First Snow and Saint Nicholas for Thursday Doors

First Snow and Saint Nicholas for Thursday Doors, a short story

The first snow of December is winter’s first gift, coming from Saint Nicholas, yet not many know its significance. For that sneeze feeling you have in your nose before winter’s first coat falls, that’s just Saint Nicholas’ beard tickling your cheek.

At the beginning of December, the flakes spiral and dance to the ground the same way Saint Nicholas’ white beard floats behind him as he strides along the road. Each winter since that first one, almost two thousand years ago.

But don’t look out for his arrival for you won’t see him on the road. Cladded in a brown cassock, with white hair framing his silhouette like a cloud, and his silvery beard thrown over his shoulder – so he won’t tread on it – Saint Nicholas’ figure is more like that of a majestic tree than of a man. In his right hand, he holds a stick, a branch of an apple tree, and over his left shoulder, he balances a bundle. It isn’t a big sack like some would expect, rather a modest one, well used, and almost hidden by his snowy mane.

What got him going in the first place? What keeps him on the road still? Some say it is his love for God, for helping those in need. Some believe it is the joy he feels in his heart whenever he offers that much-needed contribution.

For the sum of all the joy that December’s first snow brings to all, is equal to the joy that swells Saint Nicholas’ heart when he strides forward one more year, and makes it snow, a sure tell-tell sign of his impending arrival.

A medieval door to the Church on the Hill in Sighisoara
A medieval door to the Church on the Hill in Sighisoara

The white stone arches of the maritime city of Patara, in Lycia, have long been reduced to ruins, and its once busy harbor is now but a white beach. But once, during the 3rd century, this town founded by none other but the son of Apollo, the god of archery, truth, and healing, was a known harbor at the Mediterranean Sea, and along the trading routes going through Asia Minor. It is said that even Paul and Luke changed ships here.

Saint Nicholas first walked this earth here, in Patara, before settling in the nearby city of Myra. He was fortunate to be born in a wealthy family so he could enjoy a formal education. During those times only upper-class males had such rights. Yet all young Nicholas wanted to do was to learn about God and aid those less fortunate. And helping them he did, for after the timeous death of his parents, he shared his wealth with the poor.

And he did so in a very peculiar way, for he was a rather shy young man who preferred to observe, rather than judge, and to act quietly, rather than boast.

A medieval Thursday Door – The Church from Hill Cemetery, Sighisoara

Night after night Nicholas donned a brown cassock and tiptoed around his town, secretly delivering food and gold coins to those families he knew were in dire need.

One such family was that of a widower who had three hard-working daughters, yet they were too poor to even get married for their father had no money to pay for their dowry. Unable to do much work outside the home to provide for themselves as women were not even considered fit for labor, a harsh life, of poverty and uncertainty, was foreseen for his three girls.

It was the coldest winter they’ve ever known, and the wise men of Patra were whispering it was God’s wrath that had fallen over their village, for people had turned away from one another. Work was scarce, food had become a sweet dream, and even wood for fire was a dear sight.

They had never heard such howling, as if not one, but a clutter of lynxes found refuge outside the city gates.

They had never seen such a snow bridge extending the land far into a still sea now, and narrowing the strait to a choke, freezing all activity in the harbor.

They had never smelled so many different kinds of fire, for the people of Patra having run out of the usual amount of wood stacked for winter, had resourced to burning rags, leaves, even old trash to keep warm.

Medieval Sighisoara in winter - Imagine 164 houses and thirteen public buildings up on a hill, within the protective walls of a fortress. Tall or short, stone or wood, depending on the wealth of their owners, the houses have one floor, some two. But not more.
Medieval Sighisoara in winter – Imagine nearly 200 houses within the protective walls of a fortress. Tall or short, stone or wood, the houses have one floor, some two. But not more.

One such night, all that the widower’s family of four had left for dinner were four potatoes they cooked over the shadow of a fire. When dinner was ready the father asked the oldest daughter to take his cooked potato along with some sticks and deliver them to their neighbor, a lonely woman. Nobody saw the young girl rushing through the still village in that icy dark, nobody but a man dressed in a long cassock. He saw the girl’s good deed and the smile that grew on his face was the strength that kept him going forward that night.

 For he too was a lone visitor in that arctic darkness, moving silently from one needy shelter to the next.

One year passed and it was time for the oldest daughter to marry, yet both she and her father knew it will not happen for they were, each day, poorer than the day before. And winter had come again.

Except that one morning when they woke up the father and his three daughters found a pouch with gold coins outside their front door. They were merry of the unexpected gift, they shared some of it with their needy neighbors, and it was still enough left for the eldest daughter to marry.

But where did the money came from? The father would have like to know.

But we know, don’t we?

One more year passed and the time came for the second daughter to marry. Yet money was scarce again. Until one early morning, when another pouch with gold coins was discovered outside their home. Merry were they, a happy wedding happened and two neighbors were aided this time.

But where did the money had come from, again? The girl’s father promised himself to find out.

Thursday Doors - Sighisoara in winter
Sighisoara in winter

Although we do know, don’t we?

So when one more year passed and winter gripped the village once more, the girl’s father hid outside his home, pulling his cloak tight around him, thin protection against winter’s sharp bite, his hood lowered against the gale, seeking shelter behind their only olive tree. Waiting, more eager to discover the identity of their benefactor than he was worried that chills will take shelter in his old bones. And just as Nicholas approached the poor man’s house the father stepped out of the shadow. Nicholas of Myra took a step backward and threw the pouch through the window, thus it landing in a shoe, then ran. He wished more than anything for his gesture to remain anonymous. The girl’s father only caught sight of a man dressed in a common cassock, departing in a hurry. So he followed him and thus he witnessed more good deeds.

And that winter night the old man felt less and less the bite of the arctic wind, the warm blanket of hope and gratitude settling on his skinny shoulders.

 And he even caught sight of their benefactor’s face. A young man, whose eyes spread such wisdom and love, as only the city’s elders’ did. A man who shed a tear outside each needy household, yet smiled after leaving the gift behind.  A man whose shoulders hunched more and more upon leaving each establishment, as if for each gift he left behind he chose to take away some of the troubles, the worries, the pain hanging over each family.

Thursday Doors - Sighisoara in winter

It was the night between the 5th and the 6th of December, a date the poor man’s family will always remember, a date that remained in folktales and is celebrated by Christians as the night of Saint Nicholas, Moș Nicolae.

I remember, as a child, cleaning my shoes and placing them by the window, hoping that Saint Nicholas will leave an orange and a few chocolates in them. The hope of being remembered. Small joys for a small child, apart for winter’s first snow.

Some say that if they’ve been naughty they found a small wand made from the wood of an apple tree. Maybe even torn from Saint Nicholas’ staff. It is said that if it blooms when placed in water is sure sign that Saint Nicholas forgave all their naughty deeds and that he smiles again.

How Does Snow Smells Like?

And not only the first snow, but the way the air smells around that first snow. Clean and fresh, soft, as if it’s just been washed, although it hasn’t. Isn’t it? I write from memories.

To me, snow smells of pine trees, woody, of open spaces, of holiday, of promises and of hopes. It smells as if anything ~ good ~ is possible, and as if dreams do come true. First snow smells like that.

I know that the frozen air has the opposite effect on the human olfactory system, and that we actually have less chances of smelling when it is cold outside because the mucus inside our nostrils dries up, so less particles reach the nerve receptors in our noses. Yet I do solemnly swear that I can smell the first snow and that I can smell the change in the air, before it first snows.

And I know that the air is supposed to be extra ionized when it snows, as it hold more moisture. Add it is a drop in temperature and a decrease in air pressure that makes it snows. Yet isn’t it more to that first snow than science?

For there is a change in the air before it snows. Some call it happiness or anticipation. For others it is the emotional charge of childhood.

***

🙂 For Dan’s Thursday Doors blog feature over at No Facilities– do visit and participate by creating your own blog post celebrating a world of doors. 🙂

I’ll leave you with a face in a door:

Sighisoara, Faces in Doors, Thursday Doors

Die Reusagtige Olifant, The Giant Elephant and the Rain

Die Reusagtige Olifant, The Giant Elephant and the Rain

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

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

Die Reusagtige Olifant


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

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

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

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

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

Die olifant kan allerhande toertjies geleer word.

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

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

The Elephant

Die Reusagtige Olifant, The Giant Elephant and the Rain
A matriarch and two elephant calves by a water hole. Photo by Matthew Bradford, Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Giant Elephant and the Rain, a Folktale Retold

A herd of elephants splashing by a water hole. Mist in black and white..Die Reusagtige Olifant, The Giant Elephant and the Rain
A herd of elephants splashing by a water hole. Mist in black and white. Photo by Richard Jacobs, Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Die Reusagtige Olifant, The Giant Elephant and the Rain. A bull elephant against stormy clouds. Photo by Geran de Klerk, Unsplash
A bull elephant against stormy clouds. Photo by Geran de Klerk, Unspla. Photo by Geran de Klerk, Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As retold by Patricia Furstenberg, after a Bushman story

More elephant stories:

The Elephant and the Sheep

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

die Olifant en die Skaap

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

Die Onooglike Vlakvark and Why the Warthog is on his Knees

Die Onooglike Vlakvark and Why the Warthog is on his Knees

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

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

Die Onooglike Vlakvark

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

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

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

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

Die Onooglike Vlakvark and Why the Warthog is on his Knees

The Strange-Looking Warthog

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

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

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

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

a white warthog

Why the Warthog is on his Knees

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

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

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

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

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

a warthog asking a question and a story
a warthog asking a question and for a story

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

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

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

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

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

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

multicultural kids books

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

Kinda Pink, Poetry Like a Puppy’s Tongue

Kinda pink rose poetry

Enjoy reading this kinda pink, humorous poetry just like a puppy’s tongue. I do hope it will please most dog and nature lovers too, as it is accompanied by square photos of pink roses we are lucky to enjoy in our garden.

“I hear children laughing in the yard today,

I hear puppy barking, I hear a horse’s neigh.

The chickens are peeping, “all is good!

“It’s a birthday party; we’ll get bits of food.”

And puppy’s tail wiggles;

He sees IT… It is loose!

It’s oval, it bounces, it floats away,

It’s pink like his tongue, it wants to play!”

pink rose like a puppy's tongue and a poem

“I’m coming!” barks pup and off he goes.

Down the hill the pink shape flows

And puppy follows suit. It’s just within his reach,

Just above his nose.

As pink as a rose, yet as light as snow,

While puppy’s paws drum on the ground below.

Floating shape and furry dog, they’re one with the day,

It’s summer, I hear a donkey bray, “let’s play!”

“I’ll catch you! Just wait!”

And puppy jumps once more.

“Whoosh!” blew the wind, just as pup’s mouth came near,

And up flew the pink ball, as fast as a spear.

While puppy lands with a loud “splash”

Right in the pond, in the green, slimy marsh.”

“A drippy, green form comes out.

Where is pup?

The green form just drips, his ears lay low,

He stands on his feet, yet his heart sinks below…

The green form sighs twice, then looks up at the sky

Where the pink balloon flies away, its tail saying “bye-bye.”

And puppy whimpers.

And sneezes, once.

The children still play, up on the hill, all the way up.

How will he climb all the way back? He’s but a pup.

“Come here, you silly boy,” Mom picks him up;

She’s got a blanket; she gets him all cleaned up.

“The balloon might fly up with the wind,

But I’ve got my Mom to cuddle with.”

As Good as Gold, poetry for dog lovers

The above poem is titles As Pink As a Puppy’s Tongue and is an extract from my poetry book for dog lovers (and not only) As Good As Gold.

Squarres Photography

Kinda Pink, Poetry Like a Puppy’s Tongue is a contribution to Becky’s incredible October Squares #KindaSquare blog feature.

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

Die Fennek of Woestynjakkals, Jackal

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

Die Fennek of Woestynjakkals, babadiertjies van Afrika

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Charl Durand, Unsplash)

The Fennec or Desert Jackal, baby animals from Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy Geran de Klerk, Unsplash)

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

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

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

Something that shouldn’t have been there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lion stopped, an eyebrow lifted. Annoyance? Surprise?

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

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

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

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

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

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

And with that he sprang out of sight.

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

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

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

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

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

multicultural kids books

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

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