THE AMAZING TREE – by Peter Halder

THE AMAZING TREE

(Adapted from an ancient Amerindian myth)

by Peter Halder

Hunger stalked the South American rainforest lands of the Carib Amerindian tribes. Cassava, yams, corn and other vegetables and fruits were nowhere to be found.

tapir-bush-cow

Tapir: bush-cow

The cacique (Chief) of a tribe noticed that while many starved and grew thin, a bush cow (tapir) was fat and sleek. Curious, the cacique kept a keen eye on the animal. He noticed that bush cow went out alone every morning and returned home, smiling and contented.

The Chief approached it and asked, “How come you look so strong, healthy and well fed while the rest of us are starving?”

“Who knows? Maybe it’s an act of nature,” replied the smiling bush cow.     

A tribesman reported to the Chief that the previous day, on return to the village area, the bush cow eased its bowels and its droppings contained tiny pieces of banana skin, cane peel and corn.

The Cacique replied, “Tomorrow, you and two other men follow the bush cow, silently and unseen and keep a close eye on it. It must have found some place in the forest where it gets food.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea. The beast is clever and will detect our peculiar human scent along its jaunt. I would like to suggest that you ask the bush rat to track the bush cow. Even if it smells the rat, it will not be suspicious since they abound throughout our forest.”

“Well spoken,” said the Chief, “I will speak to the rat immediately.”

The Amazing Tree

The big, bushy rat selected for the task was up before the break of dawn, and from its seat on a tree limb, kept a sharp eye on the bush cow.

The bush cow arose at dawn, stood on its four legs and shook its body to clear away dust and leaves. While doing so, it cast its eyes around the area. No man or beast was up. It did not look up. Satisfied, it began a slow trot to its destination. The bush rat followed behind. It had, after some time, became familiar with the scent of the bush cow.

The bush cow continued merrily along the way to its destination. It saw the bush rat from time to time but also saw many more like it, scampering here and there. It took no notice of it.

A long, long way into the forest, the bush cow arrived at its destination, a gigantic tree. It paused under the thick, spreading, leafy branches of the Amazing Tree and began to eat from a variety of fruit and vegetables that had fallen to the ground. The Tree was magical. Everything that was good to eat grew in plenty on its many strong branches…plantain, cassava, yam, sweet potato, plum, pineapple, banana, sugarcane, mango, somatoo, owara, corio, sapodilla, custard apple, star apple and more, too numerous to mention.

As soon as the bush cow had ate its fill, it set off on its return trek to the village. The bush rat saw but took its time and walked stealthily under the Amazing Tree. It ate as much as it could and then climbed the magical Tree in total awe at the numerous kinds of vegetables and fruits growing on it. It filled a small tibiciri pouch it found lying around with a few small fruits and tiny pieces vegetables, put the pouch around its neck and took off for the village.

Sensing it was near, the pace of the rat slowed to a walk. It headed for the troolie palm thatched hut of the Cacique and called out. Invited in, it told the Chief what it found and handed over the pouch as proof. The Cacique opened the pouch ate a few samples and jumped for joy. He ran outside and called out to the entire village, “Food, food, our dear friend the bush rat has found us food. Now we have to send and gather it. Bush rat will lead the way bright and early tomorrow morning.

The next morning, all the men of the village, carrying large quakes, followed the bush rat to the location of the Amazing Tree. Arriving there, they were in shock and awe as they stared at the Tree and the vast array of vegetables and fruits on it and on the ground. They took their time, picked up them up with joy, filled their quakes and headed back to the village. They returned to the Tree regularly until there were no more vegetables and fruits on the ground. They then decided to cut down the Tree so the next time, they walked with sharp stone axes and stone knives, in addition to their quakes.

The men tried to climb the Tree to cut off the branches first. They did not succeed. The trunk was too wide and too smooth and the branches were very high above the ground. They decided to cut down the Tree instead.

They stood in a circle around the trunk and began hacking away at it. At the end of the day, the axes had made no impression on the trunk. Tired and disappointed, they called it a day, filled their quakes from what was on the ground and headed home. The process continued for 13 days before the trunk finally succumbed to the relentless hackings of the stone axes and fell to the ground. A loud shout greeted the fall of the tree. It took the men several weeks to take home all the vegetables and fruits on the tree.

The tribesmen also cut off all the branches of the Tree and took them to the village for planting.

As soon as the first set of vegetables and fruits were brought to the village, a flock of Bunia (stink) birds appeared and told the women how to cook the items.

Hunger and starvation were averted and the people in the village were happy again.

A giant owl that had lived in the Amazing Tree came to the village and showed the people how to plant the seeds and stalks of the fruits and vegetables.

The branches planted in areas around the village failed to grow and soon died.

The villagers took their food items to all the neighbouring villages and also taught them how to plant and reap the items.

The Amazing Tree no longer exists but its vegetables and fruits provided food for the people of the rainforest and beyond until this day.

End

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