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.

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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

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

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.

7 Replies to “Die Reusagtige Olifant, The Giant Elephant and the Rain”

  1. I really like those cute, little stories of animals. I just can’t wait to read about the Crow. And about the Snake who lost its legs. 🙂

  2. Thank you so much foe letting e know, Maretha. So glad to hear it.
    Oh, I rather like Matriarch too 😉

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