Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The lowly Francolin . . .

Francolin, Tarangire National Park, Tanzania
We saw these lovely little birds skittering in the grass nearly everywhere in Tarangire National Park and the Serengheti.

A type of pheasant, these Francolins are groupie birds. They hunt for seeds and small insects together and sleep in the branches of the umbrella thorn acacia trees at night.

At first, I couldn't find any stories about these birds, but if there were a story about this mild little bird, we might learn they are carrying out secret missions or perhaps they're observant guards that fade into the grasses, for they are nearly invisible.

But, perseverance furthers. I did find a story about the lowly Francolin, that bird that cannot fly but can only hop from grassy land to tree.

Scheherazade, that mythical teller of tales for 1,001 nights, tells how a group of tortoises fell in love with a Francolin who visited just as dusk fell. The Francolin would spend the night and, at first light, fly about his own business. Despite the entreaties of the tortoises who loved the Francolin greatly, each dawn the Francolin left. The tortoises were never quite sure the Francolin would return to them, so they devised a plan to keep him close.

Following much debate, the tortoises talked the Francolin into pulling out his wing feathers. After a time, along came a weasel who spied that plump Francolin who could no longer fly. The tortoises could do nothing to save their beloved save mourn his passing. With his last cries, the Francolin forgave the tortoises, saying he should have known better. And so Scheherazade concludes her story at dawn with the death of the Francolin.

As a young girl, I was entranced by the thought that this maiden could tell a fabulous story that lasted all night long. As a writer, I admire her storytelling powers that stopped the story before it was finished, exactly at dawn, thus saving her life for another night. I imagined those words spilling from her, fused by desperation, and so she lived to tell stories yet another day, and another.

You can read Scheherazade's original story of the francolin translated by Richard Burton here:


Suzy said...

Never knew such birds existed - I learned something new today.
Might have to pick up and read the Arabian Nights again. Dropping by from UBC.

Beth Camp said...

Thank you for stopping by, Suzy. I'm still trying to assimilate what we saw while in Africa for only three weeks. I do love the stories behind what we see. Beth

KM Huber said...

Once again, I learn from you, Beth. I really enjoy these posts and this one included a story beyond the story. Wonderful!