Relax, close your eyes and picture yourself standing in front of the most beautiful tree you have ever seen. It has graceful branches and long slender leaves and it’s covered in pink flowers. The tree stands alone in a vast, parched desert. It’s called the Desert Willow and it’s home to two parrots, a colony of ants, a hive of bees and several hairy spiders. All the animals love the shade and protection of the willow and they all lived happily together until, one day, some unwelcome guests arrived. Would you like to know what happened? Listen carefully to their story.
It was midday. The sun hung shimmering in a cloudless blue sky. Hidden among the leaves of the willow rested the parrots, Priscilla and Percy. They dozed and dreamed of the cooler days to come. The ants and spiders rested, too, but the busy bees continued to work hard, gathering nectar from the lovely pink flowers.
In the distance a sandstorm rolled toward the willow. It blew in one direction across the desert and then another, all the time drawing closer to the tree. Suddenly the sandstorm hit the tree with all its force! The tree shook and woke the parrots from their nap. When the dust settled, three new animals who’d been swept up and carried along in the sandstorm, were at the foot of the tree. There was a snake, a rat and a pig and they were all very angry.
“My snout is sore,” complained Pig.
“It’s your own fault!” said Snake, sticking out his tongue at Pig. “You said we didn’t need to take shelter.”
“No, it’s Rat’s fault,” retorted Pig. “He said he could navigate us safely through the sandstorm.”
“I can see stars,” said Rat, wobbling his head in a daze.
The startled parrots, bees, ants and spiders watched the visitors arguing below them. After a while Rat, Snake and Pig stopped their bickering.
“I’m starving,” said Pig. He began snuffling around the roots of the tree with his snout, looking for food.
“Look around you. We’re in the middle of a desert. There’s nothing but dirt here!” said Rat.
“Ssh, listen, can you hear buzzing?” hissed Snake.
“Where there’s buzzing, there are bees,” said Rat.
“And where there are bees, there’s sure to be delicious, sweet honey!” said Pig.
The bees stopped their work on hearing these words. Frightened, they flew quickly to warn their queen, Sophia.
“What are we to do?” they asked her.
Sophia was very clever but she couldn't think of any way to save their precious honey. She asked the ants, the parrots and the hairy spiders, but no-one knew what to do.
“We are no match for those large and clever animals, said Thunder, the chief of the ants.
“Let's think, what are our strengths?” asked Sophia.
“We ants are very small but very strong,” said Thunder.
“I’m afraid all we can do is spin webs,” said the spiders.
“Priscilla and I can mimic any sound we hear,” said Percy the parrot, in a voice that sounded very like Queen Sophia's.
At this everyone laughed and relaxed a little. Feeling calmer, Queen Sophia could think more clearly. She came up with an excellent idea, which she shared with them all.
Meanwhile Pig, Snake and Rat were making their plans to get the honey. “Snake, you climb onto the back of Pig, then I'll climb up on top of you. From there I can reach a branch and lift myself into the tree,” said Rat.
Each animal did as Rat said. As Rat stretched up to reach a branch, he suddenly found that he was swaying.
“Stay still, you silly Pig,” hissed Rat.
“Help! The ground is moving!” cried Pig.
Unseen by Pig, the tiny ants had crept underneath him. With their combined strength they lifted him away from the tree. As Pig scrambled back to solid ground, he, Snake and Rat all came tumbling down. The ants scattered, giggling.
Again, Pig, Snake and Rat tried to balance on each other’s backs. Again, the ants crept out from the willow’s roots and lifted Pig away. And again, he tumbled down in fright. But the third time Rat, Snake and Pig tried to climb into the tree, the ants were too exhausted to stop them.
Pig clung to his branch nervously. He wasn’t good at climbing and moved up very, very slowly. Just above him, Percy and Priscilla, the parrots, were hiding on a branch. Percy hissed out loud in a voice that sounded like Snake’s: “Hey, stupid Pig, get a move on.”
“Lazy Pig!” cried Priscilla, sounding just like Rat.
“Who are you calling stupid and lazy?” grunted Pig. As he turned toward the voices, he lost his grip on the branch and fell out of the tree. “Ouch!” he cried.
Snake had climbed high up into the tree when a voice very like Rat’s called out: “Quick, quick! Over here!” It was Percy, pretending to be Rat.
Snake slithered off in the direction of the voice and was caught in a large mass of sticky spider webs. He lost his balance and landed on Pig. They both lay dizzy on the ground.
Rat didn’t care about Pig or Snake. “There’ll be all the more honey for me,” he said to himself. He climbed up to the beehive, his nose twitching with the smell of honey. But now Queen Sophia began to sing and as she did so the bees swarmed before the hive. Rat was hypnotized by her buzzing and by the bees’ ever-changing patterns.
“I feel so sleepy,” Rat yawned out loud. “I can’t seem to keep my eyes open.” He lost his grip on the branch and fell onto Pig and Snake on the ground below.
The tree began to shake with the buzzing of angry bees. They flew out of the tree in a great swarm toward the dazed trio, who picked themselves up and ran away as fast as they could. The bees chased them until they were sure that Pig, Snake and Rat could never find their way back.
“We may be small but together we’re very powerful,” said Queen Sophia, and all the animals cheered. Whoever we are, even if we feel very small and unimportant, we have gifts that we can share with others. And sharing helps not just us, but also our friends and family.