If you ever plan on going in a journey, make sure you do so with true friends, warns us ‘The Bear and the Travelers’, a timeless fable here retold for its killer advice on always considering the bare bones of a friendship.
The Bear and the Travelers, a fable
Once upon a time, when wild animals roamed the forests in peace and people mostly kept to their villages and, when forced to travel, they did so only by horse, donkey or cart… once upon a time two lads, still wet behind their ears but eager to see the world, decided to travel together. They were good friends, they could swear by it, so they started their journey relying on one another – for fun, for encouragement, and for safety.
The path ahead appeared clear, bordered by grass and flowers, winding only near streams and shady trees. It felt soft to step on it.
The two young men were merry, their journey easy. Chatting and laughing, not noticing when the path had turned narrow, stony, and that in places only one traveler at a time could step ahead. Yet they joked still, laughed, and took turns to go first. Here and there now stood a lone tree with little shade, but mostly shrubs by now.
And the path had turned hard and felt stony underfoot. Didn’t matter, for they were two at it, two friends.
Soon enough they entered the forest; dark, cool, and quiet. So quiet, that even the lads – although happy for its shade – had stopped laughing, and they had stopped chatting too. They just looked around, listened to tiny noises. What was that? A branch snapping underneath their foot? Or something else… What? Where? And they kept near one another.
They had only taken a few steps inside the shady wood when, all of a sudden, a huge bear fell on them. Jumping out of nowhere, crashing branches with his strong arms, scratching off the tree bark with his sharp, long claws. Roaring that it echoed to the end of the forest, and back again.
The lads froze. At first. Then one of the boys, thinking first and foremost of his own safety, climbed the nearest tree. And before he knew it, before the bear could even spot him, he was up, as agile as a monkey.
And just as shameful. He did not look for his friend, left on the ground.
The second boy, not as good at climbing trees for this is not part of the human nature, found himself standing alone to face the fierce black, furry giant. For this is how the bear appeared to him, waving his forearms, shaking his head, and growling, ‘grrrr,’ spit landing everywhere. Even on the boy’s cheek. Yet he dare not wipe it off. He dare not move a muscle.
If he could have stopped his heart from beating, he would have gladly done so.
For what else could he do? When he suddenly remembered his grandfather’s advice: not to look the beast into the eyes, but to fall to the ground and lay still. As if dead. ‘For bears,’ he could still hear his grandfather’s low voice, and he could still see his eyes sparkling from behind bushy, grey eyebrows, ‘for bears are not clever beasts, although they might look fierce. And they are might strong. But clever, they are not, and can easily be tricked.’
So the second boy let himself drop to the ground where tried his best to lie very still. As if dead.
‘For bears are not scavengers. They do not feast on dead animals,’ his grandfather had said next.
Once again, his grandfather’s words proved golden for the bear ceased growling, fell on all four legs, and looked at the hip of a boy on the ground. He turned his head left, then right, then took a step forward – making sure he’s not too close either (big animals are not as brave as they seem, you know?) – and from a safe distance sniffed at the boy. Then the bear took another step – the boy could hear all this, although his eyes were closed tight – sniffed again and, appearing convinced that a dead body indeed lay in front of him, turned away slowly, for he was a heavy bear who took his time, and walked away.
The forest closed behind the bear, and soon all was silent. None of the boys dare speak and they stood like that, one up in the tree, the other flat on the ground, until they heard the first bird song. And knew all was safe.
The first boy, the one that had climbed the tree, was the first to jump to the ground.
He looked around, listening, his heart hammering in his ears, ready to climb back up should the bear return.
Finally, he turned to his friend who was just brushing the leaves off his clothes. He did not ask him how he was, nor did he explained his rushed and coward gesture. Instead, he laughed, yet not staring his friend in the eyes.
‘Say, that was some bear! Chatty too. It looked as if he whispered something in your ear. What was it?’
The second boy had just finished patting himself all over and was now adjusting his travel bag. Only when he was done did he caught his friend’s shifty stare and smiled.
‘The bear said that it was most ill-advised of me to travel with someone who is a friend just by name, but not by his deeds, for, look, he had deserted me at the first moment of danger.’
The Fox and the Tigeris a fable as old as life, yet I like to imagine it taking place shortly after humans appeared on the Earth, perhaps hailing from Africa, a time when animals still spoke among themselves in a language understood by humans. A time of peace and harmony. Today tigers, in their natural habitat, live freely only in Asia, but foxes are most versatile, and we find them on every continent save for Antarctica.
The Fox and the Tiger, a fable
Once upon a time, and a long, long time ago when animals still shared the same language and spoke to one another, an orange fox with a bushy tail met a red-yellow tiger with great paws.
The tiger showed off his stripes that seemed to move like waves along with its sinuous muscles, smiled charmingly to parade his long, yellow teeth, a piece of raw meat still stuck behind one of them, then stretched one paw to admire his long, sharp claws, and prepared himself to devour the fox.
For what help is a fox that crosses a tiger’s path, but to become his snack?
Yet the fox lowered her head, avoiding direct eye contact just like Mother Fox told her a million times (and the little fox did pay attention each time), swiped her tail left, then right, and spoke softly and sweetly.
‘My dear Sir Tiger,’ she began, ‘how stripy your stripes are, how grand your teeth, and how sharp your claws are. You must think of yourself as the King of Beasts, and with a great cause’ she added quickly. ‘But does your courage compare with my own? Look at little me,’ and saying so Fox bowed, making herself appear even smaller. ‘Let us walk together and I will show you what I mean,’ and with one rounded movement of her front paw, she pointed ahead, waiting for Tiger to start moving.
‘What do you mean?’ Tiger growled low, irritated, masking a burp for he had just gulped down his breakfast, and that gave him gas. Everything seemed to cause him gas lately.
‘Let us step side by side and if Man will catch sight of me and not fear me, then it is you, Sir Tiger, who is indeed the King of Beasts, and so you may devour me on the spot.’
Tiger gave a crooked smile, his stomach rather crampy, but the thought that topping up his breakfast with a little fox might relieve his cramps appealed to him. Plus, it would be an easy task. While Fox, moving lightly, made sure she kept away (for she was rather scared of the great Tiger… and his breath was quite stinky too), yet half a step ahead of the big cat.
So, soon enough after their encounter, Tiger and Fox rambled side by side on the broad path. For the great vulture flying with the clouds they were but two flowers, one orange, and one red-yellow.
Yet any beast or traveler that as much as caught sight of them ran away in an instant, screaming with great fright.
After a while Fox lay her head low again, swished her bushy, orange tail, turned, and said sweetly, ‘See, oh great Tiger, Man and all the beasts we encountered ran away at the sight of me, before even seeing you.’
Tiger didn’t know what to make of it, all true and staring him in the face, yet not understanding little Fox’s cunning plan. So he turned, rambled in his throat, and ran away himself, losing his snack, the fox, and taking only his bruised pride with him.
Tiger had seen well that men and beasts appeared to be afraid of Fox, but had not noticed that Fox had borrowed from him, shamelessly, the terror he inspired.
Moral of the story:
Never despair, rather think of a way out and you will soon be safe.
Did you know? In South Africa the The Cape fox (Vulpes chama) is called an asse, cama fox or the silver-backed fox. It is a small fox-like animals, native to southern Africa. It is also called a South African version of a fennec fox due to its big ears.
SAS Red Notice might be full of explosive situations, but the only real fuse burning through its story-line is Sam Heughan ‘s performance.
What is SAS Red Notice about? Spoiler Alert
We jump into action in the Republic of Georgia where a handful of guerrillas nicknamed the Swans “clear” a village whose inhabitants don’t want to sell their land to the investors into a new gas pipeline. Three of the Swans are brought forward, William Lewis, the father (Tom Wilkinson, solid in his role), his daughter Grace (Ruby Rose), and his son, Oliver (Owain Yeoman).
It is the Swans decision, Grace’s to be precise, to “kill the men and the boys. Let the women spread the fear.” But one Georgian girl shoots a video of Grace Lewis on a backdrop of explosions, burned homes, and torched innocent villagers, and the video goes viral, Grace’s image filling the newspapers.
The Swans are now labeled as terrorists and must be arrested for crimes against humanity, everyone points at them, including those who hired them, the British Government. Chased out of their mansion in Hampstead, the Swans take over the Euro train, bringing it to an abrupt halt under the English Channel. Their demands are clear. The UK Prime Minister must acknowledge on Live TV that the British Government is behind the “clearing” in Georgia and has ordered Special Air Services, SAS, to hire the Swans to do their dirty job, as well as to wire 500 million dollars into the Swans bank account OR… Or an incriminating video exposing the chain in command and linking the UK Prime Minister with the Swans will leak on social media platforms.
There is only one man to do the job and he falls into it willy-nilly, Tom Buckingham (Sam Heughan).
Tom Buckingham is a SAS operator. We meet him on his breathtaking estate (and it does make you wonder why he is an SAS member since he’s got all those money). But Tom is a softie, or he just looks like one in the beginning. He plans to propose to his girlfriend, Dr. Sophie Hart (Hannah John-Kamen), with his grandmother, his Nana’s ring. It is a special ring, that “great Henry Buckingham chopped from the finger of the Maharajah during the great mutiny,” and then offered it to Nana. (Here I wondered if the ring was special to Tom because it was his Nana’s, or because of its bloody story – which would tell us something about Tom’s character).
Tom and Sophie’s plans to fly to Paris (where he secretly wishes to propose to her) are blown off by his last-minute involvement in the tracking of the terrorists, the Swans. So Tom and Sophie take the train instead, the Eurostar, to Paris. It is the same Eurostar the Swans took to fulfill their plan, force the Prime Minister to pay them the ransom, and clear their name.
After the Swans high jacked the train and passengers got wounded, Dr. Sophie jumped to their aid. Already aware of whom he has to deal with, Tom Buckingham fights the terrorists single-handed, explosions blasting left and right. Eventually, a team of SAS is sent to assist, while more terrorists arrive on sight, in the tunnel.
The UK Government (represented by Sir Charles Whiteside with a personal interest in the British Gas pipeline) agrees to pay the ransom money (but without broadcasting it) and all that’s left to be done is for Grace Lewis to be killed by SAS so that no word ever escapes of the SAS involvement and chain of traitors.
Tom’s only wish is to save his girlfriend and to propose to her, but knowing that she will never leave casualties behind he knows has to save everyone on the train as well. That’s why when Grace Lewis reels him in Tom goes willingly, to save his girlfriend.
It is now that we witness what else the British Government has been hiding in their side of the tunnel, as well as how long the chain of SAS traitors is. And one of them will have to be the UK Government’s scapegoat. But which one?
On the outside, the SAS and the UK Government comply with the terrorists’ plans and it looks as if they will save the passengers, and they will be successful in capturing the terrorists, the Swans.
While from the inside of the tunnel Tom Buckingham realizes that “this isn’t about the money, it’s about revenge,’ and that Grace Lewis will never keep up her word, save the civilians, yet she will never surrender either.
In the end, only Grace Lewis, Dr. Sophie, and Tom Buckingham are left standing, with Tom, wounded and on foot, chasing after Grace through snowed woods. In one last attempt Grace tries to convince Tom and bring him onto her side, turn him into a (black) Swan.
She seems to fail, as Tom finally kills her, but what we are left wondering, well, that you will have to read further.
How Sam Heughan’s performance saved the SAS Red Notice movie. Spoiler Alert
The opening scene warns us that “Psychopaths that can learn to love are even more rare than a black swan.” And this is the premise of the movie SAS Red Notice.
It is clear from the beginning that William Lewis and Grace Lewis, father and daughter, are psychopaths. To finish their mission William Lewis asks Grace to “make a decision. Do it now,’ and she chooses to blow torch innocent people to send a message. In a later scene, William admits that “Grace is special. She’s like me, only better,” namely a psychopath like he is (both William and Grace admit to never having loved anyone else in their lives).
But we learn this from the start, so I asked myself, what was the point of the opening line since we already know who the psychopath is?
We meet Tom Buckingham (Sam Heughan) planning to propose to his girlfriend with his Nana’s ring. But the ring has a rather bloody history, and although I found the idea romantic, I shuddered at the thought. And the shudder stayed with me. What kind of a man does something like this? But he’s the good guy, right?
It also caught my eye that Tom is pretty much a loner, he seems to have only his butler in his life (did Andy McNab had a little nod towards Batman here?), oh, and he has one friend in the SAS team.
It is to his friend, Declan Smith (Tom Hopper) that Tom Buckingham admits to loving his girlfriend Sophie (although he never, ever, loved anyone in his entire life) and that he plans to take off to Paris and propose – just like that, after all the killing they just did. And Tom is all smiling about his plans, no pains there for the lives he just took.
Sam Heughan is brilliant here in creating the illusion that this time is different, with Sophie, although he can’ quite explain it in words, not even to his only friend. And he does leave us with the shadow of a thought, could he be a psychopath too? But he’s a good guy, right?
Tom appears to be able to switch himself on and off quite easily; now he visits his girlfriend, now he hunts and kills terrorists, then he’s the perfect boyfriend again. At one stage, when Sophie gets to nurse his wounds, she asks him if it didn’t bother him that he had to kill a woman, and if “everything ever affects you? Ever?’ and he candidly answers ‘no”.
Sam Heughan brings this scene so well together, playing the cool and collected SAS soldier who had learned to lock away his feelings so well that he doesn’t even notice them anymore, to protect himself… or not? He doesn’t seem to understand why Sophie is so upset about, that he isn’t bothered by his job, by the killings it involves.
So I asked myself again, after this scene, who is the psychopath in this movie?
The fact that Tom Buckingham single-handedly took on the terrorists in that tight tunnel was hard to buy, but then so many heroes do it, right? James Bond does it and we kind of expect that from him.
Tom’s character is rounded up by the fact that he can speak French (well, he is SAS after all) to the girl, Emmeline, he rescued from the train, and that he makes her feel secure. I thought that this scene showed some of the character’s soft side, although the girl concludes to Tom that “there are lots of things you can’t explain.
I liked how Sam Heughan made us believe that he bought the “come get me” text message supposedly sent to him by his girlfriend Sophie (but typed by black Swan Grace Lewis), when he knew Sophie too well, knew that she will never choose to save herself and leave casualties behind.
But it was the final scene between Grace Lewis and Tom Buckingham that showed Sam Heughan’s portraying skills. Although it took him a rather long time to knock Grace down (he’s twice her size, but wounded, plus she’s a certified psychopath so this should give her extra physical strength, right?).
After previously telling Tom “we are more alike than you know,” Grace tried again to lure Tom to her side, telling him how he enjoyed the game they played, and how he wouldn’t think twice before killing a human being, just like she.
It is in this scene that Tom realizes that he was acting like a psychopath without being one. And he finds it hard to put it into words. Yet we see that on his face. But the fact that he knows Sophie is on his side saves his life in this scene, for he doesn’t give in, doesn’t fall into Grace’s dark side. We can almost see his skin crawl as he realizes the extent of Grace’s psychopathy. Yet he smiles at her, acknowledging that he is one, a psychopath. Looking as if he setts her a trap.
Yet as he waits for her to die, after sliding her throat, she stares into thin air.
What just happened here? Heughan takes us from one extreme to the next. And I’ve changed my mind again, I still can’t tell whether he’s a psychopath or not.
But we’re soon to find out.
It is the scene when Tom will propose to Sophie, just a little later.
“Will you marry me?” he asks hopefully and then we see on his face how terror sets in for she doesn’t answer. “You’re not meant to be married,” Sophie says. “I thought you understood,” he says and there is so much pain in his eyes that he can barely speak. “I do,” she says, although this is the wrong “I do” and her eyes say something else. They say I do understand that you’re a psychopath. (Oh, no!).
Really? Is this it? – goes through my mind.
Wait, next he staggers backward and he cries. And calls her name.
Brilliant work here, Heughan, showing one single, powerful emotion to let your girl know that you do experience feelings, and you are not the psychopath so many thought you were (and sorry for believing it too).
My thoughts on the SAS Red Notice movie. Spoiler Alert
There were a few clichés and plot ideas I didn’t buy
I thought it was a little bit of a cliché to open up with such a clear image, these are the terrorists, and they are psychopaths too. But it’s an action thriller, right?
We get it early that Grace is a psychopath, and she proves it again when she decides later to shoot one passenger for not handing in his cell phone. Yet why would she choose to save the bystander child, wounded in the arm? I know why; it helped the plot later. But it didn’t fit her character.
Grace seems to be walking around quite a lot with her hands pushed in her pockets. If she does this to show us that she’s a psychopath, I didn’t believe her. I’d imagine a terrorist rather walking as if he’s always ready for action, especially during an attack.
The gas pipeline
I also thought that the image of the poor Georgian village forced to sell its land for a gas pipeline to run through it was a little bit overdone. But the book came out in 2012, so maybe Andy McNab was one of the first to use it. The subsequent idea, that the Brits hid a gas pipeline inside their half of the Eurotunnel, was unexpected.
The involved government people
George Clements (Andy Serkis) I found to be a transparent character. For once, he knew William Lewis since their time together in Rhodesia. Yes, their paths could have split at some time, Clements staying with the good guys, Lewis taking the dark side. But Clements admits to Lewis that he’s still going, and that “politicians come and go, I’m the consistency” and he admits to cleaning Lewis’ mess more than once. So I doubted him from the beginning. Clements is also too visual in showing us how he keeps an eye on Declam Smith, later in the movie.
We also learn quite from the start that the Prime Minister is corrupt; he’s the one who ordered the Swans to clean the village. I would have liked to discover this later, and I would have liked a PM with more power.
I suspected Major Bisset quite early on, his character was rather thin too.
The PM, Major Bisset, and Clements are worried, too worried and that’s most of the time, that Grace Lewis will expose them.
Throughout the movie it felt like the only character developed at all was that of Tom Buckingham (Sam Heughan).
There is a lot of blasting and bombing, the special effects were rather entertaining, as was Tom’s and Sophie’s chat through the loo hole…
The poetry of one final scene stood out for me
Sophie Lewis, the Black Swan, runs through a snowed forest, wearing her dark clothing.
Tom Buckingham is chasing after her, in shades of gray, and only his wound, covered in blood, stands out red against the white background.
Like a White Swan chasing the Black Swan.
In this final, snowy scene, for the first time, there is no sound of bullets, of explosions, of commands shouted trough phones, only the eerie sound of falling snowflakes, of snow crushed underfoot as life chases death…
On a final note…
I thought that SAS Red Notice was entertaining, although its main story-line / script was thin and predictable. What stood out for me was the gold thread, the fuse that did blow up in the end, namely Tom Buckingham’s story and Sam Heughan’s performance. SAS Red Notice is worth watching one, for action and special effects, and twice to pay attention to the little clues left by Sam Heughan.
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One of the things I love about traveling to Brasov is that in the old city, at least, doors and passageways so hide marvelous surprises.
I took these pictures a few years back, so I do hope that these lovely places survived the Covid-19 global pandemic.
We strolled through the old city of Brasov where houses don’t top three stories high as they are centuries old. But today they are painted in fresh, pastel colors and their intricate, antique decorations still stand out.
Where once horse carriages and tradesmen filled the street now open air cafes and mouth-watering eateries bubble. People watching, souvenir browsing, ice-cream wishing… Yet I couldn’t help glancing through open doors left and right, at the mysterious passages they revealed.
Yes, the passages above lead to tiny pubs and more charming cafes 🙂
I paired two doors for you, as what goes up must come down. Below left, a sports shop; “if you can’t even climb these stairs, you have been warned…” sort of thing… and to the right, some stairs leading downwards to a pub. I guess the railings have been added for the patrons’ benefit 😉
Certainly a cheery passage:
Beware of the dog?
I hope you made it thus far, for although I don’t have an image of the main door of L’Etage Pub in Brasov, I do have plenty of its incredible interior.
If you are a book lover do not go beyond this point…
I recognized quite a few of these books, literature by Romanian authors:
An original piece of decor below, a trumpet painted on book spines.
I do remember such old radios, and the terracotta stove decor, although it pains my heart to see lampshades made of books. Still, some tomes survived. They seem to wink at us from their shelves, read, have coffee and be merry!
Below, a close-up of the DIY lampshades made of books.
Our bill from L’Etage Brasov came in a murder mystery book – here ‘Culprit No. 1’. My parents still have this aventura, adventure book collection!
Thursday Doors is a blog feature everyone can take part in, hosted by Dan Antion over at No Facilities– where you can discover more doors from around the world.
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 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
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.
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
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.
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.