Folktales and Mythology

African Folklore – The Lost Message

african folktale
Written by Madhu Bairy

Age Group: 5+ . This is an African folktale. More folktales from around the world can be found here.

Since time immemorial the ant has had many enemies and that was not just the birds. The Anteater fed and lived off them; the Centipede beset them at all times and at every place. Among the ants, there were a few who thought it would be wise to hold a council and arrive at an arrangement, whereby they could retreat to some place of safety when attacked by birds and animals.

The day of the council came and all the ants gathered. There was Red-ant, Rice-ant, Black-ant, Wagtail-ant, Gray-ant, Shining-ant, and many others. The gathering was most chaotic. The opinions were mostly conflicting and continued for a long time.

There were many ideas and opinions – a small hole in the ground and make that their home; a large and strong home made of mud to be built on the ground, just large enough for ants to enter; live in the trees, where the Anteater could never reach them, forgetting that there the ants would fall prey to birds; others who had wings just wanted to fly off when faced with trouble. They failed to arrive at a single decision since no one was ready to make adjustments.

Finally, when they could come to no mutual decision, each party resolved to work in its own way, and fortify their own dwellings.

Some of the groups together chose a king. Then they divided the labor and set about to working. All went as smoothly as it possibly could. Each had his appointed task and did his task well. But during all this hard work, none of the groups thought what the final aim was. and not one of them thought of protecting themselves against the different enemies.

The Red-ants built their house of mud on the ground and went to live in it. But the Anteater had no trouble leveling it to the ground in a minute, costing them many days of precious labor. The Rice-ants went to live under the ground, and fared no better. Whenever they came out, the Anteater ate them up.

The Wagtail-ants fled to the trees.  But the Centipede or the birds simply gobbled them up. The Gray-ants who planned to save themselves by flight, were no match for the agile and quick Lizard or the Hunting-spider, or the birds that pursued them in flight.

When the King of Insects found out that the ants had failed in their mission, he sent them the message of unity, asking them to work together. But his messenger, the Beetle is yet to arrive at the ants. So even today the ants embody discord and hence fall prey to enemies.

Moral: We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.


About the author

Madhu Bairy

I am a resident of Bangalore and a native of Kundapur. A self-confessed book worm, I always found any activity that involved reading and writing interesting apart from my academics. Reading is something that came quite naturally since my schooling days and that continued to grow over the years.
Writing to me is not a hobby, but something that I pursue passionately. A graduate in Textile Technology and a designer by profession, I find writing as an effective medium to convey my thoughts and opinions on anything and everything.

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