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.
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.
‘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.
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