Sweet words like honey
(My African fairy tales, Nelson Mandela)
In the beginning the monkeys were not as agile and slim as they are today. They were small, pot-bellied, furry animals that moved slowly.
It was great fun for Sankhambi, the rascal, to stalk them and tug at their long tails. This infuriated the monkeys, so from the tops of the trees they would bombard him with seeds and twigs when he lay dozing in the sun.
Sankhambi didn't like this monkey business at all, and one day he decided to face it: "My dear friends," she said in a soft voice and a gleam in her mischievous eyes, "I want to tell you a big secret."
"Don't believe him, it's another of his evil tricks," the older monkey admonished.
But Sankhambi begged and pleaded with the monkeys to hear his very special secret. And since they are naturally curious animals, they slowly descended from the trees and approached them step by monkey step. "I wish I could do you a favor," said Sankhambi, his voice sweet as honey. “Up there on the mountain, beside the big lake, is a cave, and at the bottom of the cave is a huge hive full of golden honey. I'm the only one who knows. Come with me, I will show you the way."
The greedy monkeys immediately lined up behind him, thinking only of the golden delight that awaited them. Finally Sankhambi led them along a ledge of the mountain to the entrance of a cave partly covered by a hanging rock roof. "Come in, friends," she invited them generously.
But as soon as the monkeys were inside, Sankhambi began stamping his feet so that the thuds echoed throughout the cave. “Friends,” he yelled in feigned terror, “the roof is starting to cave in. Pull your arms up and hold him well. I run to look for poles to secure it. Stay where you are, don't move a muscle, and hold on tight!"
The monkeys did exactly that: they remained motionless, with their arms extended above their heads to block the roof and prevent it from collapsing. They stood still. And still motionless. In fact, they didn't dare move, or else the roof of the cave would have collapsed right on their heads. Oh, if only Sankhambi had come back quickly with those poles!
Sankhambi, on the other hand, was already trotting down towards the lake. "What a bunch of monkeys!" he laughed loudly, and went to a little place in the sun to take a nice afternoon nap undisturbed.
Throughout the heat of the day and through the cold of the night, the monkeys stood still like pillars of stone holding up the ceiling of the cave with all their might. It wasn't until daylight began to glimmer in the east that the older monkey suddenly had an idea: he carefully pulled off one finger, then another, then the whole leg, then the other as well...he looked at the sweaty faces of her companions next to her and she realized that Sankhambi had made fun of them all! And when she looked down at their bodies, she saw that they had completely changed. With all that toil and sweat and standing still to hold up the roof of the cave, the monkeys had gotten thin and slender.
And that's why, even today, monkeys are able to move on trees with such agility.