Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

May 27, 2012

How the Baboons Hunted the Leopard

(Note: I've been reading several compilations of folktales and fairy stories, so I thought it would be fun to try writing a few myself.  It seems like a good way to practice writing stories that are a.) short, and b.) are focused more on plot than style.)

Now, it happened once that on the edge of the savannah there was a very beautiful leopard.  Her fur was brighter than gold, her spots blacker than obsidian, and her teeth and claws like polished ivory.  Her eyes, like citrines, glowed with cunning and ferocity.  She hunted as and when she would and when she dragged away the young, tender zebra or water buffalo, the elders of the herd would sigh and say, "well, that is life on the savannah" and go about their grazing.  The tribes of jackals and hyenas would gaze longingly on the tall trees where she stuffed her many kills, but they never attempted to trouble the leopard or interfere with her business.

Now, it also happened that a tribe of baboons arrived and decided to settle on this part of the savannah.  They were a large and prosperous tribe because their ancient grandfather was wise and cunning and always led them to the best water, forage, and hunting.  They never suffered from the depredations of lions, jackals, or hyenas, for the wise grandfather was always alert and could present such a fearsome aspect, hooting and jumping and hurling stones and sticks, that even the fearsome she-lions would slink away.

The wise grandfather baboon was resting one day on his favorite rock, when up ran his great-great niece shrieking and hurling herself about in a frenzy.  "A leopard took my child!" she cried over and over in great distress.  The wise grandfather was enraged, for he had seen no leopard slinking across the savannah, and yet here it had stolen away with one of his relations.  He wasted no time, but ordered one of his women to groom the distressed mother.  Then he gathered the rest of the tribe and said, "we must hunt this leopard, so it will not steal any more of our children".  The tribe was silent, because even though the grandfather was old and wise, it did not seem possible that they could ever succeed in hunting a leopard. 

Straightaway, the grandfather set the tribe to digging a pit.  They dug and they dug, until the pit was as large as they could make it, and then they covered it over with tree branches and grasses until you could not tell that it was any different from any other part of the savannah.  Then the grandfather set his tribe to relaxing and playing, to wait for the leopard to return in search of a meal.

Sure enough, the next day, here came the leopard, stalking up so slow and so quiet that no one could see her until she was ready to pounce.  She lowered her head, and her tail lashed, and she sprang forward, only to fall right through the ground into a pit.  The baboons were delighted, and rushed to the side of the pit, only to see the leopard spring straight up and land back on the ground.  She was so disgusted that she grabbed two of the youngest baboons and instantly made off with them.

Now the whole tribe took to wailing and shrieking and cursing the leopard, who was too mighty to be caught in the largest pit they could dig.  One or two of them even made so bold as to curse the wise grandfather whose plan had failed.  So he pretended to fly into a rage, hooting and hurling stones and sticks and cuffing his relations until they obeyed him once again and fell silent.  He then sent the tribe to procure a great heavy log, which they propped up with a stick to create a deadfall.  Once again, the grandfather set the tribe to playing and relaxing, and here came the leopard to get another tasty morsel.  When she ran in, striking with her ivory claws and biting with her ivory teeth, the baboon tribe leaped up all in a panic, and one of them ran right into the propped-up log.  Crash! the log came hurtling down on top of the baboon tribe, squashing six of them in one moment.  The leopard took the advantage, seized three of their children, and made off with them.

The entire tribe of baboons now gave themselves over to hysteria, and no amount of cuffing or hooting from the grandfather could calm them.  At last, so outraged were they, that they attacked him with sticks and stones and drove him entirely from the camp.  Bruised and exhausted, he wandered all day and all night until he could go on no longer.  When he was just about to lay down and die, he realized that he was on the edge of a small pool, and thought that a drink of water might restore him.  But when he approached the pool, he realized that the leopard was lying overhead on a great branch, waiting for any incautious animal to approach.

"Well," the grandfather baboon said to the leopard, "it seems you are too clever for me.  If I don't get a drink I will die, but if I do, you will fall upon me and kill me."

"That is the way of the savannah," agreed the leopard.  "It was silly of you, the prey, to try to hunt me, the predator."

"Baboons are hunters, too," said the grandfather.

"Only of small, weak animals they can seize with their hands and beat to death.  You are not fit to hunt anything larger and more dangerous than yourself.  Just look at me.  Look at my sleek fur and muscles and ivory claws.  No creature with a crooked tail and pink bottom could ever defeat me."

"But you have a pink bottom, too," said the grandfather baboon.

"What?!" cried the leopard.  "I certainly do not!"

"Yes you do!  You must have gone bald behind while you weren't looking!"

The leopard craned her neck, trying to get a look at her own bottom, but it was useless.  She thrashed and writhed and made such a fuss that the branch she was lying on broke and she fell onto the rocks below, where she lay still, knocked senseless.  The grandfather seized on a rock and beat her head once, twice, three times.  Then he ran off and called for his tribe, and they tore the leopard into a thousand pieces.  

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