by Alice Woodrome
When the earth was new and Great Spirit was finishing the vast continent of Africa, he made the animals that would populate that mysterious land. Animals were not the same in those early days. They were able to discuss matters with their creator, but only at night when the moon ruled the sky.
When the sun warmed the earth during the day they practiced living, for it was a new experience. There were a lot of things to work out before all the different animals were satisfied with their niche in that great ecosystem. Little Twiga, the giraffe, did not fit in very well, and she did not feel very good about herself. She was plain brown and looked so much like the antelopes that she sometimes got confused, herself.
"I wish I was special like Milia, the zebra, or have lovely spots like Duma, the cheetah and Pardus, the leopard."
Looking plain was not her biggest concern, however. There was a lot to worry about. Sometimes it was hard to find enough green grass to eat, and she had to be so careful, too. She was afraid of Simba, the lion, who had a fierce roar and was always sneaking up on her and the antelopes to try to make them into a meal. Nyati, the Cape buffalo, was a touchy sort, and so big and mean that she tried to stay away from him, as well as Kifaru, the rhinoceros, and Kiboko, the hippopotamus. All the other animals seemed to know what they wanted, but Twiga just felt lost.
The animal she respected the most was Tembo, the elephant - because of his awesome size. She also envied him his wonderful trunk. He could reach high into the trees to eat the tender leaves that none of the other animals could get to.
Every night when the moon came out, Great Spirit would speak with his creation, to ask if they needed help or had questions. There were always lots of squabbles because, after all, it was a jungle out there. Twiga never complained about her shortcomings or fears, but one night when the moon was particularly big and bright, the Great Spirit noticed sad little Twiga in the shadows.
"What can I do to make you happy, Twiga, my child," Great Spirit asked.
"I don't feel like I measure up to all of the other animals you have made, Sir, but I don't know what can be done at this point -- I've been made the way I am."
Great Spirit smiled. "I am your creator, and I can do anything, my little Twiga. None of us are ever finished. Go sleep in the grass now and dream your dreams."
Little Twiga did as she was bid. She curled up in her nest of grass and slept. She dreamed of Duma and Pardus beautiful coats and how wonderful it would be to eat the tender green leaves like Tembo and not to worry so much.
The next evening a beautiful new animal was seen by the light of the moon. She had a coat that rivaled anything seen on the continent and a long slender neck that towered into the trees. With such a lofty view, she could see the predators a long way off that had made her so fearful and she could eat her fill of the tender leaves. Twiga had found more than her niche. The little plain animal was now perhaps the most unique animal in all of Africa.