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The Impalas and the Hippopotamuses

Some people are regarded as timid or cowardly when they are just being sensible. People tend to regard themselves as braver than others just because they are bigger, stronger or more athletic. Here is a useful story told by a wise man called Robert Young Trotter.

Hippos and impalas are often friends. Did you know that? One day, a hippopotamus and its impala friend were walking along a bushveld trail and realised that they were being stalked by two lions. The hippo and impala came to a ravine. The impala leapt across.

It turned to the hippo and said "Jump and you will escape the lions."

The hippo replied "I cannot do it. I will fall. I had better take my chances with the lions."

"Don't be chicken" called the impala, hoping to goad its friend to safety. "You can do it. It is easy!"

So the hippo jumped and plummeted to its doom. On another day, another hippo and its impala friend were walking along the same path. The same two lions were lying in wait to trap them against the ravine. The hippopotamus turned to face the lions.

"Come" said the hippo to its friend, "our only chance is to fight the lions."

"No" said the impala, "lions are too strong and fierce. We should take our chances jumping across the ravine."

"Don't be afraid", replied the hippo, "I am powerful and I will help you. Together, we shall defeat the lions."

So the impala turned to face its enemies the lions. After a savage fight, the hippo managed to kill both lions but not before one of them had swiftly killed its friend the impala.

The moral, of course, is this. Not everyone has the same physical abilities. Know your limitations and do not be goaded into doing something that you are sure you cannot do safely, even if your friends have done it. That is prudence, not cowardice.

Robert Young Trotter passed away in December 2014, at the age of 85. He had an interesting and sometimes adventurous life, including African safaris, and lived on three continents.


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