LONG AGO IN ANCIENT TIMES, when the trees and animals still spoke of the secrets of the universe, there lived a very special tribe of baobab trees known to the world as the Atifu- neferu-nita: the beautiful trees of the Earth. These trees were very sacred and very old. They kept the mysteries of the people. The Atifu-neferu-nita were very careful with their seeds, and since they were so ancient, there were only two of the seed laying trees left amongst them. These two seed laying trees used all of their energy and created one last tree. This tree would be the one to create more seeds to keep the Atifu-neferu-nita alive. This tree was named Atifheru: Tree
Atifheru was a very curious and mischievous child tree. He struggled to listen to the elders of the Atifu-neferu-nita. Their wisdom would go in one ear and out of the other. They often warned him about the corruptible nature of human beings, but he paid the elders no mind. Day by day he watched children pass him on the way to school and eventually he began to envy them. He wanted to be able to run, jump and skip, just like the humans did. He would tell the elders, “Look at the humans, how lucky they are to be able to move, to run, to do whatever they like”. The elders argued, “Well the humans have to hunt and gather their food, we have the sun. The humans only grow to about 6 feet if they are lucky and only live around 90 years. We grow hundreds of feet tall, and can live forever.”
Atifheru, the stubborn child, paid them no mind and continued his infatuation with the humans. He wanted to be like them so much that every morning and night he would ask the Gods to turn him into a human. Day and night he prayed for months on end. One night, just as Atifheru was finishing his prayers, something strange happened. He saw a bright light that moved across the sky and settled in front of him. From the ball of light a voice emerged. “Atifheru, we have heard your cries and will grant you your wish, we will make you human,” said the voice. Atifheru was overcome with joy, and thanked the ball of light repeatedly. The light spoke again and said, “Atifheru, listen. We will make you human only on one condition. You are very vital to the future of the Atifu-nefer-unita. We will make you human but you must keep one of your roots and wear it as a tail. One day you must return to your tribe and plant your root so that you can make more trees for the Atifuneferu-nita. Atifheru was overcome with joy. He promised that he would come back and plant his root, thanked the ball of light, and in a humongous flash, Atifheru was transformed into a human child with a tail.
On the first day of school, Atifheru walked in class head held high chest poking out full of confidence. Since he was the last student in the class he sat in the back and none of the other children saw that he had a tail. After class he would also be the last student to leave and he was able to keep his tail a secret. One day the teacher asked Atifheru to come up to the board and solve a math problem. Atifheru slowly got out of his chair and walked straight up to the board in the front of the classroom. As he walked, the children in his class saw his tail and began to make fun of him.
“Hey, look, Atifheru has a tail, he’s the monkey man!”
“No, he looks more like an iguana!”
“Hey monkey man, you want a banana?”
On and on the teasing went. Atifheru was so embarrassed and ashamed of his tail that he ran out the class crying. He ran and ran and ran deep into the forest where his tribe was and wept until he was all out of tears, and fell asleep. When Atifheru awoke it was morning and almost time for him to go to school. He wanted to go, he loved going, but he also dreaded the fact that he had a tail. So Atifheru forgetting the promise he made, and forgetting his tribe, decided to cut off his tail. He found the sharpest rock he could find and, with one swift chop, severed his tail from his body and disconnected himself from his root. Just then the shining ball of light appeared and with a voice of thunder it shook the trees and the ground around him. “Atifheru what have you done? What about the promise you have made? Are you that forgetful?” Atifheru was ashamed for what he had done but in his ignorance he was happy to be free from his tail, and free from his obligation to his tribe.
Atifheru went on to live a somewhat happy life as a human. He made it through school and thoughts of being an Atifu-neferunita were just foggy memories in his mind. Atifheru became an expert carpenter and lumberjack. The same trees from which he grew were the same ones he was responsible for cutting down. Sometimes I too feel like Atifheru. Wouldn’t it be easier to forget the obligations that I have to my people? Wouldn’t it be easy to live under less strict values and morals? But I realize if I’m not contributing to the growth of my people, I am only helping in their destruction. We all need to wake up and realize if we don’t ground ourselves with our roots, our seeds will never grow and the few positive harvests that stand tall to this day will only be cut down by the fruits of our ignorance.