Saturday, 26 December 2015

From the Baboon Chronicles

Once upon a time, two baboon troops lived in a valley in the mountains.

It was a deep and pleasant valley, verdant and fertile, and covered with trees which bore large and luscious fruit, with long grass with tasty seeds, and juicy insects which burrowed in the ground and scurried among the roots. The streams that ran through the valley were deep and cool, and the water holes fresh and clear.

The two troops of baboons lived on opposite sides of the valley, with their territories separated by a river. The name of one troop was the Blue troop, because of the colour of its members’ faces; the other was the Red troop, because that was the colour of its members’ behinds.

One year it so happened that a great drought came on the land, a drought so severe that the water holes and pools shrank and almost disappeared, and the earth became hard and cracked as sun-dried brick. The grass and leaves withered and turned sere and brown, and the sky, day after day after day, was the colour of burnished brass.

So severe was the drought that the food the baboons ate, the seeds and nuts, became as hard and dry and without nutrition as pieces of gravel; and the insects burrowed deep under the ground, so deep that even the baboons could not dig them out.  So severe was the drought that the fruit on the trees remained the only food to be found.

And as the months passed, the drought became more and more severe; the sun seemed to suck every drop of water from the very land and air, and even the fruit became dry and wrinkled, and hard as stone. The water holes dried to puddles of damp soil, and finally vanished. The river shrank, too, from a broad, crystal clear flood to a narrow thread of liquid mud. And still the drought went on.

Then at last the two Blue leaders called all the members of their troop together. “Clearly,” one said, “there is not enough food and water on our side of the valley for us to survive on. We must, therefore, make up our minds what to do.”

“We can either leave the valley altogether,” another continued, “and look for better pickings on the mountains, where perhaps, among the scrub and the thorn trees, we may find some trickle of water, some nest of insects, to keep us alive. We can leave this valley, which is our birthright, for the uncertainty of life on the mountain. Or...”

Or,” the first leader continued, “we can drive out the Red Troop that occupies half our valley. The Great Baboon gave us this valley for our own, and proved it by providing us all the food, and water that we might need. But we have been sharing His gifts with the Red interlopers, who have no place in this valley, and have no rights to anything of ours.”

“Clearly, that is why the Great Baboon has brought down this drought on us,” the second leader said. “He wants us to drive out the Reds, and occupy the whole valley, which He has given us in His infinite wisdom. There is still enough food and water in the whole valley for our troop, as long as we do not share with anyone.”

The first leader glared around at the baboons. “And if we hesitate,” he said, “if we dally too long in making up our minds, the Reds will attack us, and drive us out, and take over the valley for themselves; for they are evil and bitter, and envy us in all things we do.”

“What should we do then?” the second leader asked the assembled troop. “Should we give up our birthright and become wanderers on the mountain slopes...or should we fight?”

“Fight!” the assembled baboons shouted in unison. “We must fight!”

“See,” the first leader replied, “the Great Baboon has even made it easy for us to invade their land, by drying up the river to a muddy trickle. He has paved the way to our victory!”

“Attack!” the second leader commanded. “Attack at once, and drive out the Red interlopers to the wastes from which they came!”

So the Blue troop rose up at one, and rushed across the river, and threw themselves on the Red troop on the other side. But the Red troop had seen them coming, and fought back with such courage that they broke the Blue advance, and at the end of the day, though there had been a mighty slaughter, neither side had won a victory.

That night the Blue leaders called their troop together again for a council of war. “We have lost many,” the baboons complained, “and gained nothing. Many of us are weary and wounded, bruised and bleeding. We no longer believe that we can win so easily.”

“But no,” the first leader said, “we cannot give up now. Tomorrow, we must attack at first light again, for if we step back now, it will embolden the Reds, and make them think we are weak.”

“Besides,” the second leader added, “if we do not continue the war, if we stop fighting, it would only mean that all the blood we have shed has been shed in vain. So we must keep fighting.”

So the next morning the Blue troop again attacked across the river, and there was more slaughter. But once again the Red troop fought back with mighty courage, and after a day of bitter combat, both sides, as before, were locked in a stalemate.

Once again the Blue leaders called a council of war, and loud were the rebellious muttering from the troop. “If the Great Baboon had wanted us to win the war,” the baboons said, “He should have given us weapons to fight with, which the enemy cannot counter. As things are, we can kill each other, but we can’t win.”

The two Blue leaders looked at each other. “But there are weapons,” the first said, pointing to the branches overhead. “Look, the Great Baboon, in His wisdom, has dried the fruit until they are harder than stones, and easier to throw. What better weapons can there be?”

“But the fruit are the only food we have left,” the baboons argued. “How can we waste them in fighting?”

“When we have driven out the Red troop,” the second leader proclaimed, “and have the whole valley in our hands, there will be fruit enough for everyone.”

“So gather the fruit and keep them to hand,” the first leader ordered. “Tomorrow, we will attack them again and destroy them.”

So the next morning, the Blue troop, for the third time, rushed across the river to the Red side, this time flinging fruit before them with all their might as they went. Though the Red troop was taken by surprise at this tactic, they fought back as bravely as they could. Even so, little by little, they were driven back, until at nightfall the Blue troop held half the Red territory.

Then the Blue leaders called the troop together again. “See,” the first leader said, “Another day will win us victory.”

“But they are still fighting hard,” the baboons said, “and we have both shed so much blood that perhaps it would be better if we shared the valley, and everything would belong to everyone.”

“That would be heresy and sacrilege,” the second leader proclaimed. “The Great Baboon has armed us, shown us our duty, and set our feet on the path of righteousness. We cannot fail Him now.”

“But we have exhausted all the fruit we brought,” the baboons said. “We have none left, and tomorrow we must fight again.”

“There are plenty of fruit here,” the Blue leaders said, pointing at the trees around them. “The Great Baboon has provided us with the fruit here, and blinded our Red enemies to their use as weapons. Clearly, it is our duty to gather them for tomorrow’s fight.”

So the Blue baboons gathered the fruit, and when morning came, they continued the desperate battle. The Red troop, made desperate by the precariousness of their situation, fought back quite as hard, flinging sticks and stones, fighting with teeth and claws. But the fruit prevailed, and, step by step, the Red troop was driven back, until at last, as the last light of the day departed, they, too, quit the valley for the mountain slopes.

Then the Blue leaders gathered their troop together. “All hail the Great Baboon,” the first leader exulted. “He has given us victory, and our valley back again.”

“We shall have a great feast to celebrate,” the second leader said. “Prepare for it at once!”

“What with?” the baboons asked. “What shall we eat at this feast?”

The Blue leaders looked at the troop, suddenly silent; and the troop looked back at them.

And the branches of the trees stood stark and bare in the darkness of the gathering night.

 Copyright B Purkayastha 2015

[Image Source]


  1. Unlike the Baboons, the US and most of Western Europe produce plenty of food, they just kill the evil persons who get in the way of Western nations getting all the raw materials out of underdeveloped countries, the evil leaders of some undeveloped nations (e.g., Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria) who commit the heinous crimes of nationalisation or taxation of Western assets. Or even worse, giving the evil Russkies or Chinese access to those assets instead of the Western nations.


  2. Silly baboons. So glad we humans know better.

  3. I come from a land of self-inlicted baboonification :( The official policy is baboonitarian intervention.—Jim

  4. And the Great Baboon commanded "you shall go forth and multiple..."

  5. This is a good story and it reminded me of "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn. He talks about how most species are limited in their population growth by their environment. If there's not enough food, then the population will dwindle to sustainable numbers.

    Not so with people, who will bring food in from other places. This causes problems and populations that are too big.

    Anyway, I enjoyed this and I was cheering on the Blue team. I mean, if the Great Baboon was on the Reds' side, he would have given them blue faces, right?


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