I understand today why Edgar Rice Burroughs or Rudyard Kipling has shown such a passion when writing stories about the life of some animals. These worlds are not so different from ours, supposedly more rational, and the morality they reveal can be beneficial for the evolution of our human conscience of the strangers worlds with which we are supposed to coexist, but that in fact we still almost completely ignore. I would like to tell you this true story that was told to me by an old African hunter, the last time that I visited a small island of African West Coast.
This is the history of a monkey baboon that lost her mother, the Queen of Baboons when she was still a child, assassinated by a leopard, the biggest predator of the island where they lived. Alone, orphan, during all that tragic day, Lau rose above the grass with her small legs, looking in all directions, making those typical sounds of the monkey’s babies, “roh, roh, roh”. The body of the mother lay inert, disfigured on the branches of a tree. During the tough days that followed, Lau fought for her survival with all the forces of her small being, until one day, three-year old, she was able to take care of herself. Lau played with the new others little monkeys affectionately, despite times to times she had strange behaviors, abducting for short moments the children of other monkeys, that didn’t react for respect of the hierarchy. After all, despite that weird behavior, Lau was the daughter of the old Queen…
One day, by mere casualty, she glimpsed from the high branch of a tree, the small son of the leopard, assassin of her mother. She remained quiet for long moments while observing the unskillful movements of that small creature. Humans, we are accustomed to the tragedy, and we can imagine what would have crossed in that small animal mind, the emotions that the small defenseless being would have roused inside the mind of Lau.
For a short moment she seemed to want revenge, wishing ardently the suffering of the old mother leopard at least as much as she suffered in the past, she, orphan of the mother, mother that had been long ago the Queen of the Baboons in that remote island of the African coast. At that time, among the group lived a thug, that we can here call by the name of Rau, an adolescent and marginal monkey who had the habit of playing affectionately with the other little monkeys around one high tower made by termites, but that revealed himself particularly cruel with Lau, pursuing her too much often, biting her with ferocity, and making the difficult life of Lau an authentic hell.
The years were passing in that distant forest of Africa and Lau showed signs typical of the adult age, as it was evident in her salient and reddish tail. Then, one day happened the unimaginable. Undoubtedly, the unimaginable happens in the life of the monkeys. Between Rau and Lau the papers had been inverted and Rau started to show evidence of a strange fascination for Lau. One day, when Lau was in the meditative mood at the top of the highest acacia, Rau came close to her, insecure, almost falling of the tree when attempting to advance in her direction with small steps on the vacillating branches of the old acacia, in truth, a romantic place for one first meeting. Rau revealed to be rendered to the enchantments of Lau, excited by an uncontrollable hormonal tumult, a pawn in an unpredictable game. But no, no. Lau was absolutely not interested in Rau, not even exchange a look with him, disdaining Rau with all the soul of a monkey. For moments, the old hunter, intent observer, felt compassion for Rau. This was also the last day that Rau was seen among the group of the baboons…
In the impetuous sequence of time that takes care of the baboons in a way similar to the humans, Lau had later the first baby, who she dealt with extreme affection. Showing a huge wisdom, she took care of the father of the daughter with an exceeded care, at all very unusual between the baboons. The wise Lau instinctively understood that the better form to protect the daughter, the only one that could possibly be seen as the future queen, her successor, was to cherish the father, and the father, clearly thankful, paid back with affection, with a redoubled attention to the daughter, protecting her from all threats, including the intrinsic wickedness of the species.
One day, a calamitous fire destroyed half of the area where this group inhabited. Involved in a cloud of leached ashes, walking on the burnt and still smoking land, that small horde of baboons seemed convicted to death, immersed in an apocalyptic environment, and disputes burst in the group. And it was then that, one more time the destiny disclosed its imperative. A small dispute between the two sisters was decided in favor of Lau, and from that moment Lau becomes the Queen of the Baboons. Walking on the burnt and still smoking ground, she discovered that the roots of the vegetation, then in plain view to all, was bursting from the subsoil with the force of the heat and that these roots were eatable. Such discovery fed all the monkeys and calmed the spirits. With another happy signal that would last along the new reign, the sister of Lau did not reveal herself annoyed with her new status in the hierarchy, and the two sisters continued to coexist in peace, a change that was beneficial for that small endangered horde.
With the flow of time, Lau had some children and grandsons, always very dedicated to her numerous family, having gestures of affection and tricks that remember in many ways the tricks that humans use to entertain their familiar relationships. And, as I referred to, one of the daughters would become the future Queen of the Baboons, as it happened since generations.
However, the life of Lau was not easy, although she was at the top of the hierarchy, showing that power is not synonymous with happiness. She had been seriously bitten by the son of the leopard that had assassinated her mother, she had survived to a temporary blindness provoked by a bite from a snake. Beyond what it would be expectable, she also survived the death of some children, although emotionally shaken, carrying several days with her the inert body of the dead children, until the moment she had the courage to abandon them. The son of the old predatory leopard, the assassin of her mother, also died from a wound, and all the other opponents of Lau had had an equal end. Against all the probabilities, Lau had survived to all its enemies…
However, in her twenty-fifth winter, Lau was manifestly weak, visibly accompanying with difficulty the group. We, human, and the monkeys as well, we cannot be certain of tomorrow. In this natural order of things, the day arrived when Lau went up for a high tree with remarkable difficulty, to discover that she was alone. Alone, all the group had left for another place. She looked in all directions during hours, looking for signals of her people, crying out for them in their proper clamor, albeit now weaker, much weaker, glimpsing the mysterious ways and the strange branches that met beyond the swamp that was interposed now between her and the remaining portion of the forest. She cried out the last time for all of them, in a similar way she did in her childhood, crying out in vain for the presence of her mother. Finally, discouraged, she went down from the high tree and penetrated, determined, into the swamp. And she was not seen ever more.
ut animus eius in pace.