The Brothers Lionheart
Now I’m going to tell you about my brother. My brother, Jonathan Lionheart, is the person I want to tell you about. I think it’s almost like a saga, and just a little like a ghost story, and yet every word is true, though Jonathan and I are probably the only people who know that.
Jonathan’s name wasn’t Lionheart from the start. His last name was Lion, just like Mother’s and mine. Jonathan Lion was his name. My name is Karl Lion and Mother’s is Sigrid Lion. Father was Axel Lion, but he went to sea and we never heard from him since.
But what I was going to tell you was how it came about that my brother Jonathan became Jonathan Lionheart, and all the strange things that happened after that.
Jonathan knew that I was soon going to die. I think everyone knew except me. They knew at school too, because I was away most of the time, coughing and always being ill. For the last six months, I haven’t been able to go to school at all. All the ladies Mother sews dresses for knew it too, and one of them was talking to Mother about it when I happened to hear, although I wasn’t meant to. They thought I was asleep. But I was just lying there with my eyes closed. And I went on lying there like that, because I didn’t want them to see that I had heard that terrible thing--that I was soon going to die.
I was sad, of course, and terribly afraid, and I didn’t want Mother to see that. But I talked to Jonathan alone about it when he came home.
“Did you know that I’m going to die?” I said, and I wept. Jonathan though for a moment. Perhaps he didn’t really want to answer, but in the end he said:
“Yes I know.”
Then I cried even more.
“How can things be so terrible?” I asked. “How can things be so terrible that some people have to die, when they’re not even ten years old?”
“You know, Rusky, I don’t think it’s that terrible,” said Jonathan. “I think you’ll have a marvelous time.”
“Marvelous,” I said. “Is it marvelous to lie under the ground and be dead?”
“Oh,” said Jonathan. “It’s only your shell that lies there, you know? You yourself fly away somewhere quite different.”
“Where?” I asked, because I could hardly believe him.
“To Nangiyala,” he said.
To Nangiyala--he just threw out then word as if it were something everyone in the world knew. But at the time, I had never heard it mentioned before.
“Nangiyala?” I said, “Where’s that?”
Then Jonathan said that he wasn’t quite certain, but it was somewhere on the other side of the stars. And he began to tell me about Nangiyala, so that I almost felt like flying there at once.
“It’s still in the days of campfires and sagas there,” he said, “and you’ll like that.”
All the sagas came from Nangiyala, he said, for it was there that everything of that kind happened, and it you went there, then you could take part in adventures from morning till evening, and at night, Jonathan said.
“You know, Rusky,” he said, “that’ll be different from lying and coughing and being ill and never able to play, won’t it?”
Jonathan always called me Rusky. He’d done that ever since I was small, and when I asked him why once, he said it was because he liked rusks so much, especially rusks like me. Yes, he liked me, Jonathan, and that strange, for I’ve never been anything but a rather ugly, stupid and cowardly boy, with crooked legs and all. I asked Jonathan how he could like such an ugly, stupid boy like me, with crooked legs and all, and then he said:
“If you weren’t such a nice, ugly little paleface with crooked legs, then you wouldn’t be my Rusky, the one I like.
The Election of the King Bird (the black-and-white Fishing Eagle)
Category: Nigerian folktales
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