Chapter 1

HERE COMES THE HIPPOPOTAMUS

hippo

That forest used to be ruled by a fiery tigress, but the council of elderly animals belonging to the “veiled clan,”  in pursuance of an age-long custom, decided to move the tigress to another forest and had her replaced by a huge female  hippopotamus.

The tigress  was a strong ruler yet benevolent. The animals under her rule respected and not feared her for even if her claws were sharp she handled them, yes, firmly, but gently. The tigress’ fangs and claws were never  a grim reminder to the animals in that forest of what could happen to them if they would chose to go against her expectations as dictated by the code of conduct for animals. Those fangs and claws served as a reminder for the animals to conduct themselves according to the established standards and norms in the animalandia.

Then came the turn of the hippopotamus to rule. A day before the new ruler came, the hawk hovered around the forest and warned the animals that the hippopotamus was nursing a grudge against the tigress, and that definitely would  affect them.

In a nearby stream where the ram and other animals were drinking, a huge catfish appeared and said, “Hey, I came from another forest, the one that used to be ruled by the hippopotamus. This stream connects our forests. I was brought here by the strong current. All I can say to you animals in this forest is good luck. The days of some of you may be numbered already. Be very careful. Be very vigilant.”

At first, the animals in the hallowed forest did not take seriously the revelations made by the hawk. They also seemed not so bothered by the warning of the catfish. The old horse in that jungle however said, “Isn’t it that the jungle where that fish came from is predominantly under water? My gosh, why did the council of elderly animals decide  to send the hippopotamus here? Don’t they know that this jungle has more dry land than land under water. The hippopotamus may not be used to handling a forest like this. Her aquatic ways may not be applicable in this forest. Good luck to us really!”

The horse neighed loudly as she moved out of sight of the other animals.

When finally the new leader came,  she shook the very foundations of that forest. Many drastic changes were readily effected. Even in areas where things were okay she insisted on effecting changes. What the hawk said was true. The hippopotamus spoke ill of the tigress saying that the latter was good for nothing. She made it too obvious in her words and actions that  she was hell bent on erasing whatever legacy the tigress left in that forest. It seemed her mission was to prove that there was nothing good that the tigress did and that as a ruler she is better than the tigress.

In short, the hippopotamus literally bulldozed  her way into the lives of every animal in that forest. She made sure that all the animals were aware of her presence. She made sure that everybody would feel that  she is the boss and that they should forget about the past dispensation. She was particularly mad at the animals who in her view were loyalists of the tigress, including the ram.

One day, the ram was eating grass in one area in the forest. Upon seeing the hippopotamus, the ram exclaimed, “Our most loving ruler, the grass here are great.” To the ram’s surprise, the hippopotamus responded, “Yeah, and you’re good at nothing but eating. How I wish you were eaten by that ugly tigress before she went away.”

The ram  was dumbfounded. He did not expect that from their leader. He became restless. Without thinking of the possible consequences the ram followed the hippopotamus and bravely demanded for an explanation. He asked, “What’s the problem oh veiled hippopotamus? I just said that the grass here are great!” To his surprise the hippopotamus said, “Ram, oh ram ,  oh courageous ram. Don’t be too sensitive . I don’t care if the grass are great. Go on, continue grazing in that ground. Let’s not both forget this day.”

The ram knew that that day he became a marked animal. Then he recalled what the hawk and the catfish said.

The ram told the other animals about his encounter with the veiled hippopotamus. Then he came to learn that in the short span that the hippopotamus was there many animals were already victimized by her harsh words. She also changed  many of the great things introduced by the tigress during her reign.

The hippopotamus was merciless, she stepped on the face of all the helpless animals, big or small. She seemed to enjoy seeing animals cry after confronting them. She seemed to take joy in seeing the animals suffer. She seemed to take pride on finding faults among the animals, particularly those who were close to the tigress. Even those who were not really close to the tigress became victims of the irrational hippopotamus. The animals in that forest then realized that the hippopotamus was naturally bilious, that her tongue is like a bladed weapon that would blurt out words as sharp as blades.

Many of the animals were crying in despair. Some were just shaking their heads in disbelief saying that indeed the hippopotamus may have a big body but a small brain, and a smaller heart. Some birds stated to think of migrating to other forests although it is off-season.

One day, the panther approached the ram. “I received unconfirmed reports from the hornets that  from the ranks of the animals in this jungle – the wolf and the cow, feeling that they could be benefited, had decided ‘to scratch the back and belly’ of the hippopotamus. The hornets said that the wolf and the cow whispered a lot of things to the hippopotamus. They don’t know what  those ‘careless whispers’ were but they were sure of the bad intentions of those two animals.”

But the panther is known in that forest to be moody and besides, the ram  knows that the panther had disagreements with the wolf and the cow. The ram thought that perhaps the panther was just looking for an opportunity to get back at the two. The ram  found it hard to believe the panther  especially since the he  knew so well that the cow is a humble animal. That put him in quandary.

But the ram  thought what if the panther was right, what if he knows somethings that the he does not?  The ram was a little confused when he moved away from the panther. There was something within him telling him to believe what the panther said. For the ram, it was highly probable that the wolf may have been doing so but he had reservations about the cow. He just decided to let time prove whether the panther was right about the cow.

With the hippopotamus’ reign of terror, some animals were seemingly pushing the button of  self-preservation. It seemed then that alliances were being built.

The ram suspected that the hippopotamus was already employing the scheme “divide and conquer.” She was trying to win over animals who she thought could be easily swayed and could help her deliver a coup-de-grace.

In one occasion, the ram told the other animals that all of them should be praying hard for the guidance of the Almighty One, the Creator of all Forests. In that same occasion the very vocal eagle also said, “Yes, let’s pray that the Almighty One will show us the best options that we have in response to what the hippopotamus is doing. When the best option that we in this jungle should take will be clearly shown then let’s not be afraid to take it. Whatever it is.” The ram responded, “I will be with you eagle even if it would mean just the two of us.”

The ram then walked away contemplating. In his heart he  knew that the Almighty One is the best judge of all actions. Then he muttered to himself, “I hope the hippopotamus will reflect on the things she is doing and saying. May the Almighty One make her brain as big as her body and her heart as hallow as her veil.”

Then the ram wondered, “Is the hippotamus really a member of the veiled clan or a pet of Hades unleashed from the underworld?”

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Chapter 2 – Then Came the Monkey

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