It was the cool of the evening in Mfuwe, and all the animals were gathered around the watering hole for their usual discussion of the affairs of state. ‘I wonder,’ said the Wise Elephant, ‘why we have never appointed a king?’
‘You only wonder that,’ growled Mighty Lion, ‘because you would like to be king yourself.’
The Elegant Giraffe looked down serenely upon this little discussion. ‘We already have the Brutal Buffaloes for war, Educated Elephants as our judges and the Honorable Hippopotamuses to make our laws. So what would we do with a king?’
‘We have nobody to represent us,’ said the Wise Elephant. ‘When important visitors arrive from abroad there is nobody to greet them and introduce them to our hiccupping hippos and lovable lions, or to show them the biggest baobab tree in the world. Other countries have kings, why can’t we?’
‘The problem with having a king,’ said Lion, ‘is that he’ll soon become pompous. Instead of just showing visitors around, and taking the lead in singing the Song of Mfuwe, he’ll think he’s in charge of everything and start bossing us around.’
‘Quite right,’ said the Bold Baboon. ‘Look at Wise Elephant here, he’s already stronger than everybody else, and thinks he knows everything. Just think what a nuisance he might become if we made him king!’
After that remark, everybody sat quiet, not wanting to annoy Wise Elephant. Finally Klever Kalulu perked up. ‘What we need,’ he said ‘is a democratic king. Not some big fellow with his own ideas. Just an ordinary little fellow with no ideas. Then we can fill his head with our ideas. Not proud of himself but proud of Mfuwe. An empty little vessel into which we can put the constitution, so that he can understand the job of being a king. Starting from nothing, he can then fill himself with wisdom and grow to be a good king.’
‘Are you proposing yourself?’ sneered Mighty Lion.
‘Certainly not,’ kackled Klever Kalulu. ‘I was thinking of Common Cobra. He’s a real commoner, an inhabitant of the grass roots who knows all the animals of the forest. No education or ideas. He should be our ideal candidate. Our sole candidate!’
And so it was that the Common Cobra became King Cobra.
But things did not go well. The very things that Mighty Lion had warned against soon came to pass. The king recruited all the hyenas as his Police Force, now known as the Dreaded PF, which began to terrorise all the other animals. Any animal that had once laughed at King Cobra when he was just a Common Cobra were now declared his enemies, arrested by the Dreaded PF and brought to court. The king fired Wise Elephant as the Chief Judge, and replaced him with the ancient Cranky Crocodile, who did whatever she was told, provided she was allowed to eat the enemies of the king.
And the animals soon found that it was impossible for the animals to instruct King Cobra on the constitution. He built himself a new palace called Snake House and never came out, never listened to advice and never talked to the other animals – except to give instructions to the Dreaded PF hyenas.
He made the baboons construct a huge tower in the grounds of Snake House, and each morning he would climb to the top, declaring that he was getting instructions from God and that he was governing the country according to the Ten Commandments. And the animals whispered one to another that he was supposed to be listening to the people and following the constitution. But nobody dared to speak out for fear of the PF hyenas and the ancient Cranky Crocodile that lurked around the courtroom.
Things got even worse when he ordered the animals to collect all the fruit from the forest for export to Ching-Chang. The animals also had to construct the roads needed to export the fruit to Ching-Chang. The animals were now exhausted and near starvation. The king was selling the fruit to build a gold statue of himself, ten metres tall, where the animals could all be ordered to march up and down and salute the Great King Cobra. ‘These great roads, and this great statue,’ declared the king, ‘will be the enduring legacy of the Great King Cobra!’
By now the animals were in a state of silent and sullen rebellion. But they could no longer meet around the watering hole to discuss the constitutional crisis. The king had declared that any meeting first needed permission from the Dreaded PF hyenas, which was much the same thing as asking for a cuddle with the Cranky Crocodile.
Then one little elephant called Mumbo Jumbo did a very brave thing for such a small fellow. He called a secret meeting in the Dark Corner of the forest. And there it was that these treacherous and treasonable animals came up with a plan to overthrow their king. They agreed that on the Great Day of the Unveiling of the Statue of the Golden King, the baboons would run up and tie a rope around the statue’s neck, and then all the elephants would pull the statue down.
Which they did. And the strange thing was that the statue came down very easily, and the hyenas all ran away. And another strange thing was that the statue was hollow. Even the head was completely empty. There was nothing inside the statue except some smoldering ashes at the bottom. The Wise Elephant put his head inside the statue to have a look. ‘These ashes,’ he said solemnly, ‘are all that remain of our constitution.’
And from that day to this, in the land of Mfuwe, everybody is afraid of snakes. That is the legacy of King Cobra.
Source: Kalaki’s Korner