The great thirst 


In the beginning there was no water. No springs, or rivers, or streams, or waterholes, or dams , or even puddles. All the animals had to drink was each others’ blood, and all they had to eat was the flesh from each others’ bones.

“This cannot go on,” rumbled Elephant, ”I would rather be dead and have my bones turn to trees, my hair to rustling grassy plains and my sinews to vines that bore delicious melons.”

“How long must we wait for you to meet your end? When will your time come?” asked the animals.

“I don’t know,” said Elephant, “We shall have to wait and see.”

But snake took it upon himself to help. Before Elephant could move, Snake jumped up and bit him on the leg, sinking his fangs deep into the flesh of the Great One, killing him.

As elephant lay dead on the ground the animals crowded around the carcass, stripping meat from the skeleton and lapping up blood. When finally they stopped nothing but Elephant’s bones and hair and sinew was left.

They waited.

But nothing happened.

“Elephant is dead,” the animals cried, “and nothing has happened to his bones and hair and seniew! There is no grass! No trees! No melons! What are we going to live on now?!”

“Wait,” hissed Snake, “Be patient.”

“No! Elephant said we would prosper if he died himself, and you killed him!”

“Patience, patience. Let;s wait and see. Or will you try to drink my blood now?”

The animals hung back. They were afraid of Snake’s venom and would not approach him.

That night, when the stars rose in the sky, a new light joined them. The animals were afraid. Surely this was Elephants spirit come to punish them!

But the spirit had not come to punish them. Elephant’s burning star-eyes rose higher and higher in the sky until they were hovering directly above where the other animals had torn his body to pieces.

Suddenly his bones stood upright and planted themselves in the ground, put down roots and grew branches lush with leaves and fruits. His sinew became vines, weighed down by the weight of the most delicious melons, and his hair shimmered across the planes, becoming fertile grasslands.

The animals rejoiced! They had food and  began to graze. But some of them could not live on grasses and leaves. They needed the blood. The flesh. The big cats slunk away into the dark, as did jackal  and owl. They came out to hunt at night when the other animals were asleep. Hawk was brazen enough to hunt during the day, while Vulture and Wolf decided they would not kill, but scavenge instead.

But the animals were not satisfied with just food.

“Water! Water! We’re dying of thirst!” they sobbed.

“The  fruit that hangs from the trees ” hissed snake, “is full of water. As are the melons!”

But the animals would not listen. They looked about for who had the youngest blood, the freshest to drink.

“Elephant gifted you his body that you may eat and I gave you all of my venom to kill him! Fine, I’ll give you water as well!”

And with that Snake disappeared into a hole. He hissed and spat great streams of water until it bubbled up from under the ground  and rushed in valleys and gullies.

“Water! Water!” the beasts cried, and they were satisfied.

And that's how the animals got food and water and why, even today, we speak of elephant grass and water snakes.