The Squirrel Show – A Gikuyu Folk Tale


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The Squirrel - Wakahare : Source Fred K. Kago Wirute Guthoma bk 3 1958

One day a squirrel was caught red handed by a group of monkeys in the act of stealing their food. Since Mr Squirrel had made a habit of stealing the food from them, the monkeys were very pleased to have finally nabbed him and quickly passed a sentence of immediate death on him. However, before they carried out the sentence, Mr. Squirrel made one last desperate plea for his life. He knew how monkeys loved to eat the young tender gourd fruits before they ripen and harden. The gourd fruit looks very like a watermelon and is just as juicy and a favorite of monkeys. Mr. Squirrel told the group of monkeys that if they let him go he was going to lead them to an entire farm full of pre-ripening gourds. “Aha! And how do you little creature hope to lead us to such goodies?” They asked this because they knew that human beings who planted the gourds were always on the alert for the slightest sign of monkeys near their farms and jealously protected the gourds 24/7 until they hardened beyond the monkeys’ taste. Mr. Squirrel was firm and promised the monkeys they would have their fill that day if they let him free to which the monkeys consented. The whole troupe then set out with little Mr. Squirrel leading the pack.

By and by they arrived at a clearing with a farm full of gourds literally calling out to monkeys to be eaten. The owner of the farm had however tasked his many daughters to spend every day in the farm scaring away monkeys and there was no way the monkeys could attack the gourds. Mr. Squirrel asked the monkeys to hide in a corner of the farm and await his signal from the other end of the farm. He left the monkeys and climbed a tree on the opposite side of the farm and in full sight of the girls swayed his bushy tail this way and that way while singing a beautiful song.

Wakahare wi nguo igutombatomba
Na iri ingi ikaringa mego

Mwari ndoria, mwari ndoria
Huuuuuuuuuuu!!

This spectacle soon drew all the girls around the tree as Mr. Squirrel put on the performance of his life. As the girls’ attention was focused on the free show, the monkeys poured into the farm and ate like there was no tomorrow. Having had their fill one of them belched loudly, “Hobu Korogoco!” The girls turned round only to find their father’s farm laid to waste.

COMMENTARY
The girls lost the substance in pursuit of trivia. Though these girls did not have a TV set, the scene mirrors today’s entertainment culture or what Chris Hedges calls “The Triumph of Spectacle”. Below are some highlights from his book, “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle”

“The basic message of Lady Gaga”

“The really tragic figures are the crowd of followers”

“This endless, mindless diversion is a necessity in a society that prizes entertainment above substance”

“Classical theater, newspapers, and books are pushed to the margins of cultural life, remnants of a bygone literate age. They are dismissed as inaccessible and elitist unless they provide, as Goody did, effortless entertainment.”

“We are captivated by the hollow stagecraft of political theatre as we are ruthlessly stripped of power. It is smoke and mirrors, tricks and con games, and the purpose behind it is deception.”

“We are chained to the flickering shadows of celebrity culture, the spectacle of the arena and the airwaves, the lies of advertising, the endless personal dramas, many of them completely fictional, that have become the staple of news, celebrity gossip, New Age mysticism, and pop psychology. …… reality itself has been converted into stagecraft.”

“More than twice as many young people apply to MTV’s Real World show than to Harvard.”

“A populace deprived of the ability to separate lies from truth, that has become hostage to the fictional semblance of reality put forth by pseudo-events, is no longer capable of sustaining a free society.”

“They eat at fast food restaurants not only because it is cheap, but also because they can order from pictures rather than from a menu.”

Friends, next time you see these squirrels, politicians, celebs, clowns, etc. waving their bushy tails mainly on TV, know that its just a distraction. Continue minding your business. Lets remain focused on the essential substance of life. Our ripening gourds.