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THE EMPEROR

Story of the Month


There was this duck floating on the hippo pond. She had flown a very long way and had gotten separated from the others of her flock in a huge storm. She had heard the quack, quack of the others but because the wind was swirling so fast, it seemed to be coming from all directions at once. So she had kept flying as best she could and when the storm cleared, there she was… alone in a great big empty sky. Totally exhausted, and totally confused, she headed down to a small lake to rest a while and gather whatever was left of her thoughts. And there, floating, floating and not knowing what to do next, she fell asleep. When suddenly, our friend the hippo, having finished his nap at the bottom of the lake, as he was wont to do, rose up to the top and stuck his head out to have a look around. And he had come up right under our duck. Well, the sight of a duck sitting on top of hippo's head was just too funny for words for all the other animals. It may not be that funny to you or me but to the plains animals, it was the funniest thing they had ever seen, and everyone was laughing.

The duck, hearing all the ruckus, woke up and looking down saw nothing but hippo. When she realized what must have happened, she started to think that it was funny also, and started to laugh. She laughed so hard that she laid an egg – right there, right on top of the hippo's head. Everyone was so astonished that you could have heard a pun drop. Our duck was very embarrassed. Nothing like this had ever happened before – you know, building nests and sitting and all that sort of stuff. But there it was – when one of the animals, who really was not the smartest of the bunch, said "The hippo is the father." Well, everyone looked at everyone else and everyone else looked at everyone as if this is the dumbest thing, and suddenly everyone started saying "The hippo's the daddy". So much for independent thinking when you're in a crowd. And no one listened to the old gazelle who was saying "That's impossible. Kind only mate with kind and well, the rest of his thought was drowned out by group think, which really isn't the smartest thing around.

In the meantime, one of the animals dug a small shallow hole, and another carried some reeds from the side of the lake and an eagle took the egg and laid it on the nest – you see how everything can get done when everyone works together? It happened so fast that our duck just had no other thought than to follow her egg, and there she was sitting on her egg on the shore of our hippo's lake.

And everyone was standing around waiting for the hippoduck to emerge from its shell, and talking to each other, and bringing gifts for the new creature and – well, everything that happens when royalty is about to arrive. And in due time, a crack appeared in the egg, and everyone shouted to the duck "Help it get out". But our duck was very smart – way beyond her age of one year, and said "No, if I help, he/she will not have had to struggle and will not be strong enough to make it in life". Again, everyone looked at everyone else, and suddenly they all nodded in agreement – "Yes, that sounds very smart."

So everyone held their breath as a second crack appeared, and then a third and finally, the egg fell apart and what appeared was… a baby duck. "No", everyone thought. This can not be. And everyone started pacing back and forth trying to think this thing out, and the baby duck, who everyone knows follows the first thing it sees as though it is its mother, started following everyone as they paced back and forth, too and fro, until nobody knew whether it was following them or they were following it. And then, the most astonishing thing happened. It opened its beak and out came a sound that was a combination of all the sounds that all the animals had made as they crowded around the nest all those days, and the baby chick had heard it all there inside the egg. It was such a strange sound that everyone stopped dead in their tracks. It was like nothing they had heard before but… each understood something – the understanding was different for each animal, but they understood. "The King" rose up from everyone's mouth. And a lion who had been lurking nearby thinking that this duck might be a good lunch if only he could find a female lion to catch it for him, became very affronted "I'm the king of the jungle" he roared. Well, when you upset a crowd, all …. breaks loose and I think the lion is still running from all the angry animals who chased after him, pecking, and tripping up, and what not. Duck will never be on his menu again. Even if he can find a female, which is very unlikely now that he is no longer the "king".

At about this time, an ancient Egyptian was strolling by (this was in the time of the Middle Kingdom many, many centuries ago), and saw this duck with all of the animals gathered around and all of them nodding to what it was saying. When he got back to court, he told everyone what he had seen. Everyone was astonished and did not believe him but on further investigation, others came up with the same thing. And there arose this idea of a bird as emperor, and a picture was even painted.

Meanwhile, our now 'mother duck', gathered her wits about her and decided that this was not where she should bring up her new son. She must be with the flock and so with everyone's help, everyone who had watched the birds fly South for the winter, and North for the summer, pointed her in the right direction and she and her son took off to find the flock – which they did and lived happily ever after.

But back at the pond, there had grown this story which overtime became a myth – something that no one has seen but must be true because its been around for so long. It was a myth that there had been this hippo-duck who was the king of the animals. But, no matter how much anyone tried to find out whether it was true or not, they were only led to the side of the hippo pond and no further, except for a picture of a bird emperor which was found inside one of the pyramids.

© copyright 2008 J. Morgan Thomas All rights reserved

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