An African Folktale
A Mother Ostrich had two chicks that she adored and fussed over. Once when she was away gathering food, a lioness found her two chicks in the brush and carried them away to her den. She wasn’t interested in eating them for they were too little and too scrawny for that. She just wanted them as toys for her two playful cubs.
When she returned, Mother Os was quite upset to find her chicks gone. She looked all around the brush and called out to them but it was of no use. The chicks were not to be found. Imagine Ma Os’ distress when she noticed lion footprints around her home. She followed the tracks that led, quite naturally, to Ma Lion’s den. Even from afar, the mother bird saw the lioness and the lion cubs playing with her chicks.
“I am here to take back my chicks, Ma Lion!” said Ma Os.
“You must be joking! They are not your chicks- they are windup toys that I got for my cubs to play with,” said the lioness.
The poor mother ostrich began to weep. She did not know what to do. Hence, she decided to talk to other animals of the forest and seek their advice on how to save her chicks from the fierce lioness.
Ma Os called all animals in the jungle for a meeting. Zebras and cheetahs, gnus and baboons, deer and giraffes, birds and butterflies attended the meeting. They all agreed that the two cute chicks were not toys but Ma Os’ babies, but none had the courage to speak to Ma Lion. They shook their heads sadly, wished the ostrich good luck and went home.
Quite upset, the big bird went to Mother Elephant for help. If anybody could help, it would be she.
The old matriarch heard the ostrich’s tale of woe. She shook her head in anger.
“That’s not right! As King of Beasts, the lion should behave better than that. Don’t you worry! You will get your chicks!” promised the elephant. With that, she strode off to the lion’s den with a purpose.
At the entrance to the den were the cubs fast asleep in the warm sun. Mother Elephant picked up one of them with her trunk and said quite loudly for all to hear, “Ah! What a cute and cuddly toy for my son to play with. He is going to love this gift!”
Ma Lion came rushing out of her den. She hoped what she heard wasn’t true. But when she saw the pachyderm carrying off one of her cubs, she bounded after her and pleaded for her baby.
“Please return my baby to me. I love my cubs so much – as a mother you do understand, don’t you?”
The elephant stopped and looked at the lioness sternly. “Yes, I do understand a mother’s love for her babies. But do you understand that what Ma Ostrich is going through now?”
Shame-facedly, Ma lion took the ostrich chicks back to their mama; she even apologized for her insensitive behavior.
Of course, Mother Elephant returned the cub to the lioness and all was well once again in the jungle.
Published as part of a series titled ‘Folktales of the World (Retold) ’ in Deccan Herald, Student Edition, dt. March 8, 2013