In Africa a long long time ago there were places where people had yet to come and animals ruled supreme. In one such place the chief of all the animals, the mokonsi, was the leopard. Some other animals were bigger and stronger like the elephants and hippos and crocodiles, but the animals considered the leopard the most dangerous and didn’t want to get on his bad side. No one feared the peaceful elephants, and the hippos and crocodiles were only dangerous in or near rivers and lakes. The leopard could climb trees, and see at night better than most of the other animals, moving quickly and quietly through the trees, and he was strong with long teeth and flashing claws. So the leopard ruled the deep forest.
Now the leopard was not content just to be the mokonsi of the deep forest. He claimed to rule the vast grassy plains on the borders of the forest as well. Most of the animals there, the antelopes, warthogs, jackals, and even the big strong buffalos feared the leopard and accepted him as the mokonsi. All but the gazelle and his wife. The gazelles were so fast and nimble that the leopard could never catch them, although he often tried to sneak up on them in the night. The female gazelle grew tired of being stalked by the leopard, so she decided to ask her old friend the tortoise for help.
This was no ordinary tortoise. She was called the mother of all tortoises because she was the eldest of all the tortoises living in the entire world. She was hundreds and hundreds of years old and her shell was as big as a very large house and even had bushes and grassses growing on top of it. Animals often walked right by her thinking she was just another hill. All the animals respected her for her wisdom, and some even claimed that she had secret magical powers. In fact she possessed no magic, if by that you mean something supernatural, but her shell did contain wonders, wonders called books and scrolls. Long ago the tortoises had learned to chew and pound reeds to make paper, and they’d learned to read and wright in tortoise fashion. Now their loosely bound books made with crude paper weren’t as fancy as our modern books, but it is what is written inside a book that counts. In fact the inside of her shell was really an enormous library containing all the tortoise wisdom of the ages, which was a lot because they live so long, are very observent, and do a lot of thinking in their quiet shells. It was considered an honor, almost a holy pilgrimage, for elderly tortoises to make the long slow journey to give her the book they had assembled over the course of their lives.
All that aside, to the lady gazelle the tortoise was just an old and treasured friend who lived nearby, and a very wise one. She told the tortoise about their problem and asked for her advice. Her friend replied that she would think about it and to come back in a week. During that week the tortoise read a lot and thought about the problem, paying special attention to the section of her library labeled psychology. When she had a plan that she thought would work, she told the gazelle what to do.
A few days later the leopard came slinking around and asked the lady gazelle where her husband was. While staying out of leaping range, she told him the tortoise was using her magic to send her husband up to the gods to ask them to kill the leopard. The leopard was furious and took off at a run to find the tortoise. As soon as he left the male gazelle came out of hiding and they both raced off and got there well before the leopard. When the leopard arrived he saw the head of the male gazelle on the ground covered in blood and the tortoise holding a bloody axe in her mouth.
“Is he dead?” The leopard asked.
“No,” she replied after setting down the axe. “This is how I use my magic to send someone to the gods to appeal for help. He wants to replace you as mokonsi. I’ve done this countless times through the years. He will be fully restored shortly.”
The leopard padded around huffing and puffing. “Then you must do the same for me so that they can hear my side.”
The tortoise obliged. The lady gazelle came out of hiding and dug her husband out of the dirt and washed off the red berry juice. They thanked the tortoise. And for awhile peace reigned over the forest and the grassy plains. But sooner or later another mokonsi always comes along.
Moral: While the distant gods are often deaf to our appeals, the axes here on earth are rather sharp.