The big mistake | Nal'ibali
Home | Written stories | Multilingual stories | The big mistake

Written stories

The big mistake


Written by Desirée Botha


Illustrated by Chantelle and Burgen Thorne

Listen to the story here

It was a nice, lazy day along the river. Everything was very quiet. The only noise was Little Bird chirping softly while he cleaned Hippo’s big, flat teeth.


Hippo was enjoying getting his teeth cleaned. He lay with his head out of the water, his mouth wide open. The sun warmed him and before he knew it, he was drifting off to sleep. He dreamt of a big juicy patch of grass floating right by him and, in his dream, he took a big bite and swallowed.


“You ate Little Bird!” The voice woke Hippo up with a fright. It was one of the flamingos. He looked very angry! His pink face was turning red!


“You ate Little Bird,” he shouted again, pointing his wing at Hippo.


“I would never!” Hippo defended himself. “I eat grass, not little birds! Besides, Little Bird is my friend! I wouldn’t eat him!”


“I saw you! He was cleaning your teeth, and you swallowed him up!”


Hippo remembered his dream. Now he was scared! Had he swallowed his friend by mistake? Then, as he climbed out of the river, he heard a familiar chirping sound. It was Little Bird!


Hippo looked all around to see where Little Bird was. At last, he realised that the sound was coming from inside his tummy. He had swallowed his friend!


“See? I told you!” said Flamingo. “You ate Little Bird!”


“I ... I didn’t mean to ...” Hippo cried, “We need to rescue him. We have to get him out of my tummy!”


By now all the animals living along the river had come closer to find out what was going on. They started coming up with plans.


“Let’s send some small fish down into your tummy. They can lead the way for Little Bird to swim back out,” said Monkey. But hearing this, all the small fish quickly swam away.


“We can use one of my teeth to cut your stomach open and save Little Bird,” suggested Lion. Hippo didn’t think that sounded like a good idea!



“What are we going to do? Little Bird can’t stay in my tummy forever!” said Hippo. But he just couldn’t think of any better ideas. Perhaps he should let Lion cut open his tummy and take out Little Bird. He was just about to agree to it when wise old Owl came to the rescue.


“Calm down, everyone,” said Owl. Everyone listened. “Get me a big feather,” he ordered.


Quickly, one of the birds flew down to where Flamingo stood and brought back what Owl had asked for.


“Wonderful!” said Owl as he flew down to the ground in front of Hippo. “Now open your mouth as wide as you can, and I am going to climb inside!” he said.


“Don’t do that! He is going to eat you too!” Monkey warned.


“Oh, be quiet!” Owl told them. But softly he said to Hippo, “You had better not! Whatever you do, do not close your mouth while I am in there!”


Owl climbed inside Hippo’s huge and scary jaws! Then he began to tickle Hippo’s throat softly with the feather. At first it only made Hippo giggle, but then suddenly...


“Gha...gha...ghaaaaa!” Hippo coughed, and Owl and Little Bird came flying out of his mouth! Both of them were dripping with hippo spit. Little Bird hugged Owl and then rushed to hug Hippo too.