The zebra and its stripes
How did the zebra get its stripes, or the giraffe a long neck? The elephants trunk? Why do the jackal and lion despise each other, even though they are both fierce carnivores?
Myth and legend attempts to answer these questions. They do so in stories of caution and teaching, stories in the times when Man and Beast were equal, and Earth still young.
The myths and legends of Africa. The start of imagination...
The iconic zebra with its black stripes, arranged to create a sense of light and shadow and cause doubt in the mind of a predominantly monochromatic predator. Amongst the shrubs and trees this arrangement causes the zebra to blend in rather well, but it was not always adorned as such.
A long time ago, the zebra was pure white, and very proud of its shiny coat. He was the envy of the dull grey kudu and the fawn colour of the timid bushbuck. But he was also proud and aloof.
One very cold winters night, he saw that the baboon had made a fire near the Krantz they called home. He and his wives were huddled around the fire, first warming this side, then the other, cooing softly to each other as the cold left their bones.
Zebra was full of envy. He could not make a fire.
“Baboon, may I please join you at your fire?” he asked.
“The fire is for me and my wives only” replied the baboon with a snarl of white teeth. “Go away.”
Zebra was furious. He had never been denied in quite such a manner. He would teach Baboon a lesson.
Whining, teeth barred, he charged at Baboon. Shrieks of indignation rose from the Krantz where the baboon females and young fled Zebras attack. Zebra inflicted the first wound; a well-aimed kick sent baboon skidding into the coals of his scattered fire. The debris falling from the flight path of the baboons came hurtling down the mountainside, causing the fire to flare up in anger.
Baboon was up and climbing the broken rockface before Zebra could pull him down again. From his lofty perch, Baboon was raining insults down on him. But, instead of leaving Baboon be, Zebra attempted to climb after Baboon.
His hooves scrambled for footing on the rock. For a moment, it looked as though Zebra would gain a foothold; his muscled hindquarters strained, scrambling.
Then he fell. The flames engulfed Zebra. A panicked whine escaped out of the flames.
Zebra was quick to gain his composure after the fall. With tongues of flames licking his once beautiful white hide, he fled.
To this day, Baboon still sits on his smarting backside on the Krantz shouting insults to those that would hear him.
Well, Zebra’s coat is now marked with black-brown stripes to remind him that pride can sometimes make you stumble and fall.
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