Cinderella, Jungle Print E-mail
Jane

When Banku and Frissa, the caring apes found the little human baby next to the bodies of her explorer parents and named her Cinderella ("she of the blond hair") they had not expected her to last the summer, let alone grow up to be such a sturdy young woman. The hair they had hoped she would form all over her body never came, but the golden strands on her head trailed down her back and were the wonder of the whole jungle. It was reported that Sindu, the vengeful leopard, wanted those locks for a trophy.

Cinderella herself was reaching that age when she would look at the young of the other jungle creatures with an air of whimsy and jealousy. This built throughout her seventeenth spring until one morning she rushed into the clearing where the ape colony was resting and up to her aging guardians.

"Banku and Frissa, beloved parents," she called in the poetic tongue of the jungle primates. "I have seen a wonderful thing. At the man village."

At the mention of the man village the apes became uneasy. The man village was a place to be avoided. A place of danger. And they knew that it could not but hold a great fascination for the young human. This was a day they had feared for many years.

Cinderella was too excited to see this and carried on explaining what she had seen.

"They are preparing for a feast. I do not know much of the language of man, but I have been sitting nearby and listening for many weeks. They are preparing for a new man to take charge of them. Isn't it exciting?"

None of the apes agreed.

"I hope it will be the one the call Ragish. He seems to be the son of the chief and is very handsome."

The apes were not liking this at all.

"The feast is tonight. Can I go?"

This was the peel that broke the gorilla's stride, as they say in the jungle. Gabbu, the large dominant male who was in most respects in charge of the group, stepped forward.

He threw both his arms in the air and brought them down to the ground which is how an ape shows displeasure.

"No," he said. "You may not go. You are an ape now. Man is no friend of the apes."

"But it would just be for the feast."

"No." Again the arms expressed this also. "You do not speak their language. You do not have their clothes, their gait. And you do not look like them. You are fair skinned like the worms that live under rocks and they are dark like those who live above the rocks. You must stay under your rock, Cinderella. I forbid you to go." With that he threw his arms out sideways and back to his chest to show he had laid down the law.

Cinderella knew there was no use arguing with the head of their clan. He was head by virtue of his strength and was always prepared to back his wisdom up with it.

Later she pleaded with her parents, but they would not contradict Gabbu. And set her the task of collecting small fresh-fallen twigs to make new beds for everyone to show she was grateful for their guidance.

In the evening, most of the apes went off to chase small tree monkeys as reward for a productive day. Cinderella was not allowed to go, as a punishment and she still had lots of twigs to collect.

As she was sullenly collecting twigs in the next clearing, Pangbo the parakeet flew in from the tree tops. Pangbo was Cinderella's friend; a clever but sometimes vain bird. She sat on the branch of a nearby tree.

"Why so sad?" she asked.

Cinderella explained. Pangbo thought. She thought some more and then finally spoke.

"You should go."

"I can't go. I have to collect thee twigs."

"I can collect the twigs. It'll be fun. Like I'm building lots of big nests. But you'll have to wear some clothes. They all seem to cover their loins in the village and many wear things on their feet. I don't know how they stand it."

Cinderella nodded, very grateful. "I have seen. Ragish wears around his loins a leopard skin. I like to think it is the skin of my enemy Sindu, but it cannot be. I too should wear the skin of a dead creature of the jungle. Although it will feel strange. I will wear my blanket." Cinderella's blanket was the skin of a jungle fox she had slain on her fifteenth birthday.

"And on your feet…" Pangbo flew up and came down with two tough, ageing bananas, too old to eat. "…banana peels."

Cinderella threw out the middle of the bananas and put the skins on her feet. She crept over to her bed and grabbed her blanket. It was large and when wrapped around her in the manner she had seen some village women do, they covered not only her loins but her chest as well. It was then that her excitement turned to disappointment.

"It's no good. The village is so far away that I will never be there on time."

"Oh, no?" asked the parakeet. "Could not Quiddink the swift and powerful jaguar carry you there in a short space of time? And is he not in debt from you for removing him from the trap left by the hunters? Call to him."

Cinderella cupped her hands around her mouth and called out in the tongue of jaguars for Quiddink. She disguised her voice so that the apes would not realize something was afoot. Shortly Quiddink arrived and before long, Cinderella was on her way to the man village.

-

The ceremony to swear in the new chief of the village was in full swing. Ramboo the village mystic had danced in fire; the village maidens had presented fruit; the ashes of Ragish's father had been dabbed on his forehead and spread around the tree of life. When Cinderella arrived, the celebrations were into the dancing phase. She left Quiddink and edged towards the village. The sound of the revelry and of the drums was very loud now. She could see the villagers dancing and in the middle, looking serene, Ragish. She straightened her blanket, pushed the banana peels firmly on her feet and headed in. As soon as she appeared, the dancing, singing and music stopped. All eyes were on her, the strangely dressed pale woman in their midst. Chief Ragish walked through the crowd, it parted for him, but stayed protectively close. It was clear he was fascinated and a little confused.

He said something in the human tongue of the village. Her understanding of it was "Who are you?"

In her head she had an ape-tongue reply all ready. "I am Cinderella. I was raised by apes from an early age but I am human like you, albeit clearly from a different fair-skinned village. And I am pleased to make my acquaintance with you Ragish new chief of this village. Please let the dancing recommence and allow me to join in your celebration." With her limited human vocabulary, it came out as "Me OoAaaEeeAa. You Ragish. Dance! Dance!"

It took a few seconds but Ragish could see in the beautiful expressive eyes of this miscolored woman exactly what she meant. And the code of the village was to make all welcome, no matter what diseases of the skin they had. He clapped his hands and called, "music!"

The drums started again. The villagers started dancing again and soon put the strange girl from their mind. She seemed wild but harmless. Although the maidens of the village eyed her with envy as they saw in her eyes a desire for Ragish, and they sensed in him the possibility of it being returned.

Ragish stepped up towards Cinderella. He took her hand and led her into the area of dancing. This was a high honor in the village and jealousy abounded. There he danced. As everyone in the village was dancing in the same way, it was clear to Cinderella that she too was expected to do the same. But Cinderella had never danced before in her life. She had hunted, fought beasts, swum rapids and climbed the tallest of trees, but she had never danced. She tried to copy Ragish, but every move she made elicited more and more laughter from the villagers. Ragish was not laughing. He seemed to be trying to teach her by example, but her body, so well developed for fighting, was not any good for dancing. Her every move was awkward and none of the moves looked as graceful when she did them as when Ragish did. Finally, the drums reached a climax and Ragsh span round in mid jump to land on his feet. Cinderella tried the same, but landed clumsily and fell to the floor. This time even Ragish laughed. Not unkindly as some of the villagers were, but to her it was like the spike that broke the tiger's skin, as they say in the jungle. She turned and ran. Her banana skin shoes had long since flown off in the dancing, but now her sheet also came loose and fell to the floor. She ran, naked as she always used to be back into the jungle. In her shame she didn't think about Quiddink, but ran straight passed him. He followed her to keep her from harm, but did not approach. She had never seen her so upset and in the jungle no animals feel that much mental pain so he did not know what to make of it.

She ran all the way back to the apes' clearing. The apes were asleep and she saw that Pangbo had made her bed look like she was in it, by laying a large leaf on top of it as she did when she needed extra warmth sometimes. She snuck off to her favorite hollow and cried. When she could cry no more she went back to her bed and crawled under the leaf.

-

In the morning, there was a great commotion. The apes were highly anxious.

"What's up?" she asked Booba one of the younger apes.

"It is the manfolk," she explained. "They are coming. This way. They are deciding whether to fight them or hide."

Suddenly the large frame of Gabbu appeared and Booba scampered off.

"Cinderella," he said. "The villages are coming this way. I have a great fear they are here because of you. But now is not the time for justice, but for the safety of the tribe. We are all moving to the tall tree. Come with us, and I promise I will be lenient."

"No, Gabbu. You go to the trees. If it is indeed the villagers, they have come for me and me alone. If they don't find me here, they will continue their search and you will not be safe for man does not trust the apes because he sees himself in them. I will remain here. If they mean to kidnap me or kill me, it does not matter. Nothing matters to me, I have tasted humiliation and now all life has that bitter taste. Gabbu, go, and I say now I regret never trusting your wise judgment."

Gabbu touched Cinderella's hair and pulled out several imaginary insects to show his respect for her words. Then he ran off to rally the last of the apes.

Cinderella lay down on her own bed and cried once more. She had no fear, just emptiness. When the tears had run dry like the end of the monsoon, she just stared over to the far side of the clearing. She could sense something approaching, but her stare remained fixed. Suddenly she felt a weight on her. Not a heavy weight but as if something loose had been rested on her. She moved her head and instantly realized it was her blanket.

She looked up and standing over her was Ragish flanked by some of the village elders. He smiled at her. She didn't know what to do. Her instinct was to run. But she didn't. She kept her resolve and looked up blankly.

"OoAaaEeeAa," he said trying to reproduce her name. "As the new chief of the village it is my duty to find a wife within ten sundowns. I have made my choice since you captivated me last night. Please consent to be the wife of the chief of the village of Guntamantapantapogrol."

Cinderella starred up. She didn't understand any of that except he'd tried to say her name. Ragish saw her incomprehension and tried again.

"OoAaaEeeAa. Ragish. Love." He held her hand to his heart. She understood. He nodded. She nodded.

Nine days later another celebration was held in the village. It was the wedding of the chief and the whole village was there in their best clothes. Cinderella was dressed in a new dress. And from the side, in the bushes, two very proud apes watched with trepidation.

 
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