of smell the dromedary can smell water from very far away, whether it is in a remote oasis or even under the sand! Also, the dromedary has a very sharp instinct that helps him keep its route, even when sandstorms have wiped out all traces.

At birth, the baby dromedary is covered with a beautiful woolly fleece. Gradually, however, he loses this woolliness and all that’s left in the end is just a tuft atop his big hump. While not a decoration, it does offer the dromedary some protection from the deadly rays of the desert sun.

The dromedary calf drinks from its mother for a full year. Until the top of his mouth, its palate, has developed and became tough enough for him to eat the dry desert shrubs. During this time, his stomach also reaches full maturity. The magic of the dromedary’s stomach consists of its four compartments: in the first three the food is partially digested, then the food arrives in the fourth compartiment, called the mammary gland.

The dromedary has long, graceful lashes that protect his eyes during raging sandstorms.

It is a known fact that the dromedary can travel to a speed of up to sixteen kilometers per hour. Sometimes they can cover up to eight hundred kilometers in less than four days!

Die Woestyn Dromedaris, the Desert Dromedary, babadiertjies van Afrika
(Image Vera Davidova, Unsplash)

Some Dromedary Wisdom

It is said that an Arab merchant, after loading all his goods on the dromedary’s back, looked at the poor beast, only it’s long neck and four legs as thin as stick visible from underneath the mountain of bags and crates, and felt sorry for him.

So the Arab merchant asked his dromedary if he would rather travel uphill or downhill. At which the dromedary replied, ‘is the flat road through the desert closed, then?’

Now in Afrikaans: Drie populêre kinderboeke, nou beskibaar in Afrikaans. Helder en kleurvolle illustrasies en beminlike karakters wat opwindende avonture deel. Vir kinders en ouers om saam te geniet.

Die Leeu en die Hond
Die Olifant en die Skaap
Die Jagluiperd en die Hond

babadiertjies van Afrika

I hope you enjoyes die Woestyn Dromedaris, the Desert Dromedary from babadiertjies van Afrika, animal cubs from Africa series.

Subscribe to my e-Newsletter for fun and informative content on dogs, books, history, folklore and a castle or two:

Winternag – Winter Night by Eugene Marais

winter night winternag poem

Enjoy Winternag, Winter Night by Eugene Marais here in both Afrikaans and English.
Eugene Marais was a South African lawyer, naturalist, poet and writer. He wrote this poem in 1905.

Winternag, Eugene Marais

‘O koud is die windjie
en skraal.
En blink in die dof-lig
en kaal,
so wyd as die Heer se genade,
lê die velde in sterlig en skade
En hoog in die rande,
versprei in die brande,
is die grassaad aan roere
soos winkende hande.

O treurig die wysie
op die ooswind se maat,
soos die lied van ‘n meisie
in haar liefde verlaat.
In elk’ grashalm se vou
blink ‘n druppel van dou,
en vinnig verbleek dit
tot ryp in die kou!’

Winter Night, Eugene Marais

‘Cold is the slight wind and sere.
And gleaming in dim light and bare,
as vast as the mercy of God,
lie the plains in starlight and shade.
And high on the ridges,
among the burnt patches,
the seed grass is stirring
like beckoning fingers.

O tune grief-laden
on the east wind’s pulse
like the song of a maiden
whose lover proves false.
In each grass blade’s fold
a dew drop gleams bold,
but quickly it bleaches
to frost in the cold!’

English translation by Guy Butler)

Originally published in Afrikaans Poems with English Translations edited by A. P. Grove and C. J. Harvey, Cape Town, Oxford University Press, 1962

winternag winter night afrikaans english
Winternag, Winter Night by Eugene Marais – a poem in Afrikaans and English

Eugène Marais (1871-1936) had twelve brothers and sisters and grew up between Pretoria, Boshof and Paarl, South Africa. Whatever Eugène learnt at home he learnt from his mother, Catharina. Much of his early education was in English, as were his earliest poems. In 1890, at only 19 years of age, Eugène became editor of the weekly Land en Volk, the only Dutch-Afrikaans opposition newspaper in the Transvaal. The following year he became the paper’s co-owner and by 1892 the newspaper’s readership doubled. He was responsible for writing the entire paper and selling advertising space. He is remembered as the father of Afrikaans poetry.

You might also enjoy reading:
32 original Afrikaans idioms sure to make you smile once translated into English

A Poem You Can Read in English and Afrikaans


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