Part two of the Storyteller's tales told to his young students.
The Gazelle and the Wild Hyenas
Mind you, I was only a boy when I witnessed this with my very own eyes. You see, we humans have the perception that we are of a higher nature than the animals, that we hold some special position in the cosmos, an exclusivity that makes us honorable, civilized. Little do most men know that many animals feel the same way. They are amazed at the pomp and circumstance that accompanies human kings and they mock our continuing quarrels and wars.
Animals of the savanna even have their own university, much like our own. For nearly 60 million years, they have studied the secrets of the universe and kept that knowledge within their own secret orders. Humans, they reasoned, were too primitive to know the truth of their existence. But there was one animal who sought to equal the playing field, to give humans a glimpse of reality. He was a gazelle from a well-respected scholarly family. After one traumatic event in his life, he made a conscious decision to teach all the world, including humans, the truth.
He studied for years under the tutelage of the wise, elderly baobab tree of the Elder Wood Order. This was no ordinary tree, for it carried the secrets of generations. Each leaf, each knot in its trunk, and each branch carried the knowledge of all things. Everyday the tree would mumble some wise saying, only one, and the gazelle would scribble it down onto some parchment, fold it and place it in his bag. Over the years, he had filled his bag and made sure to carry it wherever he went. When he encountered a situation that he did not understand, he would open his bag and search for a solution. In this way, he carried the knowledge of the tree everywhere he went.
On the day that I encountered him, he was blissfully galloping along a highway on the old silk route through the desert outside of Hadratiya. I was a young student at the time and was curious about everything I encountered. I happened to be looking for a rare Tezentian palm leaf that day for a science experiment when I saw the gazelle carelessly frolicking on one of the most dangerous highways in all of the Known World. For such a knowledgeable chap, he seemed rather oblivious to the world around him.
I decided to continue with my research and not disturb him. At the time, I had no idea that he was a scholar of the Real Realm as opposed to an ordinary animal. In my youth, there was still much I needed to learn about the hidden wisdom of the animal kingdom. At any rate, a group of hyenas, as they often did, stopped him in the road. Now, hyenas, as you well know, are scavengers. They rarely hunt for their prey and certainly would not attempt to attack a gazelle in broad daylight. It was not his food, however, that they desired, but the treasure in his bag.
Their leader addressed the gazelle. “Hand over the bag, gazelle.”
He tried to back away from the leader, but two others blocked his rear, while two more surrounded him on the right and left. “It is not what you think,” the gazelle pleaded, “I have no money.”
“No doubt,” replied the leader, “but I'm sure you have jewels, perhaps diamonds?”
“No no. It is only my scribblings...paper. I am a madman.”
The hyenas cackled loudly at the gazelle's apparent attempts to deceive them. “You are a horrible liar, gazelle. We have seen you traveling through this desert before, and we know the respect that other animals afford you. It could only be that you are wealthy and they look up to you. Now hand over the bag.”
The gazelle clutched the bag close to his chest, with his eyes shifting to either side, praying that someone would come to his rescue. It was at that moment that I lunged out from behind the bushes, with a branch in my hand, brandishing it at the hyenas. They clawed at me and bit my leg, but I continued swinging the branch. Much to my own detriment, the gazelle did not stand and fight alongside me but instead continued to huddle on the ground, cradling his precious bag. Perhaps the hyenas were right. Maybe he really was only carrying jewels, and here I was risking my life for a selfish rich man who didn't even have the decency to defend himself.
Two of the hyenas jumped on me, knocking me to the ground. The leader stood over me and glared into my eyes, as saliva dripped from his mouth. “Now, human, have you any final words before we finish you?”
I glanced over at the pathetic gazelle and then back at the hyena. I decided to beg. “Please, do not kill us. You can have the bag, but just let us be.”
The hyenas laughed loudly, but their leader apparently had some shred of honor in his heart, albeit a twisted sense of honor, but honor nonetheless. He signaled them to release me, while the other two clawed away at the gazelle until, scarred and bleeding, he reluctantly released the bag, with tears streaming down his face.
When the hyenas had left, the bloodied gazelle sat up and shook the dust from himself, not saying a word to me.
“Are you alright?” I asked.
“You fool!” he shouted at me.
“I beg your pardon!”
“Do you realize what you've done?”
“I believe I have saved your life.”
“No,” the gazelle said solemnly, “You have given away all of my knowledge, in exchange for which my life is worth nothing.”
I was completely baffled by his statement. “How could your knowledge be given away so that you no longer had it?”
“My knowledge,” the gazelle explained with a sigh, “was contained in that bag.”
I stared at him for a moment before I realized he was serious.
He continued, “For decades, the great elder baobab tree has recited his knowledge to me in the most beautiful prose. I wrote down every word of it onto any parchment, stone, or bark that I could find and kept all of my notes inside of the bag, which you so carelessly handed to those carnal hyenas.”
“I see,” I said with a smirk on my face. “So in reality, you have no knowledge.”
“I certainly do!” he argued.
“But if you never really knew it, how is it yours? It would seem that you only carried the baobab tree's knowledge in your bag, but you never possessed it yourself.”
At this point the gazelle sunk even lower and sulked over his own misery.
“All is not lost,” I declared. “You should find those hyenas and ask them to return your bag. Once they've realized that you had no jewels, they will have no reason to keep it.”
And so from that day forward, the gazelle always memorized and learned whatever knowledge he was given, because no one can steal the knowledge kept safely in one's mind. He also decided, because of the tiny pearl of wisdom that he found in me, that humans should also learn the teachings of the baobab tree, and he has been a teacher at our university ever since.
The Storyteller smiled and patted Nestor on his back. “Let that be a lesson to you, my son.”
“Yes, Storyteller,” Nestor replied obediently.
“It is getting late now. Meet me here again tomorrow tonight, and I will tell you what became of the gazelle when he encountered the blind snake.”
Elian threw sand over the fire until it smoldered and smoke rose into the night sky. All of the boys gathered their things and left together, while the Storyteller remained behind for a moment, gazing into the starry firmament.