A long time ago – before your grandfather and his grandfather and even his grandfather – Day and Night were not shy. They walked on the earth just like you.
Every morning, Day would wake up from his sleep. He would wash his face in the pool beneath the Bommelak Tree. Then he would walk across the earth and wherever he went he brought light and warmth.
The animals would stop and stare. They would whisper to themselves, “There goes Day. Look at how handsome he is.”
Every evening, Night would wake up. She would wash her hair in the pool beneath the Bommelak Tree. Then she would walk across the earth and wherever she went, she brought coolness and rest.
The animals would stop and stare. They would whisper to themselves, “There goes Night. Look how beautiful she is.”
All the animals loved Day and Night. Only one animal disliked them and his name was Ntatu. He would flap his feathers when he heard the others whisper, “Look at how beautiful they are.”
Instead of agreeing, Ntatu said, “Well, what about me? Look at how beautiful I am. There is nothing as beautiful as me.”
But the other animals only laughed. “Ntatu,” they would say, “you be quiet – you foolish bird. You are not as handsome as Day and not as beautiful as Night.”
This made Ntatu very angry. “I have a better neck than you, Giraffe,” he said. “And I have a better nose than you, Elephant. And my eyes are better than yours, Mole.”
This upset the little mole because he was very sensitive about his eyes, but Giraffe and Elephant only laughed at Ntatu. “Nonsense, Ntatu.”
Then Ntatu said, “My face is more handsome than Day’s and my feather’s are more beautiful than Night’s hair.” And he flew away.
When next the animals saw Ntatu, he had combed his feathers and painted his face. “See,” he said, “is my face not more handsome than Day’s face? Are my feathers not more beautiful than Night’s hair?”
But the animals all laughed at him. The little mole said, “Ntatu, nothing you do will make your face more handsome than Day’s nor your feathers more beautiful than Night’s hair.”
Ntatu was very angry.
That evening, Ntatu hid behind a bush and waited. When Night woke, Ntatu followed her. He watched her wash her hair in the pool beneath the Bommelak Tree.
Ntatu waited all night long until morning came. He watched Day wash his face in the pool beneath the Bommelak Tree. “Now I know their secret!” thought Ntatu. “If I wash my face in the pool beneath the Bommelak Tree, then it will be as handsome as Day’s face. And if I wash my feathers in the pool beneath the Bommelak Tree, then they will be as beautiful as
But just as Ntatu was about to dive into the pool, there was a terrible sound that stopped him in his tracks.
The Bommelak Tree shook its branches. “Ntatu,” it said, “no one besides Day and Night may wash themselves in this pool. If you do, I will curse you. Now go and be happy with who you are!”
Ntatu shivered in fright, but he said, “And who are you to tell me what to do, Tree? I will be as handsome as Day and I will be as beautiful as Night. There is nothing you can do to stop me.”
And with this, Ntatu flapped his wings and dived into the pool beneath the Bommelak Tree.
But he did not land in the cool water of the pool. He crashed into a pit of dust. Ntatu was so happy he didn’t even realise this. He flapped his wings in the dust and he scrubbed his face in it – and he felt very beautiful and very handsome.
“There, Ntatu,” said the Bommelak Tree, “from now on, you will never wash yourself in water. You are cursed forever to wash in dust. Now go and be happy with who you are!”
Soon Ntatu’s colourful feathers faded. His face became grey and dirty. His wings shrunk and his legs grew short.
And whenever the animals saw Day and Night walk by, Ntatu looked at the ground and said nothing.
But the little mole whispered, “Look at how handsome Day is. Look at how beautiful Night is. And look at how grey Ntatu the pigeon is!”