The gifts of the Lion King
(My African fairy tales - Nelson Mandela)
The Lion King was throwing a big party and no animal could be missing, since an invitation from the Lion King was law, and one could not refuse. Only the antelope pointed its paws. “Oh no” - said Mrs. Kudu - “Leo certainly can't wait to feast on our family. If we go to this party, who can assure us that he won't eat us?”
"It's true, it's true!" - chorused a group of antelopes - "Then I'll go alone" replied Kudu "if I don't go we could have problems."
"Okay, let's go," said the other male. The antelope snorted angrily and didn't move a leg. Only old Grandma Antelope couldn't resist an invitation that involved a feast, even if there was a risk that the guests would end up eating her!
And so the animals began to arrive. Leopard and Rabbit, Zebra and Mole, Elephant, Skunk and Snake. Baboon was too curious to keep away, Monkey was too stupid. There were also Porcupine, Hippopotamus and Lizard, and also Hyena and Jackal. Oh yeah – that party was just out of this world.
At first they danced a little and Baboon led the way. Then they began to sing, and the Jackal put on a beautiful voice. After that they ate honey and drank milk. Even Lion, Leopard, Lynx and Hyena ate together with the others, as if they had never tasted blood. Leone believed that at a party it was not appropriate to serve the guests' families.
“Now listen to me, my animals!” said Leo when he had cleaned the bowl of honey with his tongue (since a king eats first, last and quite a bit even in between, the others just have to take what comes). “Listen, my animals!” - he said again - "I would like to offer a gift to each of you to show you that I am a good king."
"Thanks thanks thanks!" cried the animals, and crowded together, each fearing that before they could even get to the head of the group, someone else might receive the best present.
"Calm!" - roared Leo - "whoever paws will have nothing and the greedy will have their gift last." Which brought some calm back.
"Those of you who would like horns" - said Leone - "stand to one side!"
"Horn?" - Kudu asked his companions - "don't you think that horns would suit us?"
"It is true! It is true!" cried the antelopes, and clustered to one side.
“Here,” said Leo, and they put on their horns.
Elephant saw the antelopes parading and began to wave his imposing bulk to approach Lion. “I want horns too,” he said, and his mouth caught a nice white pair.
“Cheeky insolent!” - growled Leone - "since you were so cheeky, the horns will remain attached to your mouth, and you will not be able to move them on your head, like the antelopes."
“Oh, my goodness!” - Elephant stammered - “but now my nose is too short. I can't… I can't… I can't… breathe!”
"Take this!" said Lion, and pulled Elephant's nose until it almost crawled on the ground. "Is it better this way?"
"Thanks," Elephant murmured, and shuffled off, with a pair of horns like teeth and a hanging nose.
But around the pile of antlers another scuffle was already underway. It was Rhino snooping around.
"But well" - said Leone - "since you like to poke your nose everywhere, you will have the horns stuck straight up your nose."
"Oh, no - I don't want them at all!" Rhinoceros said, and immediately tried to attack the king with his new horns. But Leo gave him a paw that shortened one and almost made his eyes pop out of their sockets. That's why, even today, Rhino can see so badly and has a strange pair of horns.
Leone went to the next pile. “And here we have beautiful ears!” She said. Actually, animals are just like children: they don't have ears, and they don't even want them. But Leo had already grabbed a long pair, and he wasn't about to put a thing down once he had it, because he was the king. “Then, take these!” he said, and put them on the first two animals that came within range. They were Donkey and Rabbit. And they just had to thank them.
“Who wants nice clothes?” urged Leo. This was astounding. Leone certainly knew his stuff, as animals love a world to show off. Everyone always wants to look better than those around them. Leopard got a spotted dress. Zebra was dressed in a striped jacket. As for Horse and Cow, that's a long story.
"We work on the farm," said Cavallo.
"And we have to dress up every day," said Cow.
"One suit is not enough for us," said Cavallo.
"We certainly don't want the farmer to laugh at us animals," said Cow.
"All right, all right," said Leo, for he liked the Horse's tail and Cow had such a sweet voice that it could even soften the heart of a king. "Come here!"
Horse was first. Oh, but calling it beautiful doesn't do it justice! He had piebald suits of gray and nut, dark brown and white as snow, and black as night. “Thank you very much,” he said, and trotted off. But after a while she got bored with all the dressing and undressing, so she divided the clothes among her children. And that's why, even now, each horse has a unique dress, but each horse's appearance is different from the other.
Cow got a colorful suit, a tan jacket and a black party dress. But after a while he followed Horse and passed them on to his children.
While Leone was still grappling with Mucca, a shrill voice rose from the group: “Hey, what about me? Don't you want to give all your best clothes to Horse and Cow!" It was Giraffe.
“What a villain!” - exclaimed Leo - “how dare you shout at your king? From now on you won't talk anymore!" And so it happened that Giraffe lost his voice.
Just to let the animals know that he didn't want to be rushed, Leo took another stroll around the pile of horns and selected a pair for Cow to match the outfits he'd given her. "Thank you very much," said Cow, and walked off with her gifts.
But Giraffe, although unable to say a word, seemed so disconsolate that Leone felt sorry for her. “Here is a special suit for you” - said the king - “and a pair of horns to go with it.” Giraffe put on his suit and horns, and he already looked better. Leo looked her up and down. "And I'll also give you a long neck so you can see your enemies from afar" - he said - "and long legs so you can run away quickly." By then Giraffe was happy, and trotted off satisfied.
Just as Leo was about to turn around, something moved between his paws. "Hey!" he yelled, leaping into the air, and before the culprit could escape, Leone had already crushed him. It was Lizard, who slipped out of the paws of Lion with his head livid, black and blue. “The fault is yours” - said the king - “from now on your head will be bluish.”*
Leo was starting to get impatient, as the sun was going down and his stomach was starting to rumble. Milk and honey are not real food for the king of beasts. And so the animals just had to take what they found. Baboon picked up a sickle-shaped tail. Rabbit and Mole got a long thin one, but since they didn't like it, they hurried over to bury it. And so they were left with nothing. Goat had a beard and even before Grandma Goat understood what was happening, she got one too.
The animals cackled to each other, but the Lion King pressed on. "After you! After you!" called.
Hippopotamus was set with four giant teeth, and Serpent accidentally touched the bowl made from a gourd that Leo had stolen from a hunter and which contained medicinal herbs. Serpent downed the concoction in one gulp. The liquid began to ferment and Snake just wanted to spit it out; the concoction turned into poison and Serpent just wanted to bite. "Cut off his legs!" shouted the Lion King. But it didn't help. Snake was so beside himself by then that he crawled away on his belly, and to this day he still bites everything that comes within range and his venom is more dangerous than ever.
Skunk, for his part, touched the Lion King perfume bottle and spilled it all over himself. Delicious, almost as stinky! The animals held their noses and grabbed what they could: horns, hooves and flapping tails. And then they slipped away.
"And to us?" complained Hyena and Jackal, who still hadn't had anything because they were too squeamish.
Tired of so much effort, Leone looked around, but only a howl and a laugh remained. "Take what you like" - he said - "and in a minute I don't want to see you around here anymore!" The two had to grasp what was there. And that's why, even today, Hyena has the loudest laugh of all animals and as for howls there is no beast that can surpass Jackal.
When the old Turtle finally reached the place where the gifts had been distributed, there was no longer a shadow of an animal or a gift. That's why she still wanders around in her horny shell that Crocodile made for her. And Rana lives completely naked in the water. The long wait had made her so hot that she went for a little swim, but someone stole her clothes. Now she is too shy to show herself to other animals. When it stays in the sun for a while, as soon as it feels something moving, it immediately dives into the water. But at night, when it's dark, she and her sisters come out and then you can hear their lament: "Torn! Heartbreak! Heartbreak!” one complains. "Serious! Serious! Serious!" the others complain.