By Dr. Baba Galleh Jallow
A brief historical background of Smiling Forest, Talkmuch Dolittle and other famous characters
Smiling Forest stood in the middle of the continent of Toro, the land of the black animals. Years ago, Smiling Forest was ruled by Mansa Talkmuch Dolittle, king of all the animals. The descendant of a lineage of leatherworkers, Talkmuch Dolittle rose to prominence by the sweetness of his tongue, the sharpness of his wit, the sheer size of his muscles, and the sharpness of his teeth. Having talked or clawed to submission all his major rivals for the throne, Talkmuch Dolittle “chased away” the former vassal chief of Smiling Forest, who served a great alien white queen in the distant forest of the red animals, and assumed leadership of Smiling Forest. He was hailed as a great warrior and savior – the great peace that had brought freedom to the animals of Smiling Forest!
For many years, Talkmuch Dolittle ruled Smiling Forest with a benign smile. Like the envoy of the great queen of the red animals, Talkmuch Dolittle made sure that absolute discipline reigned within the confines of Smiling Forest, so that generally speaking, life on Smiling Forest remained serene and peaceful throughout his long reign. His greatest weakness was that Talkmuch Dolittle talked too much, did too little and paid too little attention to the most ardent desires of his subjects. In general, however, his reign was one of peacefulness, relative security and a relatively high level of prosperity and dignity for the animals of Smiling Forest. For while he maintained strict discipline in the land, he did so with a philosophy of do nothing, suffer nothing.
Smiling Forest was a land of great social variety. There were very troublesome folks like Buki the hyena whose favorite past time was to ambush lesser animals and strike them dead or frighten them out of their wits; the likes of Nice Boy the monkey, who specialized in stealing the hard-earned food of other animals; his friend Nopa the hare, who enjoyed playing dirty pranks on bigger folks like Samo the elephant and Toothy the boar, who were rather slow of wit. Nopa particularly liked pretending that he was Talkmuch Dolittle himself by hiding behind some tree and making fearful noises to frighten lesser animals. There were the likes of Skimpy the giraffe, who bore everyone with his endless bragging over his ability to eat from tree tops; the likes of Saa the snake, who was such a notorious liar that all the animals disappeared whenever they saw him coming. He had caused many an untold misery to many an innocent animal by his crafty tales of deceit and scheming. The animals never forgot that Saa was responsible for the expulsion of Adama and Awa from the blissful garden of Ajana. And there were Spotty the tiger and Blackie the panther, who were widely rumored to have kingship ambitions and were said to be constantly plotting against Talkmuch Dolittle. Indeed, so persistent did the rumors grow that Talkmuch Dolittle banished Spotty and Blackie to a remote corner ofSmiling Forest.
And there was the notorious Cheku the parrot, the most unpopular animal in Smiling. Cheku was reputed to have a very slippery tongue that just could not stay in one place for one single minute. He was always rattling his tongue about one thing or the other and when he had nothing to rattle his tongue about, he cooked up some phony tale which he loudly parroted to all who cared to listen. If he had no one to listen, Cheku the parrot would sit on top of a tree and chatter loudly away, mostly complaining about jealous folks who thought they were clever. And since there was supposed to be freedom of speech and expression in Smiling Forest, no one ventured to stop the garrulous parrot from having his noisy say.