The Princess of the African Savannah
Retold from the original by Emily Bornoff. LAPA Publishers, 2010.
Once upon a time in the African Savannah there was a princess who was as beautiful as the landscape. Her eyes shone like the night stars, her hair was curly as the thorn trees and her skin as dark as the soil. She was beautiful, happy and friendly. Her father was a good king.
One day a prince came from a faraway country. He was handsome, young and courageous. The king invited him into his home. Soon the prince and the princess grew very fond of each other. The people who like to sing and dance and tell stories around the fires at night nudged each other saying: ‘One day those two will reign over us together…’
Then winter came and with winter came the dry season. The prince became restless and frustrated: ‘I can’t stand the dust and the dry grass. Out there are many lands waiting for me to discover them, I must leave.’
‘Oh, how I would love to come with you,’ said the princess, ‘but my place is with my people. We know that the dry season will pass and the rain will come again in summer.’
‘I must leave”, said the prince, “but I will return with the summer rain.’
‘And I will wait for you….’
She waited all winter and the next summer, but he did not return. She waited another winter and a summer and yet another. Still he did not come back.
One day an eagle came and sat on her shoulder.
‘Why are you sad, princess?’
‘My prince has not returned. Please go search for him and when you find him, remind him that I am still waiting.’
The eagle searched far and wide and when he was about to give up, he found the prince in a mountainous country by the sea. The prince was still young, courageous and handsome, but also had an embarrassed look about him.
When the eagle told him who he was, he dropped his head and said:
‘I made promises that I did not know I would not be able to keep. I was foolish and did not know I would find this beautiful land where my heart wants to stay forever. Please tell the princess I am sorry.’
The eagle returned to find the princess just like he left her, waiting.
When he told her what the prince had said, she grew very angry: ‘You are a lying and deceitful bird. You were too lazy to do as I asked, and now you are making up stories! Go away and never return!’
The princess waited three more turns of the season and then she realised that the eagle had spoken the truth. And then she began to weep.
She wept without restraint. Her father tried to cheer her up with beads and new clothes. The people tried by singing songs and telling stories. Still the princess wept.
Soon the tears formed a puddle by her feet. The puddle became a stream, the stream turned into a river and the river transformed the landscape into a wet land.
With the water came the fish and then the water birds. Soon large game came like the hippo and the crocodile.
Still the princess wept.
The people built canoes and began to fish in the water. They cut the reads and started to make baskets. They hunted the large game that came to drink. Mothers washed clothes and children played in the water.
One day the eagle returned and sat down near the princess. When she saw him, she asked: ‘Why did you come back after I was so rude to you?’
‘Shhhh’ he replied, ‘just look up and see what your tears have created!’
The princess looked up and saw the people working and playing. She saw the landscape that had changed and said: ‘I want to go out in a canoe with my father.’
When she saw all there was to see, she realised that, although the land was very different from what she remembered, it was just as beautiful.
While the princess was always beautiful and friendly, over time her happiness too returned. But she was now also wise. When her father passed away some time thereafter she could be a worthy leader for her people. It was well with them and their land.
I chose this story for this story course because of its long twilight zones. A twilight zone is an in between place where it is neither day or night, where a hero wavers on a threshold betwixt and between.
Every story has two such twilight zones: one between the beginning and the middle of the story and one between the middle and the ending. The first shows the hero wavering before she accepts the Call to Adventure. The second sees her wavering between her old way of doing and accepting the new truth that the journey is teaching her.
Our princess’s first twilight zone starts when the winter first came, but it continues for the whole time that she waits for the prince, not accepting his departure. Her second twilight zone begins as her father and her people give up on her and continue with their lives in the new landscape her tears created. It ends as she finally looks up as prompted by the eagle, and decides to go out in a canoe with her father.
The transformational power of stories are locked up in how we handle our own twilight zones and how we support others through theirs.
Join the rest of the story class to learn how to harness the transformational power of story.
Tuesdays 19:30 to 21:00, from 8 Feb for 8 weeks at 6 Neetling str in Stellenbosch. Next week is the last of 2 free sessions for you to check out if you like it or not. If you missed the first one, please come 15 minutes earlier on the 15th.
I can’t wait to take you further on this adventure!