Short Stories

The Baobab Treasure

On a very hot day, a harem stopped in the shadow of a baobab, sat on the grass, and gazing in the distance at the blubber in the blowing wind, felt infinitely well. Baobab, he thought, how light and cool is your shadow at midday brazier! He raised his muzzle to the mighty branches. The leaves shuddered happily at the sympathetic thoughts directed at them. The hare laughed, seeing them happy. He was silent for a moment and then, winking and slapping his tongue with youthful malice, said:

  – Your shadow is good, of course, surely better than your fruit. I don’t want to curse, but what hangs over my head has all the air of a skin of warm water.

  The baobab, despite hearing this way to doubt its flavors after the praise that had opened its soul, entered the game. He dropped the fruit into a clump of grass. The harrier sniffed it, tasted it, found it delicious. Then she devoured it, licked its muzzle, and shook its head. The large tree, impatient to hear his verdict, held his breath.

  “Your fruit is good,” admitted the Hare.

  Then he smiled, resumed his naughty joy, and added:

  – Surely it is better than your heart. Forgive me the frankness: the heart that beats you seems to me harder than a stone.

  The baobab, hearing these words, felt invaded by an emotion he had never experienced. To offer this little one his most secret beauty, God in heaven, was his wish, but then suddenly what a fear he had to find out! Slowly parted the shell. Then came pearl necklaces, embroidered cloths, thin sandals, gold jewelry. All these wonders that filled the baobab’s heart flowed profusely before the hares, whose snout trembled and whose eyes widened.

  – Thank you, thank you. You are the best and most beautiful tree in the world, ”he said, laughing like a satisfied child and feverishly taking the magnificent treasure.

  He returned home with his back bent for all these goods. The woman welcomed him, jumping with joy. He quickly relieved him of such a beautiful burden, put on cloths and sandals, adorned his jewelry neck, and went out into the woods, impatient to be admired by his companions.

  Found a hyena. This corpse, overshadowed by the enviable riches that passed through him, went immediately to the harem’s lair and asked him where he had found those superb ornaments in which his wife was dressed. The other told him what he had said and done in the shadow of the baobab tree.

  The hyena ran there with fiery eyes, hungry for the same goods. Played the same game. The baobab, which the joy of the hare had truly rejoiced, was once again pleased to give its freshness, then the music of its foliage and the taste of its fruit, finally the beauty of its heart.

  But when the bark opened, the hyena threw herself into the wonderful offerings as if on prey and, digging tooth and nail into the depths of the old tree to pluck it further, began to grumble. :

  – And in your bowels what is there? I also want to devour your guts! I want everything you have to your roots! I want everything, do you hear?

  The wounded, torn, scared baobab kept his treasures, and the dissatisfied and angry hyena returned empty-handed to the forest. Since that day he desperately seeks illusory offerings in the dead animals he encounters, never hearing the simple breeze that soothes the spirit. As for baobab, it no longer opens its heart to anyone. Afraid. You have to understand it: the evil they have done to you is invisible but incurable.

  Truly, the hearts of men are like that of this wondrous tree, full of riches and benefits. Why will it open so little when it opens? What hyena will you remember?

  (recreation of Henri Gougaud) The Tree of Treasures translation of Mary of the Rosary Quarry

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