MOONFLOWER’S MISCHIEVOUS AND MAJESTIC ANIMAL CHARACTERS
Some of the animals that make cameo appearances in Moonflower are the eland (a large antelope),a particularly sassy baboon and giraffe. I’ve always loved animal fables and have written a few of my own.
The Sacred Eland
There were once two men who grew up together. They were very close and swore they would always be brothers. But the men had comfortable lives and their allegiance to one another had never been tested.
Soon their boast of brotherly love reached the ears of !Kaggen, the San Creator. !Kaggen was also a trickster. He loved to transform himself into animals and play tricks on people. The eland was the animal !Kaggen most liked to transform himself into. So he sank to the ground and rose up as a beautiful eland with majestic horns and a coat the colour of Kalahari sand, except for the underneath where his heart beat which was white as an ostrich shell.
Now the two young men went hunting one day and found the spoor of a great animal they were unfamiliar with. Not knowing how to hunt this strange creature, the one man said to the other, ‘You climb into the acacia tree and pretend to be a bird as the creature comes by. I will lie on my belly like a snake behind that scrub. This way we will both see it in its entirety and will make plans about how best to hunt it.’
‘Or whether we should hunt it at all,’ the other added.
They did not have long to wait before the animal came walking along the path between the acacia tree and the scrub. The men waited until it had passed before scrambling out to talk excitedly about the creature. ‘It is the colour of the sand,’ the man who had hidden in the tree said. ‘It is surely from around here and will die by our arrows.’
‘What are you talking about?’ the man who had lain on his belly said. ‘The creature is white as an ostrich shell. I have seen no such animal from these parts. Maybe we should not hunt it at all.’
The men began to argue about what they had seen. One swearing the animal was red, the other that it was white. Soon their arguing turned into a feud and they began to pull and shove each other in their anger.
This is when !Kaggen chose to intervene and said to the men, ‘Why are you fighting? Can’t you see I am red and I am white.’
The two former friends stopped fighting and screamed at the eland, ‘We have lived side by side as brothers all our lives, and it is your fault we are fighting. You have started a war between us.’
The eland said, ‘Don’t blame me for the battle. I did not make you fight. Both of you are wrong and both of you are right. Yes, what each saw was true. You are fighting because you looked at my coat each from your own point of view.’
To this day, a boy is considered a man only when he has killed his first eland. When the animal dies much supernatural energy is released and its power harnessed by praying, singing and dancing around the body. Then, when this is done, the skin is spread out on the ground and the boy sits on the skin and people dance around it making footprints all around using the eland’s hooves. This means that whatever direction the young man may choose, he will move across the path of the eland. It is believed the spirits of humans and animals linger in their footprints. And today no human knows where !Kaggen is, only the eland.
Part of growing up in Cape Town is learning to cope with baboons. Suburbs built on mountain slopes have regular visits from these fascinating creatures who seem to find us almost as interesting as we find them. Driving around the peninsula it is prudent to keep your windows up and doors locked since they’ll spread out along the road and as you slow down, some of the braver young males will take the opportunity to grab that sandwich out of your hand or can of cold drink.
There are many stories, passed into memory now, of settlers forming quite an attachment to baboons and using them to drive wagons across the Karoo, helping settlers to find edible food, and lending a helping hand in the feeding and watering of dogs and cattle.
There is an African proverb: The teeth of a man serve as a fence. It is impossible to say who first coined this phrase or what event gave rise to it, but there is an interesting story about the Great Eagle, first told so long ago you will not find it recorded anywhere; in fact few remember it at all.
It is said that sometime before the continents split, Eagle was the greatest of earthly creatures. He was one of the largest with talons sharper than the shards of light that pierce mountain gullies, a beak harder than arrowheads and teeth sharper and stronger than both of these.
There was nowhere on earth Eagle could not go. Silently he could swipe birds in midair, read dust spoor from a height no other creature had flown, dive from mountain tops without the slightest change of course to spear a fish beneath the water, while his wingspan, it was said, would cast an entire village into shadow.
Because Eagle flew so close to heaven, he learned some of God’s secrets and asked questions no other creature knew the answers to. Swearing him to secrecy, God answered some of these, knowing he was bound to overhear a thing or two. But Eagle had become careless with the gifts given him and one day, when he overheard God mention the place by name where the rain is born, he realised that with this knowledge he could become god of the earth since he would be able to hold back rain from all living things or know where to fetch it to break a drought.
Filled with a sense of his own power Eagle boasted to the first creature he came upon – Giraffe, then the tallest of earth-bound creatures – that he knew the place where the rain is born. Giraffe did not turn away; out of cowardice or perhaps hoping to share the spoils of this knowledge, he begged Eagle to take him along to the place.
God heard Giraffe’s begging response to Eagle’s proud and loose tongue and struck Giraffe on the top of the head, shortening his neck considerably and rendering him dumb. To this day Giraffe utters not a sound.
God warned them that a fearsome creature had been set to guard the place where the rain is born and when Giraffe had run away in terror, God removed all of Eagle’s teeth, leaving not even one.
Now this may seem a strange punishment to earthly creatures but time does not tick in the heavens as it does below. Without a tooth in his beak, Eagle could not devour prey of the size he had been used to and was forced to eat smaller creatures with less meat on their bones, or go completely hungry from time to time.
When Eagle found a mate, his offspring grew into smaller creatures as a result of such a reduced diet. And their progeny were still smaller until the Great Eagle was but a shadow of the greatest of earthly creatures he had once been and could no longer fly anywhere near heaven.
Clutching at the tyre iron, the baboon screamed defiance at her. A moment later, he scooted along the branch and was lost in the foliage. He reappeared suddenly and before Sophie could blink, something exploded against her chest—a large, over-ripe guava. Juice, pips and flesh soaked into her shirt and dripped down her front.
With a shout of triumph, the baboon disappeared along the branch, still clutching the tyre iron. Sophie decided to give up. She’d go back to the truck and radio for help, after she’d changed her shirt. She had a spare in her vehicle.
She took the shirt off to avoid the sticky mess seeping through to her bra and stomped off across the grass. She was several metres from the vehicle when she noticed a man standing beside it. He was in tailored chinos that sported perfectly pressed seams. His shirt was pale blue and the shoes were probably Italian leather.
Sophie tried with as much finesse as possible to unfurl the shirt scrunched into a ball in her hands as the veld began to run out between herself and the vehicle. She pressed the material to her chest, ignoring the squelch of guava flesh against her skin.
A more pragmatic part of Sophie’s brain said: not your fault, can’t be helped. She strode towards the man, doing her best to carry off her approach with as much dignity as her white, lacy bra would allow.
When she got within a couple of feet of him, her heart began to jump up and down like that crazy baboon. The man waiting at the vehicle was Reuben Manning. Sophie groaned.
She recognised him from the photos she’d seen on the internet. If he’d been handsome in photographs, in person he was devastating. For one thing, those pictures hadn’t given the full effect of his broad shoulders and height of at least six foot three. And it wasn’t his height alone that was impressive: it was also the high forehead, sculpted cheekbones, square jaw, thick dark hair; the early morning sun glinting off an undulating wave. No wonder he’d done so well in business. She didn’t think there was a man or woman alive who could possibly say no to him.
But it was the eyes that started a pounding in her chest: they were the closest to navy blue she had ever seen. There was an unusual intensity to them as they slid towards her chest, narrowed and lingered there. Her chest!
Sophie pressed the shirt to her sternum, trying to control the breathlessness that made her full breasts even more noticeable as they moved up and down, up and down.
Neither spoke. His eyes met hers and Sophie quickly looked away from the energy that flashed from them. Not a man to be trifled with. The thought flitted through her mind as she watched the breeze ruffle his hair. She glanced at the sensuous mouth, now drawn into a hard line, the strong jaw. Everything about this man exuded power and success. She hoped he wasn’t cruel.
You’re a professional, Sophie told herself. You’ve worked hard for this, so show him who you really are.
‘Hello, Mr Manning. My name’s Sophie Kyle. I’m your new conservationist.’
BLURB AND BUY LINKS
Conservationist, Sophie Kyle, takes up a position on a private game farm outside Cape Town in the hopes of paying off her student loans, adding a glowing reference to her resume and indulging her passion for wildlife conservation.
Reuben Manning is a British businessman who has bought a game farm in Africa which he intends to use as a venue to entertain friends and business associates.
With the suddenness and intensity of a bushfire, a powerful attraction ignites between the conservationist and the tycoon, but Sophie has only ever wanted to spend her days in the African bush while Reuben’s life is corporate London.
As the sensuous bond between the two grows, they must find common ground or they are doomed to spend the rest of their lives a continent apart.
AUTHOR BIO AND LINKS
Leigh writes romance novels set in her native South Africa. She has always had a love affair with Africa’s wild open spaces, the intensity of its people and sunsets. Her love of storytelling began as a child when she spent every spare moment playing barefoot in golden grass, watching wild creatures, learning to track spoor and dreaming up heroes and heroines dynamic enough to stand out in all the beauty and drama of the African landscape.
Always in search of adventure, Leigh’s journey as a writer has taken her from journalism through communications, to working as a novelist.
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