Why a Traveler Better be Watchful Near Apes

Ever found yourself a traveler in the land of apes? We found ourselves in a different kind of primate land once, holidaying in Durban, on the KwaZulu-Natal coast of the Indian Ocean. We were enjoying the ocean’s breeze coming through the open balcony door when with it in jumped a monkey! Bouncing from the neighboring tree onto the balcony ledge, then into the living room and up on the kitchen island where she picked her reward, a bunch of bananas!

Had she thanked us? I think she waved – her tail. Better the bananas than the car keys nearby…

I do enjoy a fable every now and then, more so now as a grownup than I did during my childhood. And surely, if I will ever visit the land of apes I will make sure to think before I speak.

And how interesting to notice that medieval kings and modern day dictators have so much in common with the characters from The Ape and the Travelers – a clever, timeless fable, teaching us the value of choosing one’s words wisely.

The Ape and the Travelers, a clever fable

Two travelers and friends, lucky them, wanderers through the world and sharing many passions yet so different in looks, for one was tall, and one was short, one was chatty, one was quiet, one lied all the time, and one who only spoke the truth… such two travelers arrived at the Land of Apes.

Should we follow them from the safety of our chairs?

Wishing to welcome the strange travelers but also to mend his people’s reputation (for it had reached the King’s right ear that his nation was labelled as cunning and…  hairy), wishing thus, as well as desiring to learn more about the foreigners, the Ape King, who was a rather curious king, invited the tourists over to his palace.

So, with great chatter all around and rather pushed than transported, the two travelers were soon brought before the King of the Apes, as the custom was in the Land of Apes.

The King sat on his monarchic throne made of banana tree stumps, with banana leaves overhead for shade, and a soft pillow made of banana leaves stuffed with dry grass (the previous pillow, made from banana peels, had turned bad rather quickly), while two young apes fanned him with great banana branches. In front of his throne were two stumps, rather short, for words had also reached the King of Apes that the two travelers, or at least one, was tall…

So, finally seated in front of the King the travelers were handed two coconut drinks and then were asked, before they could even take a sip, for their opinion of the King Ape, first, and of his subjects, of course.

Why a Traveler Better be Watchful Near Apes
Francesco Ungaro

The one tourist, the untruthful traveler, nearly choked on his drink as he rushed to speak first. Some of the droplets even landed on the King of Apes’ fur. Yet the King just squeezed his eyes and kept quiet. Waiting eagerly. The traveler, while remaining seated (someone even gasped at this in the back of the great hall), praised the primate sovereign saying how powerful and impressive he thought him to be as a ruler. And he praised his subjects too, the monkeys, saying how worthy they were of their amazing, unique leader (he emphasized).

The Ape King was simply delighted, he even looked taller as he sat on his high throne, and he ordered that a fine gift be offered to the first traveler.

Then, with a big smile on his round face, he turned towards the second traveler who was rather enjoying his drink. Not even paying attention to what was happening around him, nor to the gift bestowed upon his friend.

All the apes in the throne room stopped their chatter at once(for they were following their king’s gaze), curious as they were to hear what the second visitor had to say.

So they waited, while the second human slurped his drink. And the Ape King smiled, but took a deep breath to calm himself.

Finally, drink finished, it was the second voyager’s turn to speak. He glanced left, towards the primates seated on tree trunks, he glanced right, towards the ones watching from the trees, and then he looked ahead, at the Ape King who was smiling so sweetly. And he thought, he thought to himself that if his friend had benefited by telling such tall stories, such fibs, such lies, he would benefit more by simply telling the truth.

For it made sense to him.

So he stood, for although an ape he was still in the presence of a king, he stood, bowed, and said, loud and clear, that he thought the king to be a great ape, and all his subjects to be great apes too.

Why a Traveler Better be Watchful Near Apes
mwangi gatheca

Oh, what a chatter, what yelling, what banter exploded all around while the Ape King bounced, hooted, grunted, and screamed in rage. Then he ordered that the second traveler (who couldn’t tell what he did wrong) be taken away and locked up in a cage made of banana tree sticks, and situated high up in the canopy.

For All to see. And learn. What not to do.

Moral of this story

Think before you speak. There are times when choosing your words wisely and being more tactful is more valuable than what we say or don’t say. (I know, harder said than done).

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

Did you know? Monkeys and apes are not the same

The quickest way to tell the difference between a monkey and an ape is by the presence or absence of a tail. Almost all monkeys have tails; apes do not. Yet both monkeys and apes are primates.

A chimpanzee, baboon, or orangutan are all apes.
Mandrill or Rhesus are types of monkeys.
Apes are larger and much heavier than monkeys.

The Chimp and the Dog, Patricia Furstenberg

When two animals with different looks meet at a waterhole they don’t think twice about how different they are… in height, color, fur, shape of face or size of tummy… they become friends.
The Chimp and the Dog.

10 Replies to “Why a Traveler Better be Watchful Near Apes”

  1. So the second traveler erred because he didn’t praise the king more than his subjects? Well, maybe he should have told the truth all the way, that the king was a fool, that is. 🙂 I know! I know! My place is in a cage. 🙂

    1. I think he failed because he wasn’t speaking highly enough of his hosts. 😉
      You know, ‘you have a splendid living room’, ‘your children are impeccably dressed’, or ‘how sweet your tap water is.’ 😉

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