'Afam Nwa' - You don't value me
The forest of Kundum was a beautiful place to live. During the day the sun shone brilliantly through the emerald green leaves of the proud acacia trees, leaving dappled lights scattered on the ground for the. When it rained, the streams overflowed onto the red earth along their banks where the mudfish writhed with abandon. and droplets of water danced over the foliage like little diamonds, nourishing the red and black earth below.
Kusum was home to the magnificent elephants, the graceful, haughty antelope, the clever thieving monkeys, and a wide array of less noticed little creatures that included the slow walking, spiral shelled brown snails.
Every animal in the forest had something to boast of...except the little creatures like the snail. He was slow. He was weak. He was little, was easy prey and he was ugly. No one thought much of the snail. The prized catches for hunters were the deer, and the village wives preferred to trap grasscutters and fishes. Children dug up snails to play with them, and the very old and destitute rummaged around the undergrowth after rains looking for snails to eat. But the truth was, snails were a tasty addition to any soup, and the village wives knew this. They were just plentiful and cheap, because they moved slowly and were so easy to find.
The King of the forest was no better. Whenever he needed a new Elder in his court he made an announcement. “Any animal can apply to be an Elder, except the snail. He is too slow and dumb. I need clever creatures to be Elders!”
One day, the leader of the snails in Kusum forest made a decree. He alone knew their true value and he was fed up with being disrespected. “The best way for others to recognize your value is to deprive them of your presence entirely. All the snails will hereby disappear from the forest”, he announced. “Then we will see how the community will fare without us.”
The next morning, not a single snail could be found in the forest.
Soon the snakes and birds begun to starve. The poor people who couldn’t buy meat could no longer find snail meat for their soup, so they only ate fruits and vegetables, and they soon began to get sick.
A few weeks after the snails disappeared , the forest animals began to realize that the forest was beginning to have a bad smell. Dead animals and plants seemed to lie around for a much longer time than usual. As time went on, the animals noticed that the new plants that sprouted seemed unusually small and shriveled. Animals like the antelopes and grasscutters struggled to find food, and they slowly began to starve.
The king of Kusum forest called his wise counselors to a meeting.
“What is happening to our forest? Why are our plants and animals dying?”
“I think it’s a punishment from the gods! The animals have not been on good behavior so we are all being punished.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Antelope said. “We are dying because the deer have poisoned our food. They want to kill us all, then they can be the fastest animals in the forest.”
Then the wise owl quietly said... “It’s the snails.”
“What did you say?” The king asked.
“It’s because the snails have disappeared.”
All the elders laughed loudly. “What on earth is Owl talking about? He’s so old now, he can't even see anything...what does he know?” they jeered.
“None of you know how important the snails are, do you?” Owl asked.
The king knew how wise Owl was, so he did not dismiss him. “Tell us what you mean, Owl,” he said.
Owl spoke. “Did you know that snails eat dead leaves and little animals, rotting wood, and different kinds of trash? It is no wonder we are drowning in rubbish since they left the forest. Also snails are food for many animals like snakes, beetles, turtles, mice and birds, so if these animals can’t find snails to eat, they will become unhealthy and die. Guess what will happen then to those of us who feed on mice, snakes and turtles? Now you know why many of the animals are dying!”
The King and his elders were very quiet. No one knew what to say. Finally the King spoke.
“We must be very careful about how we treat the least of our brothers and sisters. We didn’t know how important the snails were to us. Now, what are we going to do?
|'Afam Nwa' - Wax print name|