Why a Traveler Better be Watchful Near Apes

the ape and the travelers, an unusual fable

Ever found yourself a traveler in the land of apes? We found ourselves in a different kind of primate land once, holidaying in Durban, on the KwaZulu-Natal coast of the Indian Ocean. We were enjoying the ocean’s breeze coming through the open balcony door when with it in jumped a monkey! Bouncing from the neighboring tree onto the balcony ledge, then into the living room and up on the kitchen island where she picked her reward, a bunch of bananas!

Had she thanked us? I think she waved – her tail.

Better the bananas than the car keys nearby…

I do enjoy a fable every now and then, more so now as a grownup than I did during my childhood. And surely, if I will ever visit the land of apes I will make sure to think before I speak.

And how interesting to notice that medieval kings and modern day dictators have so much in common with the characters from The Ape and the Travelers – a clever, timeless fable, teaching us the value of choosing one’s words wisely.

The Ape and the Travelers, a clever fable

Two travelers and friends, lucky them, wanderers through the world and sharing many passions yet so different in looks, for one was tall, and one was short, one was chatty, one was quiet, one lied all the time, and one who only spoke the truth… such two travelers arrived at the Land of Apes.

Should we follow them from the safety of our chairs?

Wishing to welcome the strange travelers but also to mend his people’s reputation (for it had reached the King’s right ear that his nation was labelled as cunning and…  hairy), wishing thus, as well as desiring to learn more about the foreigners, the Ape King, who was a rather curious king, invited the tourists over to his palace.

So, with great chatter all around and rather pushed than transported, the two travelers were soon brought before the King of the Apes, as the custom was in the Land of Apes.

The King sat on his monarchic throne made of banana tree stumps, with banana leaves overhead for shade, and a soft pillow made of banana leaves stuffed with dry grass (the previous pillow, made from banana peels, had turned bad rather quickly), while two young apes fanned him with great banana branches. In front of his throne were two stumps, rather short, for words had also reached the King of Apes that the two travelers, or at least one, was tall…

So, finally seated in front of the King the travelers were handed two coconut drinks and then were asked, before they could even take a sip, for their opinion of the King Ape, first, and of his subjects, of course.

Why a Traveler Better be Watchful Near Apes
Francesco Ungaro

The one tourist, the untruthful traveler, nearly choked on his drink as he rushed to speak first. Some of the droplets even landed on the King of Apes’ fur. Yet the King just squeezed his eyes and kept quiet. Waiting eagerly. The traveler, while remaining seated (someone even gasped at this in the back of the great hall), praised the primate sovereign saying how powerful and impressive he thought him to be as a ruler. And he praised his subjects too, the monkeys, saying how worthy they were of their amazing, unique leader (he emphasized).

The Ape King was simply delighted, he even looked taller as he sat on his high throne, and he ordered that a fine gift be offered to the first traveler.

Then, with a big smile on his round face, he turned towards the second traveler who was rather enjoying his drink. Not even paying attention to what was happening around him, nor to the gift bestowed upon his friend.

All the apes in the throne room stopped their chatter at once(for they were following their king’s gaze), curious as they were to hear what the second visitor had to say.

So they waited, while the second human slurped his drink. And the Ape King smiled, but took a deep breath to calm himself.

Finally, drink finished, it was the second voyager’s turn to speak. He glanced left, towards the primates seated on tree trunks, he glanced right, towards the ones watching from the trees, and then he looked ahead, at the Ape King who was smiling so sweetly. And he thought, he thought to himself that if his friend had benefited by telling such tall stories, such fibs, such lies, he would benefit more by simply telling the truth.

For it made sense to him.

So he stood, for although an ape he was still in the presence of a king, he stood, bowed, and said, loud and clear, that he thought the king to be a great ape, and all his subjects to be great apes too.

Why a Traveler Better be Watchful Near Apes
mwangi gatheca

Oh, what a chatter, what yelling, what banter exploded all around while the Ape King bounced, hooted, grunted, and screamed in rage. Then he ordered that the second traveler (who couldn’t tell what he did wrong) be taken away and locked up in a cage made of banana tree sticks, and situated high up in the canopy.

For All to see. And learn. What not to do.

Moral of this story

Think before you speak. There are times when choosing your words wisely and being more tactful is more valuable than what we say or don’t say. (I know, harder said than done).

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

Did you know? Monkeys and apes are not the same

The quickest way to tell the difference between a monkey and an ape is by the presence or absence of a tail. Almost all monkeys have tails; apes do not. Yet both monkeys and apes are primates.

A chimpanzee, baboon, or orangutan are all apes.
Mandrill or Rhesus are types of monkeys.
Apes are larger and much heavier than monkeys.

The Chimp and the Dog, Patricia Furstenberg

When two animals with different looks meet at a waterhole they don’t think twice about how different they are… in height, color, fur, shape of face or size of tummy… they become friends.
The Chimp and the Dog.

The DOG and his Reflection, a fable

dog reflection bone story

Dogs must be the most unselfish creatures on earth, yet The Dog and his Reflection is a fable about a foolish, greedy mutt who was not content with what he already had – and that sounds familiar…

The DOG and his Reflection, a fable retold

Once upon a time there lived a stray dog. Now stray dogs have been around ever since man befriended the wolf, and turned him into a pet… But that is another story.

This stray dog is important because he made it on his own for many moons, while keeping his tail intact, thus long enough for him to become the hero of his own tale.

So, a stray dog with grey, shaggy fur, a rather scruffy tail – for he always got into fights – and bright, grey eyes (perhaps a dull color for some, but his just sparked with wit and a bit of mischief too), such a dog was hurrying home one day.

There was a bounce in his step and his tail was held high and it was wagging, his ears were pricked, and he was in a big hurry for he had just won a prize. That’s how he felt, for the butcher had thrown him a bone. Out of compassion, and fondness too for the shaggy, familiar dog. The butcher was a chatty, friendly fellow, and that morning he had just got a good deal from the farmer, see?

Now our dog, the stray dog, stepped so quick along the path that his paws seem to not even touch the ground. Ah, he felt so energized, the stray dog did (although he could feel his tummy sticking to his ribs), for he couldn’t wait to get home already and enjoy his prized possession. Besides, he was already drooling, the tasty bone sending such an alluring aroma into his quivering nostrils.

His home was by a pile of logs and brambles, on the outskirts of the village. A thick tree grew nearby too, so he had shelter from rain and wind, and a stream gurgled up from the ground too, so he had fresh water. What more could a young dog like him ask for?

Image by Gleb Albovsky, Unsplash

There, there was his home, he thought while peeking ahead between two stray tufts from his eyebrows. All that was left was for him to cross the bridge. And on he went, bouncing and drooling, ah, the scent of his bone!

As he made his way across the narrow bridge the dog happened to catch a glimpse into the water below. What do you expect, it was a bright, sunny day and the pond gleamed in the sunshine. Its sparks just caught his eye.

Hello…

So he slowed down to get a better look, the water as clear as a mirror. And what he saw in the water? What? But another dog! How! Carrying a bone! Really so?

Really?

Grrr… half-growled our dog, for his mouth was occupied with his juicy bone, yet his eyes narrowed. Grrrrrrrr, he growled again at the dog he spotted bellow and his fur stuck up on his neck, some drool dripping onto the bridge boards.

While the dog bellow appeared to growl back! Guarding his bone, a much bigger bone…

Is that so, thought our shaggy mutt, his eye now as big as two (empty) saucers.

Our rough dog whose tummy was growling quite loud by now broke to a halt on the bridge and dropped his bone, its heavenly scent still strong in his nose for bits of meat had stuck to his unkempt fur.

If he had only made it home, as his initial plan had been…. If he had only kept its pace across the bridge… It he had only stopped to think first, he would have been far better off.

If only…

But instead of thinking the greedy dog abandoned his tasty, juicy bone he looked forward to eating and pounced at the dog in the river. He jumped right in, mouth open to capture the bigger bone and make it his. Just because!

All he got was himself in the water, swimming around like mad and biting emptiness, fleeting water, while his bone, the real one, rolled on the other side of the bridge and was soon gone with a very soft plonk.

The shaggy and very drenched dog, albeit in a lighter shade of gray, eventually swam to shore, exhausted. After he managed to scramble out, and as he stood miserably – and quite hungry – thinking about the good bone he had lost, of which nothing was left, not even the scent caught in his woolly fur – finally realized what a silly and greedy dog he had been. And learned a lesson, we hope.

~~~

Read more like this in:

the chimp and the dog picture book

When two animals with different looks meet at a waterhole they don’t think twice about how different they are… in height, color, fur, shape of face or size of tummy… they become friends.
The Chimp and the Dog.

The Fox and the Tiger, a Fable

The BLT, the Bear, the Lion and the Tiger

The Fox and the Tiger is 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?

fox alexander andrews
I wonder what question is this fox asking us? Image by Alexander Andrews, Unsplash

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.

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

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.

You can enjoy The Fox and the Tiger and MORE in:

The BLT, the Bear, the Lion and the Tiger

The BLT, the Bear, the Lion and the Tiger is a picture book inspired by true life events, the real friendship between a BEAR, a LION and a TIGER.

Why Rhino is Grumpy and Hippo is mad at Hare, folktale part 2

Why Rhino is Grumpy and Hippo is mad at Hare folktale part 2

Following part one, let’s get to the bottom of this and learn Why Rhino is Grumpy and Hippo is Mad at Hare, a humorous retelling of an African folktale that also teaches a lesson or two.

Why Rhino is Grumpy and Hippo is mad at Hare, folktale part 2

There, curled up under a tree, with his feet pulled under his gigantic body, his head resting on one side, his horn pointing sideways, his ears folded back and only his nostrils quivering, gone from this world, slept Rhino.

Why Rhino is Grumpy and Hippo is mad at Hare, folktale part 2

 Rabbit tiptoed closer, completely unnecessary as he knew how deep Rhino could sleep, pulled a leaf from the tree, and tickled Rhino’s nostril. Just for fun. Rhino squealed to complain, still fast asleep, and Rabbit covered his mouth for colossal Rhino sounded just like the teeny puppies he’d spotted by the human’s farm.

Next, Rabbit plucked another leaf and scooped a few Matabele ants, vigilant not to let them crawl on his fur, then ever so careful, while balancing on his tiptoes he let them fall, one by one, into the sleeping Rhino’s ear.

Rabbit quite liked these ants, these diver ants known to pick wars even with the termites, and he quite feared them too. ‘They should do the job quite fine,’ he thought. And in the shadow of the night his front teeth were the only spot to stand out.

Then Rabbit tiptoed away, hiding behind the tree trunk. And not a moment too soon as Rhino jumped from his sleep and the earth shook, some even say it cracked at his feet and the crevice can still be seen today – if you know where to look. Rhino sprang to his feet half-dazed with slumber, half irritated by the ants diving deeper and deeper, crawling round and round into his ear tube. Rhino growled and grunted, grunted and growled, screamed his pain, and trumpeted his anguish while running to the left, running to the right, unsure if the great Zambezi River was the solution or the great baobab nearby.

That’s when Rabbit called out at the top of his voice, while still keeping a safe distance. ‘Shame, what an itch that must be! But help is at hand! Allow me,’ and he came around from behind the bush to get Rhino’s full attention. ‘It will be like pulling out a tooth,’ Rabbit went further.

Rhino stopped from his agitation, still shaking his head, his mouth now clamped shut. ‘Never mind,’ said Rabbit. ‘I’ll use my paw then,’ and he pretended to reach inside Rhino’s ear.

‘So good of you, Rabbit,’ said Rhino, ‘To use your small paws for such a job. Mine, although mighty strong for they support my colossal weight, are too thick.’

‘Mine are just as strong, if not stronger,’ said Rabbit stopping what he was doing and looking down at the light shadows that were his legs, pale white in the moonlight and much lighter than the black Rhino’s ones, completely lost in the shadows.

Rhino grunted, fed up with Rabbit’s chatter and with the ants that were again dancing inside his ear, and eager to have the hare’s help again. Rabbit took the grunt as a defense, one as full-bodied as Rhino was, so he riposted hastily, ‘I’ll prove it to you. Though a tug-of-war,’ and moved away.

The words were still steam leaving Rabbit’s mouth while the cunning long-ears was already tying the other end of the rope around Rhino’s hind leg. Then, with the shadow of a grin stretching his mouth, Rabbit jumped behind the anthill and shouted ‘PULL!’

Rhino pulled, for the ants were squirming in his ear and he wanted them out. He pulled and he ran like his life depended on it. He made it for the forest, away from the anthill, and as he ran the rope stretched like the metal tongues of the Mbira, the musical instrument the humans called ‘the voice of the ancestors.’ The rope stretched and as it did so something anchored it at the opposite end. Something mighty heavy for it forced the Rhino to stop from his chase and it nearly pulled his back leg out of its socket.

as he ran the rope stretched like the metal tongues of the Mbira, the musical instrument the humans called ‘the voice of the ancestors.’

How the Rhino grunted! And how the echo grunted in reply, at the opposite end of the rope. And the more Rhino pulled, the more the rope tensed and something from its opposite end was fighting the Rhino, even pulling the beats towards the shoreline.

Rhino had forgotten all about Rabbit’s boasting by now. And Hippo, who was snoozing while enjoying his juicy grass, had forgotten all about the long-ear’s big mouth as well. Yet here they were, both giants tied to each other through a long rope. Pulling for what they were worth, towards the forest and towards the water. Grunting and bubbling, squealing and growling, making such a commotion that it covered Rabbit’s giggles.

Halfway between the two strong beasts, rolling over with laughter, was Rabbit. So giddy with the outcome of his mischief that he let all worry slip down the ant mound, and he, too, rolled away with it.

The moon was right above Rabbit’s head by now, who looked like a white, round rock on the move. First, it caught Hippo’s eye who gave an all might roar, fed up with Rabbit’s trick and goggle-eyed with outrage. Hearing Hippo’s clamor and catching sight of Rabbit’s glee, Rhino forgot all about the ants when he realized he got played by the hare. So he changed his direction quickly, unbelievably especially giving his massive body, and headed for Rabbit at full speed. While from the lakeside Hippo did the same. How the earth shook. How the night air vibrated with roars of thunder. How lost little Rabbit suddenly looked, for it seemed like he will soon be turned to pulp.

Why Rhino is Grumpy and Hippo is mad at Hare , African hare
The moon was right above Rabbit’s head by now, who looked like a white, round rock on the move.

Something hare hadn’t counted on. Or had he?

But prankster Rabbit hadn’t survived this long by living in fear. So he kept one eye on the roaring, rimmed Rhino, and one eye on the howling, humped Hippo, while his moon-washed, fluffy legs quivered with anticipation, his whiskers pulsating each time the ground shook. Waiting, was he, trembling was his fluffy tail, thumping was his little heart, thudding in his ears… readying himself for the right moment.

From its left, Rhino came charging quickly and deftly. His massive horn seemed to attract the light of the moon like a magnet, pointing towards the skies, as if it was showing Rabbit where he will end, and soon.

From its right, Hippo bulldozed closer and closer while clamping its mouth, its sharp tusks gleaming in the moonlight too, pointing Rabbit towards the possibility of a very spiky ending.

Between them stood Rabbit, shaking with the tremor of the earth, not with fear – as he told the story later, and many times over. And Rabbit stood, not moving, till the right moment, when he jumped forward, giving one of his award-winning leaps.

Rhino, at top speed, crashed headfirst into Hippo, who couldn’t slow down either due to his massive size. Horn against tooth, rhino’s hard skin plates against hippo’s soft skin, hippo’s massive body against Black Rhino’s compact frame.

No winner emerged, just two bruised animals with two wounded egos, and, in the distance, the painted reed frogs and their whistled chorus of laughter.

The following day Rabbit had a sore tummy, sore from laughter, but also big plans to move his residence. Why? Because Rhino’s bad temper (some said because of the ants still lodged in his ear, Rabbit thought that due to his mischief) turned the horned black beast into an impossible neighbor during day time; while at night Hippo scoured the river banks endlessly, still searching for long ears, wanting revenge.
And Rabbit? In search of a new home, away from the enraged Rhino and Hippo, but also away from the farming fields, and away from a sweet, although boring, life.

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

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Why Rhino is Grumpy and Hippo is Mad at Hare

Why Rhino is Grumpy and Hippo is mad at Hare

Discover Why Rhino is Grumpy and Hippo is Mad at Hare, a humorous story after an African folktale that also teaches a lesson or two. Part one.

In African folktale Rabbit is often the trickster, as can be the mouse or the snake. The two large animals who are tricked are most commonly an elephant and a hippopotamus, but a rhinoceros is also sometimes mentioned.

Why Rhino is Grumpy and Hippo is Mad at Hare

The shadows just began dipping their toes into the wide Zambezi River when Rabbit woke up from his daily slumber. As he stuck his nose out of his shallow scrape dug into the soft soil his whiskers caught the evening breeze and Rabbit licked its sweet nectar thinking how well his life has turned.

From his burrow, he could sniff the carrots and the fat lettuce fields from the nearby farm, planning his menu, then he could hop-hop-hop and help himself till his tummy burst, and – say what they may – since humans settled nearby, even the falcons had moved away. He was safe!

It must have been the Nyami Nyami, Rabit was sure, the great spirit of the Zambezi River that kept all his natives safe. No wonder it flooded the human settlements every now and then; no wonder the river bobbled into so many mighty waterfalls (now this, Rabbit hadn’t seen with his own eyes, but hoped to, one day), and no wonder that no bridge could ever be built across the mighty Zambezi. So fierce a body of water, so wide, that the humans from one riverbank could not even wave to the humans living on the opposite shore.

Why Rhino is Grumpy and Hippo is Mad at Hare. sunet over Zambezi River
Sunset over Zambezi River – It must have been the Nyami Nyami, Rabit was sure, the great spirit of the Zambezi River that kept all his natives safe

Well, Rabbit sniggered, they got what they deserved for intruding into the Zambezi habitat. And, goody, he also got what he deserved, smiled Rabbit, wondering if he should choose the carrots or the lettuce that morning. Perhaps the sweet, gold corn?

Annoyed with having to make up his mind, Rabbit looked towards the riverbank in search of something to amuse himself with. That’s when he spotted Hippo’s shiny head and tiny ears sticking out of the dark waters.

‘Hippo-Ho,’ called Rabbit, ‘Hippo-Ho, you munch, munch, munch on grass all day long, yet you say you’re mighty and strong,’ he said and flexed his arm in the direction of the river. ‘Look at little me, I eat three, three types of veggies. I must be, I know I am stronger than thee!’

But Hippo didn’t move, he didn’t even turn his ears – away from Rabbit, you know, as to not hear. Hippo chose to ignore Rabbit altogether.

Yet Rabbit, stubborn like any long-eared creature, kept pestering Hippo, voicing his tirade again and again till Hippo – finally – snorted in reply. ‘I heard you the first time. You’re as annoying as an itch, Rabbit. What will I have to do to have some peace and quiet?’

Rabbit revealed his long front teeth in their entire splendor, his smile even catching one of the last rays of the setting sun. ‘Why, join me in a tug-of-war,’ he called, then thumped and bounced on the spot, his long ears flapping up and down, his fluffy tail quivering.

The sky was still blue behind Rabbit’s burrow, but had turned orange on the river’s far bank, signaling Hippo it was time for food. Before heading along the river bank where he knew a spot with sweet grass, and not wanting Rabbit to follow and learn his secret pantry, Hippo threw over his shoulder, ‘Name the place, Rabbit. You’ve got yourself a tug-of-war,’ then snorted, considering it a task as easy as winking.

Why Rhino is Grumpy and Hippo is Mad at Hare. The sky was still blue behind Rabbit’s burrow, but had turned orange on the river’s far bank, signaling Hippo it was time for food.
The sky was still blue behind Rabbit’s burrow, but had turned orange on the river’s far bank, signaling Hippo it was time for food.

‘By the ants’ mound,’ Rabbit’s voice trailed across the quiet bank. At this Hippo grunted, looked behind at the mound, then ahead towards his secret, sweet patch of grass that appeared to be waiting for him, still full of the day’s sun. Hippo’s mouth watered, his huge belly growled, while evening’s long shadows didn’t help either, making the distance appear that much bigger.

Rabbit, which had heard the growl, said ‘but wait, let me save you the trouble by tying this rope around your ankle. I’ll run to the hill, the half-way mark, and after I jump behind it I’ll shout PULL! – and we’ll commence.’

Done, and Rabbit’s smile grew even bigger as he rubbed his front paws, the rope coiled around his forearm. It was the same rope he had found near the carrot patch and took to his burrow, thinking nothing of it.

A flock of Egyptian geese flew overhead, shadows against a red sky, and their pecking calls sounded like laughter to Rabbit’s ears. When their calls became but a whisper in the night’s breeze Rabbit stood in front of the ants’ mound, as round as Hippo’s back but with a pointy peak in the middle, twice the height, His ears picked up the hissing of the army inside, but also something else, a soft rumble behind it.

‘Yes,’ smiled Rabbit again… (part two coming tomorrow).

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

Huberta the Hippo: Amazing Adventures of a Happy River Horse

From the Land of the Zulu it is said
That a hippo, once, began to migrate.
“Wait a minute,” I hear you say,
“Birds migrate, hippos wallow, in the water snort and play.
How can a hippo from the Land of the Zulu suddenly migrate? Leaped? Flew?”

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Discover more stories about African animals on my blog here.