Nqobi looked at her gift with awe. But she knew if she took it home it would only become ‘accidently’ broken by her step-father, who had ruined what few special things she had ever owned.

She looked around the village. Her step-father’s eyes and ears lurked everywhere. But past the village kraals, there was the graveyard. Few would go there during the week when there was no funeral to attend. So there she went, scanning the grounds for a place to hide her new, treasured possession.

“That tree is very nice,” a tiny voice said into her ear.

Nqobi turned to look, but saw only a dragonfly hovering in the air.

The dragonfly darted near her ear. The tiny voice said, “The tree has a hole in its trunk which you might find useful.”

Dragonflies can’t talk, she thought. But she went over to the tree, and indeed there was a hole which could perfectly conceal her violin, and nothing was living inside it, not even a mouse. She carefully tucked the instrument inside, and stood, ready to leave this land of the dead.

“Are you not going to play it?” the tiny voice asked.

“I don’t know how,” she whispered.

The dragonfly darted in front of her face. Hovering between her eyes, it said, “You could wish to learn.”

“I don’t know who could teach me,” she said, deciding to ignore the fact she was indeed, talking to a dragonfly. “I have no money to pay anyone, and I think my step-father takes most of what my mother makes.”

“But you wish to learn?” the dragonfly asked.

“Yes, I wish to learn, but–”

“Granted!” The dragonfly said.

Before she knew what to think, a praying mantis dropped down off a branch, landing on the ridge of the hole that hid her violin. It had only six segments, identifying the insect as a girl. She bowed to Nqobi, introducing herself only as “Mantis,” before saying, “Locust, we need you over here, if you please.”

A flutter came from the long grasses on the right, and then a blur shot towards the tree. Mantis did not seem alarmed, and, neatly as you please, the blur settled beside her. It was, indeed, a locust, revealing himself to be a boy by the smooth and rounded shape of his abdomen.

The insect bowed. “Locust, at your service.”

“Um, hello,” Nqobi said. “A pleasure to meet you.”

“My child,” Mantis said. “If you want to learn to play the violin, you must actually hold the instrument.”

“Oh,” she said.

This can’t really be happening, she thought, and yet, she did as Mantis requested.


Tell us: This story is told in the style of a fairy tale. Do you have a favourite fairy tale, myth or legend? What is it about that story that makes it your favourite?