In ages past there lived a tribe of primitive grassland hunters. For thousands of years their Gods were kind and they survived. There came a time when the Gods forgot this lonely little tribe and many evils threatened.
Cruel drought came to the grassland, the grasses died without grain, fires followed, the animals were burnt or driven away. The waters had long since dried. There were no fish or mussels to be found. Many of the tribe were weak and unable to reach the safety of the jungle without help.
The tribe was afraid. They did not know the jungle. According to myth it lay far across the grassland on the other side of the low scrub. In the jungle there were strange trees and fruits and animals. There was no light and many dangers.
The old myths told that despite the dangers the jungle held great treasure in food, water and shelter from evil times. Those with courage to enter the jungle and learn its ways would survive. It was known that the scrubland tribe lived on the far side of the jungle. These hunters might be helpful but could not be reached without crossing through the treacherous unknown territory.
The elders met and called for a volunteer from among the warriors to take a message to the scrubland tribe, asking for help and protection till the rains should come again.
The bravest warrior leapt up and said:
‘You can send no other, I am the fastest. I am the most courageous. No other warrior has killed more game. No other warrior has made better weapons. I am the one!’
The elders agreed.
The bravest warrior set out. He ran on his fine strong muscled legs and was soon far out of sight. He was used to travelling across the grassland and he did not weary easily. Hours passed, he ran more slowly, among the first trees of the burnt scrub. The black stumps were strange and threatening. He slowed and looked more carefully ahead – and behind. As the scenery changed, the friendly sky was hidden more and more by the overhanging canopy of trees.
He had entered the jungle’s edge where it was dark and filled with noises he had never heard before. Living, moving noises. Small biting flies and stinging bugs attacked him. He felt he was alone. He was weary now, and thirsty and without food. Bravely he thrashed on, brushing against the undergrowth that scratched and tore his skin and held him back.
When he could go no further he lay down on the dark damp forest floor. He was tormented by thirst and fear and dreadful stinging bites.
The tribe watched the sky for the smoke that would tell of the warrior’s arrival. Each day they watched more anxiously. No smoke appeared. With little hope a search party was sent to track the warrior’s path. At last he was found, alive, but very weak, not far from the resting place of his first night. Lovingly he was carried home to share the fate of his tribe.
Starvation was very close.
Among the tribe there was a crippled lad who now came forward and spoke to the elders:
‘I am the least significant among you. We cannot spare a warrior to take a message, every one is needed to hunt what meagre game there is. We cannot spare a woman, every one is needed to gather the sparse grain. We cannot send a child! But I, I am the least significant, and I can be spared. If I succeed I will repay a great deal of kindness the tribe has shown me. If I fail I will not be missed and the fate of the tribe will not be changed.’
The elders agreed.
Before sundown the least significant went to a high place. There, leaning on his stick, he looked across the plains to the blackened scrub and further again to the dark misty line of jungle on the horizon. His eyes absorbed every mark and sign that would guide his way. After the sun went down he stayed alone and gazed into the starlit distance.
As the stars faded he gathered up his digging stick, his fire stick, a water skin, and a small amount of grain and hobbled off across the plain.
The least significant crossed the plain while it was still cool. When he reached the low burnt scrub he was grateful for its shade and fascinated by the weird shapes, growths and unfamiliar forms. He sat for a long time in the cool white ashes and playfully covered himself in their soothing dust. Being crippled he had learnt great patience. He rested often and saw many new things. Enjoying his adventure he continued on his journey.
On the edge of the dense rain forest he made camp and lit a fire. Sitting in the smoke, protected from insects, he chewed his grain and listened with curiosity to the forest sounds. In the firelight he watched small animals eating certain roots and nuts. When they scurried off he tried their food and was pleased to find a way to feed himself.
After a sound sleep, protected by his fires, he set off in the morning. As he went he marked the big trees so that he could retrace his steps but all the time he looked ahead to find the easy way. He saw magnificent trees and ferns and flowers. He tasted fruit and seeds and when there was no ill effect he gathered them to chew during his rests. Birds of rainbow colours flapped and shrieked around him offering him laughter and encouragement. He gathered brilliant discarded feathers that glowed and flashed to delight him.
Thus, each day he continued another small portion of the way.
Once, the least significant came to a river, more water than he had ever seen. It flowed deep and strong and shining in the sun and was far wider than he could ever jump. It was far wider that the biggest jump of the bravest warrior. He sat on the bank to think and to listen. He let the cool moving water delight his feet and legs. He looked down into the depths to see the fish, and weeds and stones. He let himself learn about wide, fast rivers.
The sun was sinking and the jungle was changing noises for the night. Only the occasional flap and shriek of a late bird remained of the daytime sounds. The river noise continued.
Out of the bush, opposite his resting place animals came to drink. A shy opossum slid down a tree to sit on the river bank and then to timidly stretch toward the water. Wallabies came along the track, hopping towards the river.
One hopped into the water, splashed and drank and kept on hopping, through the water, over the stones, till wet and happy he reached the other side where the track continued. Other wallabies followed.
The least significant reached his legs down into the cool water till his feet touched the stones that had seemed so far away. He stood up with the water swirling around his thighs and cautiously stepped out into the river. Step by step he crossed over and made his camp that night on the other side.
When the stars told him he was close to his goal the least significant gathered pretty stones, fruit and roots as gifts for his hosts. At last he smelt the smoke of cooking fires and soon came on a worn path that led out of the jungle. In the late afternoon, happy and bearing gifts for his hosts he entered the circle of huts.
The chief received the gifts.
The warriors inspected him and were puzzled that this small man with twisted legs could have come so far without fatigue. He had many wondrous tales to tell of the birds, animals, plants and ways of the jungle. He told of his tribe and its great warriors, explaining that he was the Least Significant.
His hosts were amazed, curious, anxious to meet so great a race. When the Least Significant explained his proposition that the two tribes should meet and learn to cross the jungle and enjoy its many benefits his hosts were anxious to start out immediately.
The Least Significant returned to his tribe with many gifts of food and game. Many warriors came, all wanting to make peace with the great tribe whose least significant member was the strongest, wisest, and most courageous adventurer they had ever met.
The tribes were joined and the Least Significant lived long years as a leader. A leader, not of war, but of thought. He was a wise and loving teacher. When his small twisted body was recalled his spirit lived on in the grassland and the jungle. His soft familiar voice spoke of courage, adventure and peace. It was heard on the breeze, in the river’s ripples and in the soft hiss of the glowing coals.
For many thousands of years the Gods were kind. Now all the children knew that their lives were like the journey of the Least Significant. They knew the quiet places to seek their goals. They each gathered their resources, and with persistence, with curiosity and with innovation, they struck out fearlessly on the private journey of their lives.