Bear And Travelers, A Killer Fable On Bare Friendship

Bear And Travelers, A Killer Fable On Bare Friendship

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.

Bear And Travelers, A Killer Fable On Bare Friendship

‘Grrrr!’

And louder.

‘Grrrrrr!!’

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.’

Moral of the story:

Mishap is the test of true friendship.

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.

Read more fables and animal stories on my blog here.

Table Mountain and the Legend of the Querulous Giant who Blasted the Cape Sea Route Free

Table Mountain Cape Sea Route

For nearly four centuries the Giant of Table Mountain watched over the only Cape Sea Route connecting the Mediterranean Sea, past Cape Town, South Africa, with the Indian Ocean.

Table Mountain and the Legend of the Querulous Giant Adamastor

Ancient Greece was not only a time where culture and philosophy flourished but a time of great tales too. Such were the Greek Myths, stories about gods, goddesses, and their daily rituals. According to the ancient Greeks, Uranus, meaning sky or heaven, was their greatest god, and his wife was Gaea, or Gaia, meaning land, or earth. Uranus and Gaia had many children, some being the twelve Titans who ruled the earth. One of the Titans was Cronus, who later fathered Zeus…

Zeus, eventually, with the aid of two of his brothers, Poseidon and Hades, won the war against the Titans – which were rather tyrannical uncles – and banished them to three places around the world. One such place was the dark and gloomy underworld of Tartarus. The second place was a British Island in the far west, probably the Outer Hebrides, or the Island of Strangers, or even Western Isles, in Scotland. The third place, where poor, old Adamastor was imprisoned, was situated at the southern end of the world,  at Table Mountain.

Although… Adamastor appears to be a mythological character created much later, and by the Portuguese poet Luís Vaz de Camões who lived in the 16th century and is, to this day, considered the Portuguese language’s greatest poet. Still, let’s hear his account as it explains superbly how the Cape of Storms, or Cape of Good Hope, near the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula (located in today’s Western Cape province of South Africa), received its name.

So, back to Adamastor, restricted under Table Mountain…

After a few hundred years of being locked away Adamastor was feelings rather bored. There he was, a strong giant once leading a busy life, now confined to a small stony place covered with shrubs and fynbos… not even mighty trees! So Adamastor, to give some purpose to his days, decided to take action and do something good: protect! Yet guard not only the area where he’s been locked up but the entire continent of Africa.

Table Mountain Cape Sea Route, Departure of fleet from Lisbon harbor by Theodor de Bry, 1592
Departure of fleet from Lisbon harbor by Theodor de Bry, 1592

This was around the time when the Portuguese navigators first sailed along the west coast of Africa all the way down… and Adamastor saw them arriving, out of the corner of his eye. He grunted but said nothing, did nothing, just kept an eye on them as one would with naughty children. Waiting for the navigators to do something wrong, and knowing well that they will. The Portuguese sailed on; busy on their route that took them for the first time through these foreign seas, further south they floated, approaching the southernmost tip of Africa. Adamastor said nothing, again, but grunted, rumbled and crossed his arms, I am watching you, and a strong wind swelled the Atlantic Ocean. Still, the navigators kept sailing on, their sails swelling with the gale, their ships angled. When they eventually attempted to approach the land, for fresh water, fresh fruits and maybe some eggs too, Adamastor had had it. He coughed and he puffed so much, that the waters of the Atlantic AND the Indian Ocean swelled, especially along the line where they meet, by the southernmost tip of Africa.

So Bartolomeu Dias, the first Portuguese sailor to attempt sailing down the west coast of Africa, around its tip and up its east coast, towards India – to buy the precious spices (ginger, black pepper, nutmeg, clover – the great Bartolomeu Dias dared not sail further, but turned back his ships and set his compass to home.

It was but a few years later when another Portuguese navigator, Vasco da Gama, showed no fear. He had seen the storm approaching, so he thought, really hard, what he can do next. He weighed his options. Run for cover, or head out to open water for some sea room? If he ran for cover, the preferred choice, the danger lied in being caught in the storm closer to shore, with no room to maneuver or runoff. Smashed against the rocky shored he could end. But if he sailed away, towards the open ocean, he could very well sail towards the middle of the storm.

So when Adamastor raised the winds, Vasco da Gama lowered his sails. When Adamastor swelled the waves, da Gama kept speeding on, aiming for flat spots of sea between the giant breakers, all the time making sure he kept the land to his left, staying on his initial course of rounding the Cape.

Da Gama did a great battle with Adamastor. Storm after storm Adamastor threw at the Portuguese ships, terrifying the sailors who were already scared for they had reached the dreaded Cape of Storms and were nearing the place where Dias had given up. And although his sailors were ready to cut a deal bargain with Adamastor, Da Gama wanted to prove that he was not Dias, and he was not superstitious either.

Table Mountain Cape Sea Route, Cape Point, southernmost tip of Africa
Cape Point, southernmost tip of Africa, photo by Clayton Cardinalli, Unsplash

But Da Gama was clever, not only brave and stubborn. He promised Adamastor a better name for his southernmost rocky spot, one that will bring more visitors over, thus increasing Adamastor’s kingdom. He shall name it the Cape of Good Hope.

Finally, a deal was struck and Da Gama sailed past and reached India, thus establishing the first sailing route there from Europe, the Cape Sea Route. And Adamastor got his large kingdom, to protect.

The Cape Sea Route below Table Mountain after the Suez Canal opened

The Cape Sea Route was in high demand until 1869 when the opening of the Suez Canal provided a much shorter route from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean, thus rendering the long trip around Africa inefficient… Until the Ever Given cargo ship, a 400 meters long Megaship, got stuck in the Suez Canal due to strong winds (perhaps it was Adamastor?) and a sandstorm and blocked the Suez Canal in Egypt, when it ran aground diagonally on March 23rd 2021.

Etymology: The name Adamastor is an adaptation in Portuguese of the Greek word for “Untamed” or “Untameable” (Adamastos) (which the Portuguese did tame eventually).

Fynbos, a small belt of natural shrub-land or heath-land vegetation located in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa.

I hope you enjoyed my tale about Table Mountain and the Legend of the Querulous Giant who Blasted the Cape Sea Route Free.

Discover more legends and read about Cape Town and about a beloved Great Dane, the first dog to be enlisted in the Royal Navy during World War Two, in my book Joyful Trouble (available as an eBook, paperback, large print and hardcover).

Joyful Trouble, military dog WW2 novel

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.

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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