most of us, the memory of a story told before bedtime
is like a warm glass of milk - soothing, comforting, savored.
Amy Friedman and Jillian Gilliland give us a children's
classic or original story every week, accompanied by a
captivating illustration that can launch the imagination.
TRICK (a tale from Sierra Leone)
TRICK (a tale from Sierra Leone)
adapted by Amy Friedman and illustrated
by Jillian Gilliland
ago a terrible famine struck the villages of Africa, and
everyone was starving -- even the animals. The king of
the beasts, Lion, tried to feed his fellow animals, but
before long he could find no food anywhere. So Lion King
called a meeting of the firstborn children.
so sorry for us all," Lion began as he looked around at
all the animals. "I'm afraid, though, I have discovered
only one solution to our troubles."
animals listened closely, for Lion's voice was loud and
commanding, and they believed he would solve their problem.
have talked to the lion kings in other villages, and they
have told me our trouble is that our Old Ones are greedy.
They are too weak and old to search for food, but when
we bring home food to eat, they snatch it away. The Old
Ones will lead us to starvation. We must chase them away."
animals listened and nodded. They all did, that is, but
Rabbit. "The Old Ones have nowhere to go!" he cried, thinking
fondly of his mother and father who had always cared for
him and were careful to conserve their food. "If we chase
them away, the beasts who walk on two legs will destroy
other animals gasped when they heard Rabbit's words. No
one spoke to Lion that way. No one dared disagree with
do you propose we do?" Lion asked Rabbit. "If we let the
Old Ones stay here, we all will die."
right!" the other animals shouted. "We don't want to lose
our lives for the sake of the Old Ones."
Lion said, waving his stately tail, "I cannot bear to
see you die. Everyone must go home tonight and chase the
Old Ones away. Send them away to save yourselves!"
Rabbit tried to speak, but the other animals shushed him
and hurried to their homes to chase away their mothers
and fathers and grandparents.
Rabbit was cunning and brave, and so, instead of chasing
away his old parents, he took them and their supply of
food to the top of a tall tree. There he hid them from
the others' view.
next morning Rabbit joined the other animals to hunt for
food. But there was little food to be found.
the evening Rabbit returned to the tree and sang to his
parents. "Send rope, Mama and Papa, send rope down."
parents sent down a strong rope from their perch, and
Rabbit caught hold of its end. Then they drew him up,
and they fed him from the food they had carefully saved
through the year.
passed in this way. Each day the animals grew thinner
and thinner. Everyone did, that is, but Rabbit, for every
night his parents hauled him to the top of the tree and
fed him from their stores.
long the other animals grew suspicious. "Rabbit does not
seem to be withering away like the rest of us," they whispered.
They decided to follow Rabbit home that night.
and Rat and Monkey and Frog secretly followed Rabbit.
When they saw him standing beneath the tree, they waited
patiently. And then they heard his song. "Send rope, Mama
and Papa, send rope down."
watched as the rope descended and pulled Rabbit up into
the tree. They hurried to their homes and reported their
news to the others.
need food," the others said. "We'll all go get a meal
from Mother Rabbit."
so, the next day, just before Rabbit prepared to head
home, all the other animals gathered beneath the tall
tree. Frog, imitating Rabbit's voice, began to sing. "Send
rope, Mama and Papa, send rope down."
came the rope, and Frog grabbed hold of it. Then Tortoise
took hold, and so did Rat and Goat and Monkey and Lion.
Last of all, Baboon took hold.
Rabbit began to pull, but the rope was so heavy, she could
barely move it. "Pull rope, Mama and Papa," Frog called.
Mother Rabbit pulled, and Father Rabbit pulled with her,
but the rope was so very heavy, they could not lift the
animals more than a few inches.
Rabbit arrived at the tree and saw all the animals hanging
from his parents' rope, he sang as loudly as he could.
"Cut rope, Mama and Papa, cut rope now!"
Rabbit cut the rope at once. All the animals fell into
a heap, with Baboon at the very bottom. When they picked
themselves up, poor Baboon discovered that the long, full
hair that had covered his seat was sticking to the tree
sap on the rock where he had fallen. From that day on,
Baboon's seat has been bare and pink.
long after, the rains finally came, and again there was
food for all. But whenever the other animals saw Baboon's
seat, they remembered the way they had chased their Old
Ones away, and they wept for their loss. And they also
remembered Rabbit's loyalty and cunning.