Why the cheetahâ€™s cheeks are stained
Why the Cheetahâ€™s cheeks are stained illustraties ARTHUR LAMBILLOTTE
tekst DUNCAN JOHNSON
Kwasuka sukela Many years ago, a wicked hunter was sitting in a tree. He was one of the Uhlakanyana. The Uhlakanyana, as you all know, are evil dwarves who delight in violence - not unlike little boys at times, eh, Sipho? Anyway, below the Uhlakanyana, in the clearing on the grassy veldt, not unlike the one you are looking at now, there were fat springbok grazing, but the Uhlakanyana did not hunt the springbok, for he had much greater prey in mind.
But this hunter couldnâ€™t be bothered, so lazy was he! Suddenly, he noticed a movement off to the left of the herd. It was a cheetah seeking food, but not a cheetah as you have seen children. This was the spirit-mother to all cheetahs and she walked on her hind legs like a warrior of our tribe. The cheetah had come seeking food and, keeping downwind of the herd, she gradually moved closer and closer.
She singled out a springbok that had foolishly wandered away from the rest and sprang forward. Now, we honour the cheetah for its speed and the spirit-mother was no exception. She could cover great distance in less time than it takes you to blink you eyes and she was upon the springbok in moments. Startled, the rest of the herd raced away as the cheetah killed her prey
The evil Uhlakanyana had watched as all this took place. He was jealous of the cheetahâ€™s speed and he wished to claim it for himself. The hunter watched as the cheetah dragged her prize to some shade on the edge of the clearing. There three beautiful cheetah cubs were waiting there for her. Imagine dining on delicious meat every day without having to do the actual hunting! Then he had a wicked idea. He decided that he would steal one of the cheetah cubs and train it to hunt for him. He decided to wait until the mother cheetah went to the waterhole late in the afternoon to make his move. He smiled to himself.
Late in the afternoon, the spirit-mother went to the waterhole, leaving her cubs unguarded. Smiling to himself, the Uhlakanyana made his move. As quickly as he could, the Uhlakanyana not being very swift, he trotted down to where the cubs were hidden. He then quickly sedated them with anesthetic darts. The Uhlakanyana considered and chose one of the cubs to steal, then he changed his mind and decided on another and then he changed his mind again. Finally, he stole them all, thinking that three cheetahs would undoubtedly be better than one.
When the spirit-mother returned and found her cubs gone, she was broken-hearted. She cried and cried and her tears made dark stains down her cheeks. I was out on the veldt that day and I heard her cries. I tried to comfort her, but how does one comfort a mother who has lost her children? Imagine how your mother would feel if she lost you. The spirit-mother wept all night and all the next day and I stayed with her ad I wept alongside her.
She cried so loudly that she was heard by an old man who came to see what the noise was all about.. He smiled at me and I knew that everything would be all right. The man was wise and he knew the ways of the animals. When we told him what had become of the spirit-motherâ€™s cubs, he became very angry. He walked across the veldt to the place where the Uhlakanyana was hiding with the cubs. The old man argued with the Uhlakanyana for a long time, demanding that he return the cubs to their mother. He told him that if the cubs were freed then the Uhlakanyana would be left in peace, but the wicked Uhlakanyana simply laughed and threw lightning from his hands, frightening the man away.
The old man would not give up, however. Instead, he asked me to take him to see our tribe. When we arrived, he gathered the whole tribe around the fire and he told them of the Uhlakanyana. He told the tribe how the Uhlakanyana had stolen the cubs of the spirit-mother and how, by doing so, he was without honour. Every hunter, every warrior, must triumph through the use of his own strength and skill, the man from beyond the sky explained, not by forcing someone else to fight his battles for him. Roused by this speech, the villagers were angry. They found the lazy hunter and drove him away from the village.
Now that the Uhlakanyana has been defeated, the wise man freed the cheetah cubs. He lifted them up in his arms and he carried them back to their grateful mother. The long weeping of the spirit-mother, however, had stained her face forever and, from that day to this, the cheetah has worn those tearstains on its face as a reminder. And that, children, is why the cheetahâ€™s cheeks are stained.
© tekst Duncan Johnson © illustraties Arthur Lambillotte vormgeving Arthur Lambillotte druk Oranje, Sint-Baafs-Lijve © 2011 Uitgeverij De Eekhoorn bvba, Vlasmarkt 17, B-9000 Gent D/2009/1708/1 NUR 403 ISBN 978-90-5838-534-5 Niets uit deze uitgave mag worden verveelvuldigd en/of openbaar gemaakt door middel van druk, fotokopie, microfilm, of op welke andere wijze ook, zonder voorafgaande, schriftelijke toestemming van de uitgever. www.eekhoorn.be