open quote     Each of you with your stories will light small candles. And who knows what flames take fire from your candle?    close quote  
 
Margaret Read MacDonald

The Awongalema Tree

Once upon a time, in Africa, the rains didn’t fall one year. So the plants and trees didn’t grow food, so all the animals were very hungry.

Now there were four animal friends who remembered there was a magic tree in the forest that could produce magic fruit if its name was said aloud underneath it. So they decided to go to the middle of the forest where the magic tree was. But when they got there, none of them remembered the magic name!

"What are we going to do?" There was a deep silence.

"I know," said lion, "We will go to the sacred mountain and ask the mountain spirit. He’ll tell us the name of the magic tree.”

“I’ll go first,” said monkey, “I’m the fastest.” And off he ran. When he got there he called out, “Sacred Mountain speak to me, tell me the name of the magic tree.” Then a great voice called out, “Awongalema!”

“Of course!” said the monkey. He went running back as fast as he could to tell his friends. But monkey wasn’t looking where he was going, and he crashed head first into an enormous anthill. The name fell right out of his head! When he got back and didn’t remember the name, his friends were very disappointed.

I'll go next," said buffalo, “I’m the strongest.” When he got to the top of the mountain, he called out, “Mountain spirit, speak to me, tell me the name of the magic tree.” The great voice called out, “Awongalema!"

"Of course!” said buffalo. And he ran back fast as he could. But oh-oh, he too crashed head first into the enormous anthill, and the name fell right out of his head. Now the animals were very, very sad and hungrier than ever.

“I’ll go next,” said lion, “I’m the smartest.” Off he went. When he got to the top of the mountain, he called out, “Mountain spirit, speak to me, tell me the name of the magic tree.” “Awongalema!” said the mountain spirit. “

"But of course!” said lion. And he zoomed back as fast as he could. But you know what happened. He wasn’t looking so he, too, crashed into the enormous anthill and the name fell right out of his head. Now the animals looked around. Who else could get the name? The only one left was little tortoise. They all laughed at the thought but they had to let him try because all the rest had failed.

Off went tortoise slowly, slowly, slowly. When he finally reached the top of the mountain he called out, “Mountain spirit, speak to me, tell me the name of the magic tree,” and the great voice called out, “Awongalema!”

“Awongalema!” said the tortoise to himself. "Of course! Awongalema!” So back to his friends he went, carefully repeating the name on every slow footstep. “Awongalema, Awongalema, Awongalema!” When he got to the anthill, he carefully walked around it. And when he got back to the magic tree, he called out its name, “Awongalema!”

Immediately, the tree burst forth with all kinds of wonderful, magical fruit. The animals had more than enough to eat that season…and they never forgot the name of the magic tree again.

Will you remember it?

Thanks to drummer Stephen Sharpe and Laurie Loeb for passing on this African folktale

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