At night the forest comes alive. The wind gently brushes the treetops as the monkeys beat the wood like drums. The birds hum like flutes and the frogs croak like chimes.
All in the Amazon make sweet music to take their place in the forest. All but the armadillo. For they do not sing, they do not beat the tree trunks and they need not croak like the frogs. They are the listeners of the forest; they lay silent while the Amazon makes sweet music. Here is where our uncommon tale begins…
There once lived an armadillo named Alala. She was the daughter of Amara, the leader of the armadillo and the protector of all things on the forest floor. Alala loved the music of the forest. She wished she could sing like the birds, she wished to beat the tree trunks like the monkeys, she even desired to croak like the frogs. Yet such a dream was folly because her father, the protector of the forest floor, warned Alala she would never sing. He told her she would never sing, that armadillos were the listeners of the forest. They did not sing, in order that they may keep the forest safe from the raging red fire and the evil human monsters with giant iron jaws who tore down the trees. Alala was forbidden to sing and therefore she had no friends, and while her shell was as hard as a rock, her heart was soft and full of love.
One night, Alala sat below the great Willow Tree, whose roots ran deep underground. She sat as the fireflies beamed gold in the night and the birds began to sing.
“Alala,” a voice called to her.
“Grandmother?” Alala whispered into the dark.
“My dear, why do you sit in silence while the forest sings?”
“We are armadillo, we are the listeners of the forest.”
“You are your father’s daughter, stubborn and proud. Mind what he says, but you have a voice inside you, Alala, and that voice is who you are.”
“I do not understand, Grandmother.”
“I have spoken,” and just like that, Alala’s grandmother disappeared into the darkness of the forest.
Alala peered up at the night sky, a blanket of stars twinkled in her deep chestnut eyes,
and she heard a voice, one familiar to her. It began to sing.
Take my hand so I may show you a new world,
One where the birds lay silent and the armadillos sing.
A world where the frogs do not jump, and the monkey is no king.
Why lonely armadillo do you not sing?
You have ignored my voice and in turn, have forgotten who you are.
Should you find your voice you will be heard near and far.
Why does the wolf howl at night?
She calls to her soulmate, the moon who shines so bright.
Why do the birds sing in the trees?
They hear the call of the wind, the forest breeze.
The frogs do not croak for no reason
They enjoy the warmth of the hot season.
All have a voice for a worthy cause
So why armadillo do you hide yours?
Sit back and repeat after me,
Every animal should have the right to sing free.
The voice faded into the darkness, just like Alala’s grandma. Alala searched the forest floor for the voice, yet she found no one. She had heard the voice before. Almost as if it were someone she once knew.
As Alala walked home she came across a monkey beating a log like a drum. Her face lit up like the great fireflies, “Excuse me,” she said.
The monkey stopped the beat of the log and turned to Alala, “An armadillo? Well isn’t that something?” The monkey cackled.
“Would you teach me how to beat the tree trunk? To make music?” asked Alala.
The monkey did not reply to Alala. Instead, he rolled on the leafy ground laughing, clutching his stomach. “An armadillo? Beat the tree trunk? I can beat your shell, but you cannot beat the tree trunks. You have no voice, armadillo. Go on, leave me be,” he laughed as Alala walked away.
Next, she came to find two frogs with large orange eyes stuck to a tree croaking with their puffy green throats.
“Excuse me?” Alala whispered.
The frogs halted their croaking song and blinked at Alala with their large orange eyes. “What is it, armadillo? Can you not see we are croaking?”
“Well yes I do, and I am very sorry to interrupt, I was hoping you may teach me?”
“How to croak?” one frog snapped.
“Yes please,” Alala whispered.
And like the monkey, the frogs slapped their bellies and laughed as Alala walked away. While Alala was almost home, she came across three bright red and blue birds, singing on a low-hanging branch.
“Excuse me,” she uttered.
“Well look what we have here. An armadillo! How can we help you, hard stuff?”
“I was wondering if you could teach me to sing?”
Unlike the monkey and the frogs, the birds did not laugh. Instead, they looked down at Alala from their branch and said in unison, “You will never sing, ground dweller. You may have a hard shell, but a voice you will never possess.”
Alala continued to walk away when she came across the voice from before.
“Why do you ask all those to help you be someone else?”
“Where are you? Who are you?” said Alala to the wind.
“I am right here, yet you cannot see. However, I am exactly who I am meant to be.” As the voice faded a chameleon changed colour from the brown of the bark to a strong green.
“I have kept a watchful eye on you, armadillo, for the armadillo are the listeners of the forest and we chameleon are the ever-watchful eyes.”
“And why would you watch me?”
“Did you not hear my song? You have been so busy trying to be someone else, you have overseen your true ability. Have you not listened to the monkey beat tree trunks over and over again?”
“And the frogs croak?”
“And the birds sing?”
Alala smiled as she finally realised what the chameleon meant. She placed her paws on the log and started to beat it like a drum. She used her voice to croak like a frog at the same time, and when she saw fit, she began to whistle like the birds she heard every night. Little by little monkeys, birds, frogs and all matter of creatures gathered around Alala. While the monkey could only beat the drum, the frogs croak and the birds sing, Alala could do it all. The forest was filled with a new song, and the monkeys joined Alala as did the frogs and the birds. The listener of the forest became the one all creatures would listen to.