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Posts tagged ‘children’s stories’

A Rwandan Folk Tale

Excerpt from The Skin of Lions: Rwandan Folk Tales. Published at Angie’s Diary.

At one time, all of the children in this book lived on the streets of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Their parents died from the genocide in 1994 or from the AIDS pandemic. They have been given new life and hope at an orphanage called ROP Center for Street Children.

The stories from The Skin of Lions are taken from their personal experiences, traditional folk tales or unique creative imaginations. The children range in age from ten to nineteen and tell tales for all generations. They share their words from a thousand-year-old oral tradition and speak for all those that have been silenced.

The Skin of Lions by AHIKIRIJE Jean Bosco (Age 17)

There was a man, named Cambarantama, who looked after his sheep and cultivated his fields. One day, while he was looking after his sheep and leading them to the grasses, he found a small animal in the bush that had eaten some of his crops. When the man came back the next day, the same small creature had eaten more of his crops. He took the little animal back home and said, “I’m going to have to kill you for eating my crops.”

The small animal said, “Wait; please don’t eat me. Forgive me and I will not eat your crops any more.”

Cambarantama had a good heart, forgave the little animal and let him go.

On his way back to the shamba (field) the next day, Cambarantama was approached by a very big animal. The big animal told Cambarantama that he had to kill one of the sheep in the field and give it to him for his kettle. Cambarantama was scared and did as he was told. He went and killed one of his sheep and gave it to the big animal. This kept happening day after day.

One day, on his way to his shamba, Cambarantama met the little animal that he had forgiven. The little animal said, “I see that you have less and less sheep. What has happened?”

Cambarantama replied, “There is a big animal that comes every day and makes me give it one of my sheep. That is why you see so few that are left.”

The little animal he had saved said, “The next time that big animal comes I will be next to you, hidden in a bush. I will tell you what to say.”

READ END OF STORY AT ANGIE’S DIARY

GET YOUR COPY OF THE SKIN OF LIONS: RWANDAN FOLK TALES. Edited by Gabriel Constans.

Licking His Lips

Tale from children’s story collection Solar Girl and Lunar Boy by Gabriel Constans.

Licking His Lips

The ally was the surest way to get from here to there. I made my break out the screened back door and high-tailed it over the three-foot wooden fence. The dirt felt good on my feet. The air was clean and warm.

I heard Rebecca yelling, “Harvey! Harvey! Come back here!” I kept moving. I had to leave that suffocating box of neglect.

It had been raining for days. Today was the first letup in the downpour. My window of opportunity had opened. Parting clouds revealed a canopy of blue-skinned sky.

“Harvey! Har . . .” Her pleading voice merged with the outdoor symphony of untuned life. Some dogs a few houses down began barking furiously and rushed to the fence as I ran by. Their snouts pushed between the slats. They barred their teeth and growled. I smiled with fresh delight and kept on running. A compost of scents invaded my open nostrils. Flowers, weeds, car oil and rotting fruit filled the air with sweet and sour fragrances of paradox.

I walked across the street to the next alley and saw a large teenage boy on one of those little bikes; the ones they ride that are for someone half their age and look so ridiculous. As he got closer, I tried to relax and keep a steady gait. He rode by, as if I didn’t exist, then suddenly slammed on his brakes, did a broody in the gravel and came after me. I expected as much. I ran with surprising speed and left the gangly creature pumping away in useless pursuit.

Not thinking this way or that, I headed north or was it south? This freedom thing had a nice feel to it . . . no expectations, no parameters, no boundaries, fences, doors or control . . . a little dangerous now and then, but nothing too bad, at least not yet.

Turning left and stepping onto the sidewalk, I almost ran headfirst into a baby carriage. The woman pushing the thing looked OK. I tried to make small talk, be polite and all; but she kept on walking, looking into the big box on wheels with oblivious love and attention. Good thing really. It could have been disastrous. One slip or mispronunciation and the charade was over. Say the wrong thing or look cross-eyed and the next thing you know she’s making a federal case out of it. “What do you want?!” “Be quiet!” “Get lost!” You know how it goes. When all you ever hear is that kind of dribble, you learn to put a muzzle on it. But sometimes I just can’t contain myself. Everything builds up until it’s bouncing around inside like a firecracker and I’ve got to explode with a good shout or holler.

Somebody mowing their lawn turned the corner and went along the side of their stucco home. A calico cat looked out a big frame window in a trance, until it saw me and freaked. Thank God the power mower drowned out her screams.

Home after home; row after row; fence after fence. They all look alike – wooden garages, tin mailboxes, aluminum trashcans and metal cars. I was just another piece of furniture, another possession in her suburban, material world. Some used luggage to be stuffed with old knick-knacks and thrown in the garage for storage.

Sure, she’d feigned affection at first, they all do. It was shallow, temporary, a superficial semblance of real friendship. She didn’t need me, never did. I was one big nuisance. It hadn’t started like that. As a baby, I could do no wrong. She smothered me with affection. But the older I got, the more distant she became. By the time I was a young man, she didn’t know what to do with me. I told her again and again that I wanted her to stay home, but she never listened. I couldn’t take it anymore.

I didn’t realize I was crossing the highway until I heard one of those skids that send shivers through your spine. I saw the tire headed for my face and jumped out of the way without any time to lose. As I zigzagged to safety, I glanced down the street and saw the black and white moving slowly in my direction.

Cops!” I sneered. “How could she? I never hurt her.”

I took off around a small house, hopped the fence, ran through their garden, climbed under a railing and wound up next to someone’s garbage. I hadn’t eaten since early morning and could feel the saliva starting to ooze between my lips. Instinctively, I knocked off the lid and grabbed some leftover bread. It’s amazing what people will throw away – perfectly good food, just because of a little spot, a bruise or some other perceived imperfection. I wondered if she would have thrown me out someday, just like the garbage. I’m not perfect. I have my flaws. Who doesn’t?

“Hey! Get out of there! Get lost!” Someone screamed. I didn’t wait around to see where the sound was coming from. I took a big chunk out of the defective loaf and dashed around a hedge. I kept walking and swallowed hard, not knowing when or where I’d get my next meal. It didn’t seem like I’d been gone that long, but the air was getting chilly and the big, hot, warm, glowing thing in the sky was starting to melt into the ground.

The hair on the back of my neck started to bristle, as second-hand thoughts intruded upon my territorial sense of temporary emancipation. “Maybe it wasn’t that bad,” I questioned, as the sky grew darker and loneliness crept into my fur, like a pack of terrorist fleas.

As I meandered over some sharp gravel, which cut into my paws, I saw some houses that looked just like ones next to mine. I must have gotten turned around somewhere. The porches, front yards and walkways smelled oddly familiar.

Before I caught her scent downwind, Rebecca grabbed me from behind. She’d make a first class hunter if she didn’t have to walk so clumsily on her two back feet.

“Harvey. Where have you been?!” She picked me up and held me close, running her warm hands over my back and face. “You naughty boy! You had me worried sick.”

She didn’t act very sick. In fact, she looked happier than I’d seen her in a long time.

I put my head on her chest, licked her fleshy pink face and whispered, “It’s good to be home.” She probably just heard, “Bark, bark bark.” but hey, I meant it.

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Gato and Gakuru

Excerpt from The Skin of Lions: Rwandan Folk Tales (as told by the children at ROP Center for Street Children.

Gato and Gakuru
by NSHINIYIMANA Jean Paul (Age 11)

There was once a husband and wife who had a daughter and a son. The daughter’s name was Gato and the son’s name was Gakuru. Their mother died and left them alone with their father.

One day, their father told both his children to go find some firewood and bring it back home. After they left to find firewood, Gato hid from her little brother Gakuru and went off to play with her friends. Gato’s friends gave her some extra firewood, which she brought home to her father.

When her father asked her where Gakuru had gone, she said, “He went to play with the girls.”

When Gakuru got home, his father asked him where he had been and why he only brought one piece of firewood. He told his father that he had been looking and looking, but this was all he could find. His father didn’t believe him and told him to go get their wood splitter. Gakuru went and got the wood splitter and handed it to his father.

His father told him to bend forward so he could look at his head, but the father took the axe and split open his son’s head.

After Gakuru’s father had split him into little pieces, he carried his body to the field and buried him in the ground near a papaya tree.

Not long afterwards, Gato went to pick some fruit from that papaya tree, but became afraid when she heard a voice saying, “You cheated and lied and now I am dead.”

She walked up to the tree again and heard it say, “Don’t pick from me. Because of you, I brought my father the axe and he took my life.”

Gato could not pick the fruit and ran home to tell her father about the talking tree.

Her father said, “Let me go with you. I have to hear this myself.”

When the father tried to pick the fruit it said the same thing, “Don’t pick from me. Because of you, I brought my father the axe and he took my life.”

The father told Gato to run to the house and bring back a shovel. Gato did as she weas told. When she returned, she and her father dug up Gakuru’s grave. The only thing left was a rib bone.

Gato and her father took Gakuru’s rib home, washed it and apologized for what they had done. In that instant, Gakuru returned to his original form.

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Leave Some for Me

Excerpt from The Skin of Lions: Rwandan Folk Tales

Leave Some for Me as told by NSHINIYIMANA Dativa (10 years old) at the ROP Center for Street Children (Rwandan Orphan’s Project)

There was a young couple that had a child called Imanway. The couple had a field of maize next to their home. When the father found the maize was ripe, he brought it to his wife who cooked a delicious meal.

Her husband said, “I am full. That was wonderful. It is so wonderful, I don’t want this feeling to go away. Maybe, if you wrap me in a mattress (a traditional mat made out of reeds), give me some more food and carry me to the forest, this feeling will remain.”

His wife and child wrapped him in a mattress and left him in the forest with his food.

It wasn’t long until an animal and her animal children came upon the man and his food.

“You are alone in the forest with all this food. I am going to get some of my friends to come eat the food you have,” said the animal. She told her children to stay with the man, but after she left, the man dropped his mattress and ran away with the food.

When the mother animal came back with her friends, she found that the human had run away. She asked her children, “Why did you let that man with the mattress and food go? Now we will have to eat you instead.”

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Ashita (Tomorrow) – Part 1

Excerpt from Solar Girl and Lunar Boy.

Ashita (Tomorrow)

Toward the end of my academic studies I began to obediently panic about my future. “Where would I go? What would I do? Who was I? What would become of me? Would anybody care?”

They were never-ending questions of my age, without any answers except for one. I knew, without any doubt, that I had to leave Hamatombetsu, our coastal town of farmers and fields, where life revolved around chores, children, worship and gossip. Our small enclave of tradition was squeezing me like a bamboo noose. I wanted to explore, expand, walk unfamiliar streets, smell unknown scents and meet people I hadn’t known since pre-school! Except, of course, my dearest friend Kiri.

Kiri and I were inseparable. Our mothers said that they often saw us go to a corner of the playground when we were little, immediately squat down and talk or play together for hours on end. They said it seemed like we were in our own little world. And they were right. There is nothing about my life I haven’t shared with Kiri or she with me. We know each other like our favorite children’s books. She was the only other person who knew of my desire to leave.

At nine years of age I’d gone with my Chichi (father) to Sapporo and seen the sights of the grandest city on Hokkaido. We saw the parks, the baseball stadium and the buildings that were taller than any trees I had ever seen. Chichi had gone to see an old friend named Shogi, who lived in the suburbs. Shogi had treated me like a princess and taken us out for ice cream and treats every day we were there. He’d told my father how lucky he was to have such a beautiful little girl and I’d soaked it in, all the time feigning humility and giggling behind my hands.

Shogi worked downtown and had taken Chichi and I with him one day to see his office. I had never been on an elevator. When it first lifted, I’d felt my stomach fall and grabbed Chichi’s hand, but after the starting moments, was soon asking if we could up and down again and again.

The view from Shogi’s office was unbelievable! My mouth dropped unceremoniously open when he ushered us into his small office with a floor to ceiling window. I remember being careful to not stand to close, afraid that I’d surely fall off the side. The window was so clean I couldn’t see it.

One night Shogi took us to a place called a Karioke Bar. At first Chichi and I watched dumbfounded as people got on stage and sang along with the music. Some of them were so serious and so bad that we couldn’t stop from laughing. Shogi and Chichi must have drank a lot of sake, because it wasn’t long before they were up their grinning from ear to ear and singing like pop stars. They pulled me up to join them for a song. I was mortified at first and hid between their legs, but after some people started applauding I came out and joined them for a few versus. I don’t recall ever seeing my Chichi as happy as he’d been that night.

On our way home the next day my Chichi said, “Shogi is a lot of fun isn’t he?” I smiled. “And you liked the city, right?” I nodded emphatically and looked out the bus at the passing countryside. Then he said, “But don’t you EVER even THINK of us moving there.”
I looked at him in disbelief, asking “why” with my wide-eyed expression.

Without daring to look me in the eye he explained, “It is no place to raise a family. Many in the city are lost. They don’t follow the Buddha’s ways. They’ve made life complex and crave material goods.” He took my hand in his. “Promise me you will NEVER leave Hamatombetsu, OK?”

What could I say? I was a little girl who loved her Chichi and didn’t understand what he was saying.

“I promise.”

CONTINUED TOMORROW

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As Precious As Gold – Part 2

Conclusion of excerpt from collection of children’s stories Solar Girl and Lunar Boy.

What did they have to lose? Their bodies would soon turn into dirt without some rain.

The ants began to whisper, “Who will lead us?”

A unified cry arose from the crowd, “Mosha! Mosha!”

The queens arose and selected Mosha without dissent. After all, was it not she who brought them together and was not Mount Kilimanjaro in her own backyard?

Mosha was scared. As a worker ant she had always followed, now she must lead. She finally stepped forward and exclaimed, “It’s breath or death!”

Mosha’s first action was to have the workers construct a road up the mountain. Then she had two quad-trillion soldiers link their bodies into one long rope leading up the road. The remaining Formicidae carefully climbed the road by walking on the back of the living ant-rope.

Straining with every step of their many legs, they crawled to the peak of the mountain and collapsed from exhaustion and lack of oxygen.

The dark cloud was still floating quietly above.

Mosha was almost dead from thirst. With her last bit of strength she urged them on. “Stand up! Don’t give up! We must breathe together, now!”

Upon hearing Mosha’s plea the ants arose. They quietly began to inhale and exhale.

At first their tiny puffs of air were like a trickling stream. But they didn’t stop. Within minutes the force of their breathing turned into a river of wind and the river quickly became a mighty sea of air pulsating through the cloud.

Now the breath of one tiny ant is nothing. But 8 quadrillion (8,000,000,000,000,000) ants breathing in and out together began to change that strange cloud.

As the ants finally fell still upon the rocks gasping, Mosha saw the cloud take a long deep breath, turn black as night and with a heavy sigh, it began to cry.

The cloud’s tears fell softly upon the mountain. As drops splattered their bruised and battered bodies the Formicidae screamed with excitement and scurried from one antenna to another, dancing in amazement! To see ants scream and dance is an awesome sight. Never before and never again, have they exhibited such behavior.

The lowly Formicidae, one of the smallest creatures on earth, had literally saved the world from becoming a gigantic dust bowl. And though ants aren’t known for boasting or bragging, they gave Mosha a hero’s welcome when she descended the mountain and crawled back to the plains of her birth.

From that day on, ants have treasured their water (H2O) resources. They know only too well that clean, pure water is more precious than gold.

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As Precious As Gold – Part 1

Excerpt from children’s story collection Solar Girl and Lunar Boy.

The drought had lasted many moons. Life’s energy on earth was slipping away. Mammals, reptiles and fish had perished in silent misery.

Plants, grass and trees were nothing more than brittle, gray, useless matter. Every source of water was bone dry. Ponds, rivers, streams, lakes, glaciers and snow had all evaporated in the sun’s scorching heat without the slightest whimper of protest.

Insects were the only creatures to survive. The most numerous and efficient of the insects were from the Formicidae (Form-a-ka-day) family – more commonly known as ANTS.

With over 15,000,000,000,000,000 (15 quadrillion) members and “at least” 4,000 different species; the ants continued to eke out a living.

Ants stick together come low or high water. They live in groups called colonies. Each ant has a specific job as a queen, soldier or worker. The queens lay eggs; the soldiers kidnap other ants; and the workers make the nests and bring home the food. Most live and die as workers.

As the drought continued the Formicidae’s (ants) old methods of obtaining food began to fail. Normally a few scouts would discover a food source and lay down “odor” or “smell” trails for the workers to follow. Others would eat the food they found, return to the nest and proudly throw-up to show they had discovered a feast for the entire family.

One day some of the queen ants began to notice that many of the male workers were not returning from food expeditions.

Ants, as you know, are very sensitive to changes in moisture. After tasting some of the soil the queens realized what was happening. The ground water was slowly disappearing. The missing ants must have died of thirst. Drastic action had to be taken or they would soon perish!

As the queens cried about their fate, a small worker ant, known as Mosha, timidly raised her voice and said, “We can’t solve this alone. Why don’t we get all the colonies together?”

What an incredible idea! No one had ever dreamed of such a thing. The queens instantly agreed and sent an urgent decree for all Formicidae to meet on the Serengeti Plain in East Africa.

It wasn’t long until ant colonies from all corners of the globe began to arrive.

Some made the treacherous journey floating on wooden logs across the sea. Others glided with the breeze on leaves they had bound by silk. Long columns were seen marching across the barren land in an array of bright colors and sizes.

If you looked closely you could see Sauba ants from South America and Red and Wood ants from North America. Running from India, came Sima rufo-nigra colonies. From Australia and Tasmania swarmed Bull-dog and Myrmecia Formicidae. Hawaii sent l. Falcigera families floating on gusts of wind. Java displayed Dicthadia tribes, and eastern Asia had Oecophylla smarogdima coming by the thousands.

In the midst of this historic event were the Africans. Algeria and Tunisia sent Messor’s. South Africa had a large Honey-tub contingent and African Driver ants were everywhere.

What a sight! The entire Serengeti Plain was brimming with over 15 quadrillion ants! It looked as if a soft, reddish-brown carpet had been laid out from one end to the other. Even more amazing was the fact that not one incident of violence or kidnapping was reported.

The ants had agreed upon a peace treaty for the first time. Up until the drought the colonies had often fought one another and embarked on frequent slave raids. Most reported “battles” between Formicidae are actually raids to obtain additional larvae (baby ants) to increase that colonies work force.

As the Ants United Nations of Tribes (A.U.N.T.) began to meet, a humongous, dark, enchanting cloud arose over Mount Kilimanjaro (the highest mountain in Africa).

At first the ants were scared. It was so big its shadow covered the entire Serengeti Plain with darkness. Their fear quickly turned to happiness when they realized this cloud could end the long drought.

After two long, cold days of anticipation it became clear that this cloud was not heavy enough to drop the life-giving rain that was so needed, even though it was their last hope. Time was running out.

How could they convince this rainmaker to drop its precious cargo? They tried talking to the cloud. It didn’t budge. They yelled, screamed and begged for it to release its water, but it didn’t seem to care. Even ancient rain songs wouldn’t budge its frozen heart.

Putting their antennas’ together, Mosha and the other ants came up with a daring plan. If enough of them could make it to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro alive and breath heavily upon the cloud, perhaps that would create the moisture (condensation) it needed to release the rain it held so tightly.

CONTINUED TOMORROW

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