It was another sweltering day in the African Savanna, as young Adisa strolled closely by his father’s side. Adisa’s father, Negus, was the leader of the pride, and ruler of all the Savanna. Adisa gazed up at his father’s magnificence as the wind blew through his thick mane. Adisa wanted to be just like him when he grew up.
The long grass was almost as tall as Adisa, so to see what was ahead, he needed to leap up above the blades occasionally. His father stopped suddenly at the sound of a loud cackle. There were hyenas close by. Negus led Adisa to an opening beneath a large boulder and told him to stay put until he returned.
Frightened, Adisa cowered back into the shadows and listened carefully for his father to call. Several moments had passed and the cackling drew closer. Suddenly, Adisa heard a deafening roar followed by a great battle between his father and the hyenas. Adisa wanted to help his father, but he was too afraid.
The battle continued for quite some time, and Adisa decided to peek out and see what was happening but as he did, one of the hyenas had spotted him and ran in his direction. Adisa quickly scurried back as far as he could beneath the boulder. The snarling teeth of the hyena filled the gap before him, narrowly missing Adisa’s front paws as he snapped viciously at his prize.
The hyena was then thrown from the boulder in an instant as Negus pounced upon him, his claws ripping a deep gash in the hyena’s hide. The hyena ran off yelping from the pain. Adisa’s father yelled for his son to run away as quickly as he could and not look back. Adisa hesitated as he watched his father taking on the remaining two hyenas, but soon after ran toward the east and did not look back.
He could not recall how long or how far he had run, but when he stopped, he found himself in an unfamiliar area, outside the boundaries his father had set for him. Now frightened once again, Adisa cautiously looked around and listened to the strange noises that filled the jungle that surrounded him.
The trees were so tall that they blocked the sun at times. In a clearing, he watched as a family of sunbirds fluttered quickly from flower-to-flower collecting nectar. Their brilliant colors shimmered in the sunlight.
His moment of peace was interrupted by a large popping noise followed by a roar unlike any he had heard before. He thought that perhaps there was another pride nearby that could help him find his way home, so he ran toward the noise.
Less than a mile away, Adisa halted at the sight of a group of two-legged animals that dragged a large gorilla across the dense brush of the jungle. They looked like the animals that his father described as, “humans.” One of the humans stood at the front of the group swinging an object back-and-forth breaking away leaves and branches. Adisa spotted a reddish stain upon the chest of the gorilla. He was not fighting back, and Adisa could not figure out why. He just watched as the humans and the gorilla disappeared into the trees.
The rustling of leaves caught his attention, so Adisa spun around ready to pounce on whoever was sneaking up on him, but instead, a small gorilla, not much larger than him, lowered himself from a nearby tree.
His eyes were filled with sadness as he stared at Adisa, so he asked the young gorilla what was bothering him. The gorilla replied that his father had been killed and taken away. Adisa did not fully understand death. All he knew about death was what his father showed him about the animals that he fed the pride with. He did not realize that these humans killed too.
Adisa introduced himself, and the young gorilla said his name was, Mandla. Adisa asked his new friend if he would like to join him in his journey to find his pride, and Mandla accepted, so the two headed off into the dark, African jungle together.
Adisa told Mandla about his father and the attack by the hyenas, then Mandla explained that he and his father were the last of his family. Humans had killed the rest, and now he was on his own.
They headed toward the west. The jungle was too dense for Adisa to see anything that was ahead, so to help, Mandla would frequently climb the trees so he could point them in the right direction.
It wasn’t long before Mandla heard a growl come from Adisa, but it did not come from his mouth, it came from his stomach. Adisa admitted that he had not eaten since early morning when he was at home with the pride, so Mandla told him to wait as he scurried back up the tree.
A few minutes later, Mandla descended the tree with a handful of leaves and berries which he handed to Adisa. When he sniffed the berries, Adisa asked what kind of animal they came from. Mandla laughed at his friend’s misunderstanding. When Adisa refused to eat it, Mandla happily shoved the juicy treats into his mouth.
Adisa’s stomach continued to growl as they walked on, when he spotted a hare hopping quickly through the long grass. Adisa took off running after his prey. They darted between trees and over bushes. Adisa was nearly on top of the hare when it disappeared down a hole. Adisa tried desperately to reach it with his paws, but it was gone. His sauntered back toward where he began his chase, and Mandla met him halfway.
Adisa told his friend how hungry he was, and that he needed to eat meat, so Mandla told him he had an idea where Adisa might find some food. He led his friend through the jungle to a pond deep within the jungle. Mandla pointed toward a few turtles that laid sunning themselves on the rocks beside the water. Mandla suggested with a laugh, that they might be more Adisa’s speed.
Adisa circled the pond and crept up slowly behind the turtles and out of the shadows, he pounced upon the closest one to him. The turtle defensively pulled its head and legs into its shell, and without understanding, Adisa tried to take a bite out of the shell. He cried out as his teeth pulsated with pain.
He looked back at his friend and saw him laughing again. He asked him how he was supposed to eat something so hard, then Mandla explained that only the outside was hard, and he needed to get the soft meat on the inside.
As Adisa turned back, he saw the turtle trying to make a slow escape, so with lightning-fast reflexes, he took a bite at the turtle’s leg. The turtle struggled to escape, but it was too late. He had become Adisa’s dinner.
After his belly was satisfied, the two continued with their journey, but it was starting to get dark out, so they sought out shelter for the night. Mandla began to gather leaves and branches, and he laid out a nest for the two of them to sleep on until morning.
During the night, the jungle came alive with sounds of animals as they scavenged for food. Adisa heard branches cracking close by, so he stood up and began to sniff at the air. He could smell something upwind from their location and he woke Mandla up to warn him.
No sooner did Mandla awaken, that a cheetah crept out of the darkness. Mandla hurried up the tree while Adisa stood his ground, roaring as fiercely as he was able. The cheetah growled back at his young challenger; his teeth still stained red from his last victim.
The cheetah inched its way closer toward Adisa and was nearly upon him, when out of nowhere, he was caught off-guard by an attack from above. Mandla had jumped down from the tall tree and landed on the back of the cheetah, wounding it slightly. Adisa took that opportunity to launch an attack at the cheetah’s throat causing him to bleed out onto the grassy floor of the jungle.
The cheetah ran around panicked and in pain for a few more minutes before falling to the ground in silence. Mandla watched as his friend feasted upon the kill. He was just thankful that he didn’t have a craving for gorilla instead.
The following day, Adisa and Mandla made their way further west. It was a few hours later, that Adisa saw some familiar territory. He was close to his home again, so he told Mandla to follow him. The trees became sparser as their journey led them across the grasslands to a large hillside where he spotted his pride in the distance.
Adisa picked up speed at the sight of his family, and Mandla did his best to keep up, but was stopped suddenly by a lioness who thought the young cub was being chased. Hearing his friend’s cry for help, Adisa stopped and told the lioness to leave Mandla alone. The lioness turned to see the cub returning. She realized then that it was her son, Adisa.
When Adisa saw that it was his mother, he circled her, brushing up against her legs with affection. Adisa explained to her that Mandla was his friend, and he had helped him find his way home.
Mandla was welcomed back to meet the pride and was greeted with mixed emotions. Adisa asked his mother where his father was. She said that his father had been out looking for him since they had been separated.
As the sun set that night, Adisa and Mandla both cuddled into the warmth of Adisa’s mother as they slept. In the morning, Adisa was awakened by a nudge against his face. When he opened his eyes, he saw his father’s face surrounded by the glow of the rising sun.
Excitedly, Adisa greeted his father. The commotion caused Mandla to waken as well. Mandla stared at the scarred body of this massive lion and wondered if those scars were from the hyena attack that Adisa has described.
Adisa told his father of the adventure. He described the humans, and the attack of the cheetah. Negus sat back and listened with pride at his son’s story. Mandla was then accepted as an honorary member of the pride. He was told that no harm would ever come of him as thanks for saving Adisa’s life.
The two unlikely friends grew up together. Both grew strong, and after the passing of his father, Adisa became the new leader of the pride, and the two protected the pride lands side-by-side for the rest of their lives.