Posts Tagged water

the two otters and the jackal

Time for another fable. One of the things I like about these micro-stories is how they’re often in pictures as well as, or even instead of words. Going way back in history. Like this one, carved on a Buddhist stupa around 100 BC.

You can see the two otters (not very otterish I know) – they’ve just been fishing in the river and got out a great big fish. However they can’t agree on who should have it, or how it should be divided. One of them grabbed the fish first, the other one hauled it out. Finally they decide on even shares, but how to make sure they get exactly the same amount.

A jackal comes by and offers to arbitrate for them. They accept, and he makes his division: the tail for one otter, the head for the other. For his payment he takes off the body of the fish.

You can see the jackal in the picture twice: once advising, and the other making off with his part. He has given them fair shares. I’m not sure who the figure in the foreground is. Any ideas?


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Car journeys are good for hearing stories.  This time it was The Adventures of Odysseus, in the marvellous telling of Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden. Travelling from Toulouse to Castres we listened to the first disk, and on the return one the second.

Page from the book, illustrated by Christina Balit

In the prologue Hugh Lupton explains how Paris, ruler of Troy got everyone involved in such an awful war:
or try this link.

Here’s Daniel Morden telling some of the story later on:

(These sound players either work very slowly or just don’t work for me, so for this second bit of story click here and click on the image of the CD to get to the audio more directly.)

Sam loved it. The only bit he didn’t like was that Argos, Odysseus’ faithful dog, dies when he sees his master return.

What we talked about afterwards was, what would you do? You have one golden apple, and three goddesses, Hera, goddess of Power, Athena, goddess of War and Wisdom, Aphrodite, goddess of Love. Who will you upset? Who will you please?

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tiger soup

Here’s Sam making “tiger soup” – we made another pot full on Saturday and it was very tasty.

It’s called tiger soup not because it has any tigers in it, but because there’s another story about a tiger, this time a Jamaican Anansi story called Tiger Soup. It’s given in full at this soup website:

It’s a fine day, down by the side of Blue Hole, and Tiger is cooking. Tiger has a fire, and he has a pot, and in the pot he is putting everything that can make a soup delicious.

Tiger is stirring the soup with a big spoon. From time to time he takes the spoon from the pot. He sticks out his pink tongue, shuts his eyes, and tastes the soup.

“Mmmm,” he says. “This soup needs–Coconut!”

Tiger scatters in coconut. He slowly takes another taste.

“Ooo!” he says, shaking his head. “Better, better, better! What about I put some–Fresh mango!?”

Tiger chops the mango, flings it in.

“Ahhh, yes,” says Tiger, sniffing the steam. “This is sweet soup now. Maybe just some little pinch of–Nutmeg?”

Now along comes Anansi, dancing through the forest. His nose in the air, sniffing the breeze.

“Hmmmmmm!” says Anansi. “I smell sweet soup.” And he rubs his belly. “Soup time, Anansi, m’dear. Hi-hee!”

Anansi swings out of the woods. Lands just beside Tiger.

“Oh! Brother Tiger! Such a happy surprise to see you here. And you so busy working, m’friend.”

“I’m just cooking, Brother Anansi. Is nothing but a little soup to satisfy the working man hunger.”

“Yah!” says Anansi. “I’m not so fond of soup myself….Sure is hot today, not so, Brother Tiger? Nothing in the world so nice as a swim in Blue Hole on a hot day like today.”

“I’m not a swimmer, Brother Anansi, so I wouldn’t know about that.”

“Ah,” says anansi, shaking his head. “Such a shame to live your whole life near Blue Hole and never take a swim….You want me to teach you to swim, Brother Tiger? Is always a pleasure to help a friend.”

“Well, Anansi, is that I do appreciate the offer, but right now I was planning to eat some soup.”

“That soup?” says Anansi. “That soup looks mighty hot and nasty, Brother Tiger. That soup will burn your tongue, m’friend.”

“Let me just wait, then,” says Tiger. “Soup will cool.”

“You know,” says Anansi, stretching his legs this way and that, “swimming in Blue Hole like magic….”

“How’s that, Brother Anansi?”

“Swimming does make plain ordinary soup taste like angel soup, Brother Tiger.”

“The soup already delicious, Brother Anansi,” says Tiger.

Tiger is thinking, How am I gonna get shed of this lazy fellow so I can eat my soup?

Right then, Anansi says, “Brother Tiger, I am bound and determined to teach you to swim today. Let’s get started, so I can be on my busy way!”

“On your busy way, Brother Anansi? Agreed!” says Tiger.

Tiger and Anansi stand by the edge of Blue Hole.

They look down past their feet to the water.

“We close our eyes,” says Anansi. “then I count to three, and we both dive in.”

“Right,” says Tiger, and he shuts his eyes tight. “We close our eyes. You count to three. We both jump in.”

“Yes,” says Anansi, one eye on Tiger, one eye on the soup.

“ONE, TWO THREE!” yells Anansi. On three, he chunks a big coconut into the water. SPLASH!

Tiger, his eyes tight shut, hollers, “Here I come, Brother Anansi!” SPLASH!!!

Ooooo!” says Tiger, coming up all wet in Blue Hole. “This is nice. This is fine….Where you, Brother Anansi? Ooooo, I do like this swimming!” And off he goes, splashing and singing.

Back on shore, Anansi quick quick grabs up the spoon to slurp down all of the soup. Then, fast as he can drag his fat self, he scurries off to the woods.

Anansi is scared of Tiger now. He sidles along over branch, under leaf, thinking and thinking, till he comes to Little Monkey Town. All the little monkeys are playing outside. Shooting nutmegs, down on the ground.

“Psst!” whispers Anansi. “come, come!”

The little monkeys are curious. “Chee! Chee! Who is this fat fellow with all the legs? What will he say to us?”

“I hear a new song today,” says Anansi. The little monkeys–they love a new song, so they all come gather near.

“Is like this,” says Anansi, and he begins to tap his toes and sing.

“Just a little while ago
We ate the Tiger soup!
Just a little while ago
We ate the Tiger soup”!

“Try it, little monkeys!”

And they do.

Pretty soon all the little monkeys are dancing and singing with Anansi, beating sticks together, shaking shells, making that song a song.

So Anansi, leading the dance, quick thinks up another verse:

Yum yum yum yum yum
Taste that coco-nut!

Brother Anansi is so full up with soup, he can dance no more. Not only he tire, he fit to die laughing. Anansi falls down on his back, all his little legs in the air, and goes right on singing:

“Yum yum yum yum yum
Little bit o’ sweet mango
Yum yum yum yum yum
Little bit o’ sweet mango!”

Anansi feels a thump come up through the ground. Seems like he hears a roar in the woods.

The little monkeys–they so busy dancing they hear only the song. Anansi calls to the little monkeys, “One more time now, little monkeys! Sing it loud!”

And they do.


Just then, Tiger pokes his head out from behind a bush, and Anansi’s gone. All the little monkeys there, dancing and yelling their song for Tiger alone.

Tiger’s ears stand up, and his fur stands up, and his teeth stand up, and he stands up.

Tiger roars:


But in the time it takes Tiger to roar, all the little monkeys swing up into the treetops, where they been living safe, safe ever since.


Well, your very welcome, dear reader, to come round chez Gregg for some tiger soup.

I’ll also let you know my own special recipe:


6 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 kilogram carrots, peeled and chopped

4 onions, chopped

2 tablespoon ginger, peeled and finely chopped

6 cups vegetable broth

2 cans of cream of coconut

2 large mangoes, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoon lime juice

1 pinch of nutmeg

Salt, pepper

1. Heat the oil in a pot and sauté the carrots for 5 minutes. Stir in the onions and ginger and continue to sauté until the onions are soft.

2. Add the broth and simmer 10 minutes.

3. Add the cream of coconut, mango and heat. Purée.
Add lime juice, salt, pepper and nutmeg, and perhaps a little red chilli.

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What a splendid cove

Meanwhile, back by the lake…

“What a splendid cove,” said Captain John.
“It’s one of our most private haunts,” said Captain Nancy. “Altogether free of natives. The road’s miles away on the other side of the woods. No one ever comes here except us, and no one can see we’re here, even from the water, unless they happen to look right in.
They made their fire and boiled their kettle by the side of the little beck, noisy after the nights rains. The jetsam on the shore was very wet, but in the woods they found a few dry sticks here and there. They started the fire with a handful of dry moss. It was not easy to get it lit, but, once it was lit, the fire burned well enough to boil the kettle. Here, away from the island, they spent their last day, until Captain Nancy noticed that the lake was nearly calm.
“It’s going to take a long time to sail home,” she said. “What orders Commodore?”

…and so their first summer on the lake has ended. Capain John, Mate Susan, Able-seaman Titty, and boy Roger have to finish their holiday and leave their new piratical friends “The Amazons” – Captain Nancy and Mate Peggy – behind.

But luckily there’s a second book, “Swallowdale” and we continue devouring these Lake District adventures! In fact somehow my set of paperbacks from when I was eight or nine have survived.

I read in wikipedia: Peter Hunt has stated that the series “…changed British literature, affected a whole generation’s view of holidays, helped to create the national image of the English Lake District and added Arthur Ransome’s name to the select list of classic British children’s authors.

It must be more than one generation who had their holiday tastes affected, and I wonder if my taste for lonely wildish places was influenced by the books? I certainly loved them as much as Sam seems to be now.

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Tell me a story


No, you need to sleep now.
But a story will help me go to sleep.

OK, then.

Once in far away China…
In Tokyo?
No, that’s in Japan. Deep in the countryside of China, on a hill up above a river lived a monk, a young one with a red robe…

And so, the saying goes, “Three Monks, no water.”

I need another story…

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The Torch

Children’s author, poet, broadcaster… Michael Rosen often goes for anecdote-poems. Here’s a favourite:

Here’s the story he tells if your connection is slow –

The Torch

I nagged my parents for a torch:
– I’d love a torch, oh go on, one of those ones with
the black rubber round them, go on, go on…
It was no good. I wasn’t getting anywhere. Then came
my birthday. On the table was a big box. In the box, a
torch. My dad took it out of the box:
– You see that torch, he says, it’s waterproof. That is a
waterproof torch.
So that night I got into the bath and went underwater
swimming with it: breathe in, under the water, switch on,
search for shipwrecks and treasure. Up, breathe, under
again, exploring the ocean floor. Then the torch went out.
I shook it and banged it but it wouldn’t go. I couldn’t
get it to go again. My birthday torch. So I got out the
bath, dried myself off, put on my pyjamas and went
into the kitchen.
– The – er – torch won’t work. ‘S broken.
– And my dad says, What fo you mean, ‘It\’s broken’? It
couldn’t have just broken. How did it break?
– I dunno it just went off.
– I don’t believe it. You ask him a simple question and
you never get a simple answer. You must have been
doing something with it.
– No, no, no, it just went off.
– Just try telling the truth, will you? How did it break?
– I was underwater swimming with it.
– Are you mad? When I said this torch is waterproof, I
meant it keeps the rain off. I didn’t mean you could go
bloody deep-sea diving with it. Ruined. Completely
ruined. For weeks and weeks he nags us stupid that he
wants one of these waterproof torches and the first thing
he does is wreck it. How long did it last? Two minutes?
Three minutes? These things cost money, you know.
At the weekend, he says,
– We’re going into Harrow to take the torch back.
We walk into the shop, my dad goes up to the man at the
counter and says,
– You see this torch. I bought it from you a couple of weeks
ago. It’s broken.
So the man picks it up.
– It couldn’t have just broken, says the man, how did
it break?
– And my dad says, I dunno, it just went off.
– Come on, says the man, these torches don’t just
break down. You must have been doing something with it.
– So I said, Well actually, I was in the –
And I got a kick in the ankle from my dad.
– I was in the – er – oh yeah – the kitchen and it went off.
So the man said he would take it out the back to show
Len. He came back in a few minutes and said that Len
couldn’t get it to work either.
– You’ll have to have a new one, he says.
– I should think so too, says my dad. Thank YOU!
Outside the shop, my dad says to me,
– What’s the matter with you? You were going to tell him
all about your underwater swimming fandango, weren’t you?
Are you crazy?

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sticks and rivers


Given that the water in rivers makes up only an amazingly tiny 0.0002 percent of the water on our planet, it features disproportionately in stories.

For example there is the game where you drop sticks on one side of a bridge and run over to the other side to see whose stick has won, sometimes called Poohsticks after the famous Winnie the Pooh:

Pooh had just come to the bridge; and not looking where he was going, he tripped over something, and the fir-cone jerked out of his paw into the river. ‘Bother,’ said Pooh, as it floated slowly under the bridge, and he went back to get another fir-cone which had a rhyme to it. But then he thought that he would just look at the river instead, because it was a peaceful sort of day, so he lay down and looked at it, and it slipped slowly away beneath him, and suddenly, there was his fir-cone slipping away too.

‘That’s funny,’ said Pooh. ‘I dropped it on the other side,’ said Pooh, ‘and it came out on this side! I wonder if it would do it again?’ And he went back for some more fir-cones. It did. It kept on doing it. Then he dropped two in at once, and leant over the bridge to see which of them would come out first; and one of them did; but as they were both the same size, he didn’t know if it was the one which he wanted to win, or the other one. So the next time he dropped one big one and one little one, and the big one came out first, which was what he had said it would do, and the little one came out last, which was what he had said it would do, so he had won twice … and when he went home for tea, he had won thirty-six and lost twenty-eight, which meant that he was – that he had – well, you take twenty-eight from thirty-six, and that’s what he was. Instead of the other way round.

And that was the beginning of the game called Poohsticks, which Pooh invented, and which he and his friends used to play on the edge of the Forest. But they played with sticks instead of fir-cones, because they were easier to mark.’

This is a game that Sam and I have played in the forest of course, though the little streams pass under the paths in pipes, and most usually the sticks get stuck.

And then there is the possibility of following the water to its destination…
or perhaps to its source…
or damming it up for a while…

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