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.
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.
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.
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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