It's Storytime! Read: Christian, the roar thief and the song of the nightingale

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Christian, the roar thief and the song of the nightingale.
Christian, the roar thief and the song of the nightingale.

Heather Djunga is a mom and a writer who felt compelled to create stories to help her son and other children understand the Coronavirus pandemic. Here she shares the story, 'Christian, the roar thief and the song of the nightingale', illustrated by her son, Christian Djunga.

The day was new, and Christian, the Lion Cub, stood at his family's grotto entrance. He stepped forward, right paw, left paw and took in a deep breath of forest air. It was the fresh, crisp air of the early morning.

The sun was up, but many animals were still sleeping. But Christian hadn't been able to sleep, and it hadn't been for want of an adventure. He felt a tug at his heart as he took in everything around him…

So many things were dear to his heart, but they felt wrapped in bubble wrap today and somehow separate from him. He panicked for a moment – thinking of how he would find the next adventure, as he had tried the past few days but hadn't found one.

No adventures meant no stories to share. The thought was terrible to Christian, and he tried to regain his composure and focus on the crisp air of the new day.

His nose had been a little more downturned lately. There had been something less of a spring in his step. All this, downturned nose, less-springy step, had all started on a day just like this one.

Christian could pinpoint the exact moment it had happened. He had been on a path which he knew reasonably well. He liked this particular path because there was lots of long grass, and he never got tired of the idea of 'camouflage'.

Even his tail tip could look like a tuft of grass if he held it up at the right angle. He had been pretending to stalk something – coronamonste.

He was Christian the Secret Agent there in the long grass – stalking the elusive coronamonster, that smelly-breathed fiend. This was when he heard something roar. It wasn't like the roar of a lion, of course (only an actual lion could get that roar right) – but it was loud enough to unsettle the entire forest.

Christian had even seen squirrels scurry onto the forest path, and some nuts had even fallen from the trees as they had dropped everything to get away from the dreadful roar. As the creature roared, birds had surfaced above the canopy of leaves, flying out in all directions with a terrible squawking.

Christian had looked up to see glistening birds, like eagles, with steely faces. They roared like the churning of waterfalls over pebbles. Their wings did not bend, but they whirred ahead and turned in the air, leaving wind and debris flying as explosions dotted the pathways where they flew.

Read: 'A Crown for Christian', a local story to help children understand the pandemic.

Christian saw some trees catch on fire. Animals were running – towards him. Standing at the entrance of the family's grotto now and remembering the day, Christian still shut his eyes with fear at the moment the wind from the roaring steal birds had overshadowed him.

He recalled quivering with fear and, for a moment, believed the awful roar would engulf him. Though just a cub, Christian had faced many adversaries.

One time, he had gotten stuck up a tree, one of the oaks in the valley of the giant oaks – the highest one actually (he had felt particularly ambitious that day).

Another time, he and his friends had gotten lost at night after trying to get to the foot of the great mountain. Mila, his firefly friend, had stepped up as the unexpected heroine of the day, her tail lighting up like a torch with a sweet little 'pop'.

Then there was coronamonster – that villain with the spiky teeth and smelly breath who had left all the animals in fear, dividing the animals, each one to his own home.

But none of these adversaries had touched Christian personally as the glistening eagle-like birds who had come to the forest. The forest had since recovered after the steel eagles' visit.

Some of the smaller bunnies and squirrels were a little more hidden than before and a bit more possessive over their acorns… hoarding them and muttering about being safer in the trunk of trees than outdoors.

Still, most of the animals were happy to be outdoors again. They were allowed outdoors because coronamonster seemed to be 'playing hide and seek' and, thankfully, hiding more than seeking.

Christian could see the golden eagles on distant treetops, overseeing the forest as 'watch birds'. Their silhouettes were sentinel-like, and Christian could see that they meant business even from where he was now.

The roaring birds wouldn't come back into the forest so quickly. With them becoming a memory in the Rainbow Forest, Christian reasoned his greatest adversary now was this fear and the emptiness he felt inside – all jagged around the edges.

It sat heavily inside him, and he didn't want to think about it. As he walked along the grassy outskirts of the river area, he heard a voice. Zeb.

"Zup Christian the Lion Cub," said the Zebra.

"Up for an adventure?" Christian squirmed. What would he say?

"I think I will take a raincheck," said the cub.

"But why? We're allowed outdoors," insisted the Zebra, "… Mom said coronamonster is keeping a low profile at the moment."

"I know," said the cub.

"I just don't feel like an adventure, I guess…." Zeb gasped.

"Christian the Lion Cub… Did I hear you right?" Christian quickly corrected his words.

"I mean, I have some stuff to do… like, help gather berries."

"Christian the Lion Cub, gathering berries?"

"Berry pie for dinner…." Christian gave a weak explanation.

Must read: Local storybook invites children on a journey of faith and bravery

He left Zeb without saying more, walking along and wondering what could help him shake off the jagged nothingness he knew undoubtedly couldn't be good for a cub.

He remembered a special place in the forest where Papa always went. It was Papa's secret place – not much of a secret since Papa always told him about it.

When he first took Christian there, Christian had expected much more than just a little patch of forest surrounded by a hedge, bramble, and long grass.

"But there is just silence and nothing there," he had pointed out to his dad.

"All that and more," his Papa had said.

"I go into the silence and the nothing to find something I need." Christian knew that he, too, needed 'something' to fill the nothing he felt inside – the gaping, jagged-edged nothingness left by the roaring steel birds.

"I will go to the clearing," thought Christian.

He found the gap in the hedge through which an animal could enter the small clearing. It was quiet here – nothing but grass and a natural tree stump at one side and a rose bush just off the centre.

The place seemed private enough and quiet enough for Christian to hear what his father said could only be heard when there was silence.

Christian lay down on the soft grass and remembered Papa's words: "There's a King in the Rainbow Forest, too loud to speak, so he says in silence; too bright to be visible, so he makes Himself invisible, and so big he is somewhat intimidating, so he squeezes into nothingness."

"You can come boldly to Him because He has made Himself cub-sized so you can talk to Him, and His silences are loud enough to hear Him if you listen with all of your heart."

"Alright," Christian began.

"My name is Christian the Lion Cub. Something happened in the forest which I must bring to your attention. I think some roaring birds - fake eagles – came into the forest the other day. And I think they stole my roar because I haven't been able to find my stories." Christian covered his face with his paws.

"And I was so hoping to be able to roar. It's my dream, you see. Now I'm not sure I will ever be able to."

The stories that had once burned like a fire inside him now felt like embers.

"This is why I am here," he continued.

"You are a King, Your Majesty, and I need your help to get my roar back."

Christian sunk upon his paws with a sigh and waited in the silence for what felt like a long time for a cub.

Do not use

The song of the nightingale. Photo: Heather Djunga. 

Just then, he saw something on the ground ahead of him. It, or rather she, came peeping up towards him with shrill, tiny peeps.

She was brown and nothing to look at, relatively small, and, to be honest, quite awkward. Her head moved this way, and Christian felt he had to speak up. She was, after all, a little too close to his nose.

"Do you mind," he said.

"I am busy listening." The bird's head flicked to the side.

"I know you mean no harm," Christian said when she refused to move. "But you are in my way."

She spoke now: "In the way of what?"

"In my way," said Christian, feeling angry.

"Or maybe you are in my way," said the bird, "You are much bigger than me, and you block more of my way than I block of yours," Christian growled a little through gritted teeth.

"I was on my way to sit on that rose bush over there," said the bird.

Christian guessed she could sit on the bush as long as she was quiet. She seemed like a mousy, tiny little thing anyway.

How much noise could she make?

"You can sit there," he eventually said. "But please do be quiet."

The bird seemed to laugh now. "A bird does not just sit on a bush," she said. "A bird must sing."

The cub took a deep breath: "Can you please wait a little longer. Please, I must listen."

Must see: A story for uncertain times: Christian and the Unexpected Masterpiece

Now it was the bird's turn to sigh, and she did so with a particularly tinkling sigh.

"To what?" she asked.

"To the silence…" said Christian, "… For an answer."

The bird studied him curiously and then flew to perch on a branch of the rosebush.

Christian felt so angry that he thought he might pounce at her … But then something happened: she opened her mouth to sing. It was so high and sweet that she seemed made of gold at that moment - no longer dull-feathered like a twig or sand.

Christian paused. "Do it again…" he said, "… That high, shrill thing that you do."

The little bird opened her mouth, and the most beautiful melody came out.

"I have never heard a song like that before," said Christian. "Where did you get it from?"

The little bird laughed. "It is beautiful," she said, and Christian knew she said this, not because she was bragging but because she was entirely honest.

He also noticed her little body sigh as she spoke. "But I could not tell you where to get it from."

Without waiting for Christian's response, she continued: "This particular song, I sang once when I was afraid. I thought if I sang loud enough and found the right notes, someone might hear, and something might change."

Someone had heard, Christian reasoned. "It is a beautiful song," Christian said.

"When I hear it, it sounds a little the sound inside me," Christian explained to her what had happened and how he had come to the clearing for an answer from the King of the forest.

"The roar thieves took all my adventures and stories. Now I will never roar!" said Christian.

But the bird just laughed. "I have heard many roars," she said.

"But none like a lion's roar. You can't steal a lion's roar, surely?" Christian sighed.

"I have always wanted to roar, but now it feels like I never will."

"I know how you feel," said the bird.

"But no one can take your roar. I have learned you cannot take a bird's song… you can only give a bird their song. I imagine the same is true for a lion."

Also read: Christian, the golden feather and the fastball

She flew in the air, hovering for a moment above Christian's nose, and he felt his downturned nose lift with the wonder of the moment.

"I didn't have this song before I faced a giant. The King helped me find my song – He turned what the giant did for my good. He did! The giant certainly didn't steal my song!"

"What is your secret then?" asked Christian.

"I did what you are now doing," said the bird.

"I took my 'nothing' to the King, and then I grew still to listen – and he gave it back to me as 'something'."

"Is that all?" Christian asked.

"No," said the nightingale. "The King asked me to call Him by His name. He has a name, you know."

Christian remembered. Papa had said so. The nightingale spoke the King's name as though it were the sweetest sound.

His name was a song in itself, and Christian marvelled at how the tiny bird seemed somehow bigger as she spoke the name: "Jesus!" she said.

'Jesus'… Christian turned the name inside the nothingness inside of him. It fitted like a puzzle piece into the jagged hole.

The nightingale studied Christian's face for a moment. "Tell me, Christian, the Lion Cub, what does your nothing sound like, now that you are listening?"

Christian sat in the stillness and thought of the trauma of the roaring steel birds: "For me, it makes the sound of big, metallic teeth biting like a crazy tiger. It stomps towards me, and I have to gather my friends, and we put on war paint, and we defend the forest together…."

"Go on," said the bird.

"For me, it sounds like golden eagles, rising in battle formation, brighter than the sun – wings beating the sky like loud trumpets, a symphony of activity and an explosion of colour… as they chase the fake eagles away…."

"Sounds exciting," said the bird.

"It sounds like an unlikely hero who braves the waves and makes it to the other side…."

Christian became excited as a story swelled in his heart, "… He even had to fight a crocodile, but he outwitted the croc's dastardly plans to live and tell the story… can you imagine that?"

"Your nothingness sounds like it's turning into some great stories," said the nightingale, "See, you can do it."

"I can!" said the cub. "But tell me, how does it end for the cub who overcame and made it to the other side?"

Christian noticed tears were in his eyes. "Yes, he did make it!" he said with surprising realisation.

"There's more inside there," said the bird, noticing his tears.

"Close your eyes and listen harder." Christian did just this.

'Jesus,' he whispered in his heart, 'Help me to hear'. In the silence, he heard his heart pumping inside of him – alive- as the new story grew inside of him like fire.

"They gave him a medal for his courage, and when he stood up to receive it, he did something he had never done before – he opened his mouth, and out came a roar!" Christian smiled through his tears.

The roar was still there inside of him, after all! But when he opened his eyes, the bird was gone. The rose bush and the tree stump remained, and the memory of the sweet song and the sweetest name.

The song had cost the bird, but it had touched his heart, like the stories he was now determined to tell. Where there had been nothingness, he felt something spectacular stir – a sense of mission he had not understood before and the stirrings of a genuine roar, which Papa had always said came to every cub at just the right moment.

This was that moment. He just knew it inside. "Jesus," he whispered as he lowered his head in a bow, and the name came out with a mighty roar.

To hear the Song Of The Nightingale, visit here.


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