Bran Castle’s Unique Door Knocker and a Crocus Legend

Bran Castle's Unique Door Knocker and a Crocus Legend

There is a natural progression from the medieval Bran Castle with its unique brass door knocker in the shape of a queen’s head and the crocus legend.

Bran Castle’s Unique Door Knocker

The Bran Pass was long time one of the most important trade routs in Medieval times, between Asia, Moldavia, Wallachia, and further towards the Hungarian Kingdom and the West powers of Europe, and especially after the fall of Constantinople, after which the Ottoman Empire had full control over the Bosphorus strait, thus strangling in its unfaithful hand the sea trading of Venice and Genoa…

Bran Castle, a Unique Door Knocker, and crocus legend in Spring

Thus, the intent and the need arose for a fortress to be build, as the reinforcement of this geographic location was a necessity, military and economic. Military because the Bran Pass had the potential to also become an invasion route for the Turks, if ever they were to advance northward through the Carpathian Mountains…

As they did.

A deed was issued on 19 November 1377 by Louis the Great (or Louis the Hungarian, from the house of Anjou), and this deed gave the population of Brasov (then Corona) the rights to build a stone fortress at Bran: “of their own endeavors, and at their own expense.’ A rather important note, as it reinforces the local’s rights over their fortress.

The Anjou family was involved in the initial building of Corvin Castle, Transylvania.

Bran Castle's Unique Door Knocker and a Crocus Legend, Thursday Doors

A little over half a millennium later, on 1st December 1920, the people of Brasov donate the Bran Citadel to Queen Mary of Romania:

“We, the Town Council of Brasov… hereby unanimously decide in today’s festive meeting to bequeath to Her Majesty Queen Mary of Greater Romania the ancient castle of Bran, so laden with memories of our history.”

Queen Marie of Romania, also known as Marie of Edinburgh, was the daughter of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia. Thus, she was granddaughter of Queen Victoria and of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. Marie married Crown Prince Ferdinand of Romania, thus giving up her place in line at the Crown of Great Britain. She was ‘lovely, with sparkling blue eyes’, he was ‘shy but amiable’.

Build on a rocky cliff, Bran Castle is, and crocuses will naturally bloom nearby.

A Crocus Legend for Spring

(This is an edited extract from my second WIP, 36 806 words in today, and a great progress during the past weeks).

‘Once upon a time,’ he says, ‘one upon a time there lived two sisters. And they were kind as they were spirited, and beautiful as they were hard-working.’
All I can do is stare at his hand, at the Autumn Crocus in his hand. It blooms a smile… By its pale mauve petals with their white center I recognize the Violet Queen.
‘Were they two princesses?’ I say.
He sucks his breath. ‘Could be, but I think they were just two girls.’
‘Like me,’ I say.
‘Like you,’ his eyes say. ‘But their mother had died, and soon enough their father remarried. And the stepmother did not like the two sisters, not one bit. So,’ he added quickly, knowing that I will open my mouth and add to his story, ‘so, he sent the one of them away. Chased her away. In autumn. It wasn’t enough for the wicked step mother and,’ he added quickly again, ‘soon enough, the following spring, she chased the other sister away. Alas, the two girls never saw each other again, and missed one another so much. No matter how far they searched, how many people they asked, couldn’t find each other. After their timely death God turned His face towards them and transformed them both into flowers, crocuses. That bloom often in the same space, yet one in autumn,’ and his right hand slides forward, offering me the Autumn Crocus, and one in spring.’ His left hand surfaces. It holds a piece of parchment he must have taken from the printing press where he helps at night. It is folded and his gesture beckons me to open it. I do so gently, as one would unswaddle a baby. And I find a perfect Spring Crocus, its pale violet still intact, but translucent, preserved in its papery cloak. It appears to be sleeping. I dare not touch its petals, so thin they are.
‘So they can finally be together,’ he ends his story, ‘in death.’

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

thursday doors, 100 words story

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.

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Immortalis, the Immortal Căluşarii Dance, 100 words story

Immortalis, the Immortal Căluşarii Dance 100 words story

With Immortalis, the Immortal Căluşarii Dance we’ve reached the 4th century AD in our 100 words story posts along the historical timeline of Transylvania. Remember how it all began? Do you see the pattern?

A Paleolithic Murder in Transylvania
Behind the Cave Art of Transylvania
Conduct in a Neolithic Kingdom in Transylvania
Dacian Horses of Bronze Age
Echoes of a Battle, the Getae
Falx vs Gladius, Dáoi vs Romans
Greed, of the Roman Kind
Hope Has Multiple Faces

Immortalis, the Immortal

For each lad lost to Ielele, Fairies, ten wish to join Căluşarii, Stallions, in dance-battle.

The voiceless one, masked – goat and sun, death and rebirth – leads into the clearing drawing a sacred circle with his two-edged sword. In leap Căluşarii  as one, counter-clockwise, armed with sticks crossed over their bodies, red ribbons, garlic.

They pledge on their linden-poled flag then spring, their bodies twisted roots… float like leaves, bells ringing in the wind… climb their sticks… pounce across, hop, spin.
One drops dead.

They broke the spell like an earthenware jug crashing. The sick cured, Căluşarii  depart quietly.

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

Immortalis, the Immprtal Căluşarii Dance 100 words story - The voiceless one, masked - goat and sun, death and rebirth - leads into the clearing
The voiceless one, masked – goat and sun, death and rebirth – leads into the clearing

Immortalis, the Immortal – words, stories, and some history

Immortalis, immortale, immortal. (Oxford Latin Course, Balme & Morwood)

Căluşarii  and their dance goes back as far as the Thracians and Dacians. Was those a more peaceful time? I hope so, as the rituals developed then and involving important life stages have survived and have reached us.

Men, and by this I mean the male gender, were willingly involved in dancing ritual even before Mr Darcy’s (in)famous words:

[Dance] “has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world; every savage can dance.”

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

The Spartans, for once, had their pyrrhike (having its roots apparently in the exultant victory dance performed by Pyrrhus, Achilles’ son, after killing their opponent’s leader. Dancing stayed with the Greek soldiers for centuries, part of their military training, until combat rules changed and only Sparta kept the tradition alive.

Yet Greek philosopher and historian Xenophon describes in his work Anabasis (The March into the Interior – the interior land beyond the Black Sea), a Thracian war dance he witnessed. The Thracians danced to the sound and rhythm of the reed pipe.

Reed pipes stuck with resin later became the panpipes, a Romanian national musical instrument.

For me, I will never forget the Haka, the ceremonial challenge-dance of the Māori culture as it is still performed by the New Zealand sports teams before international challenges.

Back to Romanian Căluşarii  and their dance, its tradition rises from Dacian times and it still holds its pagan essence. Led by their great priest who would ask the gods for guidance, Căluşarii  would perform their ritualistic dance to fight off evil spirits, and heal the sick.

Immortalis, the Immortal Căluşarii Dance, 100 words story, Calusari dance Mures

Initially, Căluşarii  were a restrictive groups of odd numbered men, between 5 and 13, sworn to stay together in celibacy and to perform ritual dances during a period of three – seven – or nine years. Their leader was the only one to know all the secrets, some passed on orally, others taken to the grave. Căluşarii  were / are feared warriors who fight Ielele, magical maiden fairies who steal the spirit and the minds of all those men who happen to see them in the forest. Ielele only dance on the night of Rusalii or the Descent of the Holly Spirit (Pentecost). Rusallile go back to the Roman celebration of Rosalia, the day of the roses, dedicated to worshiping the dead and bringing them food and roses.

Why Căluşari? Cal in Romanian language means horse, perceived as a fantastic creature. Horse, cal, symbolizes heat, warmth, summer, it even aids the sun climb atop the sky every day. As is the head of a horse, sculpted in wood, seen as a protective, positive symbol. Therefore Căluşarii are divine stallions.

horse head woodcraft positive symbol
horse head, crafted wood, seen as a positive symbol

The dance Căluşarii  perform imitates the horse’s walk, canter, and gallop, but also the rider’s jump on the horse’s back, as well the limb walk of a horse without shoe-horses. Over 100 dances, all performed to become as strong and agile as a horse, thus receiving a stallion’s divine powers and fight off evil spirits.

The costumes worn by the Căluşarii  is filled with symbology. Made of white linen with stitching to depict the geographical area they belong to, it is decorated with colorful sticks stuck in their belt to form a cross, for protection. Hand made hankies (gifted by women and girls for their own protection and fortune in the year ahead), silver spurs and bells, a leather harness complete the look while their hats have tassels and colored ribbons, white and red -sacred Dacian colors.

Calusarii dance, Hunedoara

The most important instrument is their flag, a three to ten meters long linden (oak or hazelnut) stick topped with a white cloth decorated with white-red ribbons, garlic, wormwood, wheat and salt.

There is a wealth of information and symbology behind Căluşarii, their dance still performed all across Romania. Know that since 2005 Căluşarii  are par of the UNESCO Heritage.

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The Braveheart who Freed the Sun, 1st of March, 1 Martie Mărțișor

The Braveheart who Freed the Sun, 1 March, Martie Martisor

The Braveheart who Freed the Sun on 1st of March is a story lesser known about the symbolism behind the red and white ribbon of 1 Martie, the Mărțișor in Romania.

The Braveheart who Freed the Sun

It was the way it’s always been, the way his father honored the tradition, as did his father before him. No questions asked. It was a ritual that required to be fulfilled because it made the world turn around. And it went like this.

Day after day, from the height of its balcony in the sky, Sun poured its life-giving light onto the earth. Day after day he witnessed rainbows smiling over streams, birds joining in song, and flowers blooming everywhere. Yet he couldn’t touch any, couldn’t hear their song, and couldn’t even smell the flowers. His own work and he couldn’t enjoy it.

Yet it’s always been like this. It was tradition.

Until one day when Sun crossed his arms – and they were strong, passionate arms. As he did so, more energy roamed through his body, and more fire and light his presence radiated… One day Sun crossed his arms and made up his mind.

The Braveheart who Freed the Sun, 1 st of March, 1 Martie, Mărțișor
The Braveheart who Freed the Sun, 1 st of March, 1 Martie, Mărțișor

He will touch the rainbow, splash in the rivers, and smell the flowers. Just once.

So he turned himself, changed himself, just like that, using only a wink of its energy, into a girl. A beautiful girl, for everything Sun created, was beautiful. And the girl could splash into the streams, smell the flowers, and chase the rainbows. She was very happy. And very beautiful, so beautiful that she caught the eye of a few young men.

One of them especially thought more of himself than the others. He was taller too, much taller than most young men. The earth shook when he walked, for he was that strongly built, and nobody dared cross him, or cross his way, for he had claws where his fingers ended, he breathed out fire when he was angry, and whenever he swiped his tail left and right to prove a point, nothing was left standing. He was Dragon, Zmeu. And Dragon took the beautiful maiden who frolicked in the waters, had garlands of flowers in her hair and over her bosom, and chased rainbows. He took her because he liked her. Yet people said, whispered in dark corners, that he stole her, he kidnapped her. For she never agreed.
But did Dragon cared? No.

People saw everything, heard it all, but not knowing the young girl and fearing Dragon did nothing. They went on with their lives as if nothing happened. Burdened enough as they were by the fact that the sun would not come up.

All but one. A Braveheart, a Voinic, a young lad, shorter than the average, true, but one who saw, and did, and thought, and acted. A foolish lad, some would say. The same ones for whom the grapes were sour if they could not reach them.

Braveheart chased after Dragon and, eventually, much later than expected for he did not know where Dragon lived and had only the tracks left behind to read, follow only the broken flower heads streaming the way, and pay attention only to the tell-tale signs of burned bushes and destroyed structures, later, much later, he reached the Dragon’s lair. Outside the gate, Braveheart almost missed the last flower, almost burned to a crisp, the last whisper to tell him that he was in the right place. Where no one else wanted to be.

By now it was pitch dark for the sun was still not shining, and all humans were mourning, their wailing having replaced the song of birds and the singing of streams. The children even forgot their games, and even how to be happy, for no one was cheerful around them anymore, to show them how to smile.

The Braveheart who Freed the Sun, 1 st of March, 1 Martie, Mărțișor, Wooden carved door at Bran Castle

 It took Braveheart a lot of knocking in the Dragon’s door, and calling, till Dragon showed up, and he would have burned Braveheart with his angry, fiery breath if it wasn’t for the lad’s quick instincts. Or perhaps it’s been the stench that warned him of the beast’s sudden arrival.

On hearing why the human bothered him, and such a puny specimen even, to ask him to release the beautiful maiden, Dragon laughed, sure of himself, and accepted the lad’s call to a fair fight.

The fight was short, a sword against a claw, a good heart against a wicked one, an honest mind against a twisted one, and surprisingly (but not to me and I hope that not to you either) Braveheart won. The maiden was released and she ran back into the sky, almost instantly (had she thanked her saviour? We do not know…) turning herself into the Sun again, appalled with the human’s egoism.

And the Sun shone again, the humans were happy again, children played once more, flowers bloomed, rainbows formed bridges, and birds flew underneath ad over them. All was as before, except for Braveheart who never recovered from the fight, and no one searched for.

During the time that Sun had turned himself into a maiden, and darkness had covered earth, snow fell too. Now with the Sun shining again, snow started to melt. In a spot near the Dragon’s lair, where Braveheart fell without being able to get up again – and nobody came to his rescue or care – Snowdrops lifted their heads from underneath the icy snow. And nearby, still bright red was Braveheart’s blood that he lost in battle.

The Braveheart who Freed the Sun, 1 st of March, 1 Martie, Mărțișor
The Braveheart who Freed the Sun, 1 st of March, 1 Martie, Mărțișor

News of his help in bringing the Sun back up on the sky spread slowly. At first, few believed, some even said it was but a legend, a bedtime story. Eventually, humans, feeling guilty for not having come to the lad’s rescue, thought of bringing at least a small homage to Braveheart. So they tied together two flowers, one white, to symbolize spring and rebirth, a new chance for humankind, and one red in remembrance of the lad’s sacrifice, and of his love for freedom and a fair chance in life for everyone.

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

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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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