The marabou and the tree: a folktale about loyalty and friendship

Traditional African tale / Photo by Claudio Maria Lerario

A fire struck a forest. Threatened by the fire, all the animals in the forest fled except for a marabou. This marabou* tried to extinguish the fire by taking river water in his beak and throwing it on the tree that was his home.

The tree told him to fly away since he stood no chance against the fire. The marabou answered that he had lived and fed all his life in the tree and that he was not going to leave just because there was a crisis.

So, the marabou kept trying to extinguish the fire. The gods in the sky became aware of the fire in the forest and the marabou’s efforts to extinguish it. Eventually, the courage and loyalty shown by the parrot moved the gods and they began to cry. The tears became rain and the fire was extinguished.


(*) The marabou stork (Leptoptilos crumenifer) is a large wading bird in the stork family Ciconiidae. It breeds in Africa south of the Sahara, in both wet and arid habitats, often near human habitation, especially waste tips. It is sometimes called the “undertaker bird” due to its shape from behind: cloak-like wings and back, skinny white legs, and sometimes a large white mass of “hair”.