Prepared for the Annual Children’s and Youth Services meeting of Public Librarians in North East Zone NSW, Australia, 2014
Previously I have told this folktale as a story of empowerment. However, in the context of the Children’s Librarian’s meeting with it’s focus on developing links with their communities in their literacy and learning activities, there are a number of ideas the story suggests that Children’s and Youth Librarians may want to consider. As community leaders, initiating, facilitating and mentoring community members, they also have to consider funding requirements, statistics, local politics, library policies and lobbyists in their work. It is all too easy to be swamped by bureaucracy and lose sight of the importance of advocacy work. Here is the story, and following is what the story offers up to those who want to promote a harmonious community.
All Is Connected
There was once a chief who brought his people to camp on the edge of a swamp. They lay down to sleep that night to the sound of the frogs’ song. The array of rhythmic croaks and calls brought great comfort to the people because it signified the harmony in which they all lived. But the chief was outraged with the ribbitting racket of the swamp dwellers and screamed for them to shut up. They were disturbing his sleep. But the frogs paid no heed to the rantings of the chief and continued their song. The chief tossed and turned and bellowed his fury at the frogs, but they continued their song well into the night. At dawn the chief had worked himself into a state of rage not only at the frogs’ song but their refusal to be silent. He called his warriors together and demanded they bring everyone before him. When all the people were assembled the chief proclaimed that the frogs were to all punished for disturbing his peace. Everyone was given a large stick and ordered to enter the swamp and beat the frogs to death. If they refused to carry out the chief’s orders they would be beaten instead.
With great reluctance the people took the clubs and trudged into the swamp. All except an old woman who refused to take a stick and remained steadfast in front of the chief.
“Why do you defy me?” demanded the chief.
“Because all is connected,” she answered.
“What do you mean?” asked the chief.
“You will find out,” she replied.
The chief glared at the old woman, then shouted for her to leave him before he beat her himself.
Later that day the people sat around their camps, disheartened by the dreadful deed they had carried out. That night an eerie silence filled the air. The people found it hard to sleep, knowing that the frogs were no longer their companions. The chief however slept soundly, that night and the next.
It was the third night that he was awakened by an annoying hum. Swarms of mosquitoes descended on the camp. The mosquito larvae no longer eaten by the frogs had all hatched and the swamp was infested with millions of mosquitoes. The night air was filled with the drone of mosquitoes punctuated by the sounds of people slapping their bitten skin.
“Enough is enough,” they cried, and quietly gathered their belongings and moved away from the swamp and their chief.
At dawn the following day the chief, who had barely slept a wink, stood up and looked around. He was all alone, except for the old woman who had refused to kill the frogs. She stared at the chief’s bite ridden face and body and shook her head.
“Now do you understand what I said about all being connected?” she asked. Then she turned from him and walked away, leaving him with no one to rule over but the mosquitoes.
Story Suggestions for the Promotion of a Harmonious Community:
– The actions or inaction of one person can impact on a whole community.
– It is the moral duty of the most powerful to respect and protect the least powerful in a community.
– Silence is not consent.
– The dispossessed, displaced and disenfranchised also have voices that need to be heard.
– Those with the loudest voices are not always right.
– A tolerant community means that even if you don’t like someone else’s song, or choose not to sing it yourself, that you still respect their right to sing.
– Rule by fear will always have a bad outcome.
– Momentary gratification should not be at the expense of ancient wisdom.
Eleven Nature Tales: A multicultural journey by Pleasant DeSpain
August House, Little Rock Arkansas US copyright 1996
Picture by Roman W Schatz of Morgan conducting a storytime at an Australian preschool