A Caterpillar's Voice
Illustrated By: Elizabeth Rocha
ONE NICE DAY, Caterpillar was out for a walk and came to a cave. “My, my!” said Caterpillar. “This looks like a very nice cave!” Caterpillar looked in the door of the cave. “I do not see anyone in there,” he said. “I will go in.” Caterpillar went inside.
And so Caterpillar inched up on top of a rock. And that was where he fell asleep. Right at the very same time, Hare, who lived in that cave, was also out for a walk. When Hare came home, she saw marks on the ground.
This woke up Caterpillar. And Caterpillar boomed in a very loud voice, “It is I! Yes, I who stamps rhinos in the earth and stomps elephants into dust!” Hare hopped about in fear. “What can a small animal like me do with a beast who stamps rhinos and elephants?”
Soon Jackal passed by. Hare said, “Friend Jackal, someone has come inside my cave! Please, will you help me?” Jackal said, “Yes, I am happy to help.” Jackal went up to the cave and barked loudly, “Who is in the house of my friend Hare?” Caterpillar called out in a voice that rocked the earth. “It is I! Yes, I who stamps rhinos in the earth, and stomps elephants into dust!”
On hearing this, Jackal thought in fear, “I can do nothing against such a creature!” And Jackal ran off as fast as he could.
Then Leopard passed by. Hare told Leopard everything that had happened. Leopard said, “I am bigger than Jackal and I am more loud.” At the door of the cave, Leopard yelled, “Who is in the house of my friend Hare?” Caterpillar called back in the same way he had done before. Leopard was surprised.
He thought, “If this creature stamps rhinos and elephants, I do not even want to think about what he could do to me!” And Leopard ran off very fast.
Next Rhino passed by. “Everyone knows how big and scary I am,” grunted Rhino. He marched up to Hare’s cave. He snorted and pawed the ground with his very big feet. But when Rhino asked who was inside the cave and he heard Caterpillar’s booming reply, he said, “This is not good! He can stamp me into the earth? I am out of here!” And Rhino ran away, crashing through the forest. “I am out of here!" And Rhino ran away, crashing through the forest.”
Even Elephant tried to help. But like the others, when Elephant heard what Caterpillar had to say, he knew he had no wish to be stomped underfoot like dust. And he ran off very fast, too.
Hare did not know what to do! Then Frog passed by. “What is wrong?” said Frog, and Hare told him. “Maybe I can help you,” said Frog. “I wish you could,” said Hare. “But Jackal tried to help. And Leopard tried to help. Even Rhino and Elephant tried to help. And none of them could.”
“Still,” said Frog. “Let me try.” Jackal, Leopard, Rhino and Elephant heard their names spoken and they came up see what was going on. “What, you?" laughed Jackal. "You are too small!” “You cannot help!” said Rhino. All the animals laughed. "He wants to," said Hare. “Why not let Frog try?”
And so Frog went to the cave door and asked who was inside. He received the same reply as had been given to the others. Then Frog went more close and shouted, “I, who am the strongest of all, have come at last. I am the one who stamps those who stamp the rhinos! I am the one who stomps underfoot those who stomp the elephants!”
When Caterpillar inside Hare’s cave heard this, he trembled. He could see the shadow of Frog coming closer and closer. He thought, “After all, I am only a caterpillar!” And Caterpillar inched out of Hare’s cave, hoping that no one would see him. But they did see him!
“I would never dream of staying in that cave!” said Caterpillar with his nose in the air. “An echo like that is far too crude for a fancy creature like me!” As Caterpillar sniffed away, all the other animals laughed at the trouble such a small thing had given them.
"A Caterpillar's Voice" is based on "The Story of the Caterpillar and the Wild Animals", a story from The Masai: Their Language and Folklore by A.C. Hollis (Negro Universities Press: Connecticut, 1905), pp. 184-185. Adapted by Elaine Lindy © 1998. All rights reserved.
The Maasai (or Masai), an east African nomadic people, have been known as warriors who possess great strength and a strong sense of independence. They live in the countries of Kenya and Tanzania, in an area known as Maasailand. The region contains great natural wonders of the world, including Mt. Kilimanjaro. The Maasai date to 500 BCE (Before Common Era), when they lived along the Nile River in southern Sudan. Over time they migrated southward to the area now known as Tanzania. Through the mid-1800s the Maasai were among the most powerful groups in Africa, ruling over 10 million acres of land. Today the Maasai number approximately 250,000.