Relax, close your eyes and picture yourself in a steamy tropical jungle. This tale is about two young gibbons called Ginger and Snapp, who one day made a great discovery. Would you like to know what it was? Listen carefully to their story.
“Wow!” exclaimed Ginger. The two gibbons were staring up open-mouthed at an enormous tree, unlike any they’d seen before. The majestic tree stood on the edge of a deep ravine. Its leaves were vivid blue and shaped like stars and its branches were heavy with shiny oval fruits the colour of a silvery moon.
Ginger reached up and a fruit came free with a “pop!” Ginger and Snapp sniffed at it curiously. “Do you think it's poisonous?” asked Snapp. “I don’t know,” said Ginger, “it smells delicious.” “I think we should take it to Queen Echa,” Snapp suggested. “She knows absolutely everything. She'll be able to tell us if it's safe to eat.”
Queen Echa lived high on a mountainside in a tree that was so tall it reached above the clouds. The wise queen gasped when Ginger and Snapp gave her the mysterious fruit. “I’ve heard of this fruit. I don't know its name, but I believe that, once upon a time, it grew everywhere in our land. Then the humans came. They ate all the fruit and chopped down all the trees to build houses.”
“That was selfish and very silly,” said Ginger.
“I'm afraid humans aren't very smart,” said Queen Echa sadly. She shared the fruit with Ginger and Snapp. It was the most scrumptious food they'd ever tasted.
Queen Echa wanted to share the wonderful fruit with all her subjects. She asked Ginger and Snapp to lead her and a large party of gibbons down to the extraordinary tree. When they reached it, Queen Echa solemnly hugged the tree and whispered: “We’ll take only a little of your precious fruit now and well spread the seeds throughout the forest. In that way your family can flourish once again.”
The tree seemed to shake with delight as the gibbons clambered among its branches gathering the silver fruit. Suddenly a trumpet blasted and all the gibbons froze. The forest fell silent. Another trumpet blast, closer this time, mingled with voices and the “clip-clop” of horses’ hooves.
“Humans!” said Queen Echa softly. “Everyone be still.” The gibbons watched a procession led by King Barnabas pass right under the tree. Just then, a ripe fruit “popped” and dropped in front of King Barnabas. He came to a halt. He looked down at the fruit and then up into the tree. He saw the frightened faces of dozens of gibbons looking back at him.
As the king and his men dismounted to investigate the fruit, the gibbons scrambled higher into the tree.
“Can I eat it or is it poisonous?” the king asked. The king's taster took a small bite and declared it safe to eat and utterly delicious.
“What a great day,” proclaimed the king. “We have discovered a tasty new fruit and a tree full of gibbons. We shall eat well tonight. Set fires around the tree and smoke out the apes.” His men went quickly to do his bidding.
Queen Echa had to act fast. She raced along a branch that hung out over the ravine, launched herself into the air and flew across. As she landed on the other side she grabbed a long vine attached to a nearby tree. She tied the loose end around her waist, then threw herself back across the ravine to the fruit tree. But the vine was just a little too short and Queen Echa could only catch the tip of the branch. She held on tightly as Ginger and Snapp ran to her aid. The other gibbons looked on horrified.
Without a care for her own safety, Queen Echa called to Ginger and Snapp: “Gather the others quickly and use me as a bridge. Get to safety.” “The humans will catch you!” they cried. “Don’t argue. Do what I say!” ordered the queen. Ginger and Snapp rushed back into the tree and instructed all the gibbons to escape. They clambered across the queen’s back and along the vine to the safety of the other side of the ravine.
All this time the king’s men were busy collecting more wood to add to the fires. When King Barnabas shouted out that the gibbons were escaping, his captain strung his bow and took aim at Queen Echa's heart.
“Stop, don’t shoot!” ordered the king. “I want you to bring me that gibbon, and treat her gently.” The captain climbed into the tree and brought Queen Echa before the king.
He expected her to quake with fear but instead she just smiled. “Why are you smiling?” asked King Barnabas.
“My subjects are all free and safe. That’s all that matters. If you want to be a good ruler you must put the lives of others before your own.”
King Barnabas was stunned by her words and bowed his head in respect. “You're a noble and selfless queen. You’ve taught me a great lesson today. I’m humbled.’’
King Barnabas was so moved by Queen Echa’s selfless behaviour that he made a royal decree: “I hereby state that, from this day forth, this tree and all its fruits are to be protected from harm.”
To celebrate, the humans and gibbons sat together around the tree and had a great feast. Queen Echa asked Ginger and Snapp to present the king with seeds from the oval fruits so that he might grow his own trees.
The king was so delighted he made another pronouncement: “This fruit, which has no name we know of will from this day be called, “Queen Echa fruit’.”
All the king's men and all the gibbons, but especially Ginger and Snapp, cheered very loudly indeed. Acting selflessly in the interests of others is one of the noblest things you can do. If you act in a kind and considerate way everyone around you will benefit.