Thinking things through

Philosophy for Juniors

Humfry Hippo
Thoughtful Tales for Little Ones


Selfishness and Guilt




Philosophy for Seniors

A Matter of Life and Death

Human Needs

Humfry hippo moves home

Tale 3 gives an opportunity for children to:

  • Draw lessons from an old Ugandan legend.
  • Think about jealousy.
  • Learn not to feel envy when others have something they don’t have.
  • Learn to appreciate other people’s good fortune.

Tale 3: Remembering

Humfry is bathing in the cool water of his new waterhole home. He begins to feel quite sleepy. His eyelids feel heavy and start to close, and he drifts into a daydream.

Humfry thinks of his grandmother, who always told interesting tales. She had many stories about things that had happened to her during her long life. She also told legends that had been passed down from one generation to the next – from grandparents to parents, and from parents to children. His grandmother used to live near Lake Mburo. The lake is home to many hippos, and there is one story about them that he always loved to hear.

It is the legend of “How the Hippo Lost its Hair”.

It goes like this:

Many generations ago, all hippos were hairy. They had beautiful, shiny, black, curly hair. They walked the open plains of Africa eating grass alongside zebras, buffalos, antelopes and the other animals of the savanna.

Their beautiful hair was admired by all the other animals.

Well, all except one! The animals that were jealous of the hippos’ lovely hair were the baboons!

Baboons are very vain creatures. They like to look at their own reflections in the water, and spend hours grooming each other’s hair. They pick out sticky buds that have caught in the hair, and they eat tiny itchy ticks.

The male baboon has long hair around his head, which is called a mane. Because the male lion also has a mane, and the lion is king of the beasts, the male baboon feels special.

Baboons were sure that they were the best-looking of all the animals. So, one day, they persuaded all the other animals to join them in a great beauty pageant.

Each group of animals was asked to pick the best looking one among them.

The zebras chose the most beautiful zebra. The buffalos chose the most beautiful buffalo.

The elephants chose the most beautiful elephant. Each type of antelope chose the most beautiful of their kind.

And it was so for all the other animals. The hippos chose the most beautiful hippo.

Finally, the baboons chose the most beautiful male baboon, and they were sure that he would be voted the champion over all the other animals.

The competitors from each group formed a line. They paraded in front of a panel of judges, displaying their beauty for all to see. The judges did not take long to choose an overall winner. It was obvious to everyone, apart from the baboons, who would win!

A bird standing on top of a grass covered field

Description automatically generatedThe head judge was a very distinguished looking Marabou Stork. Being a bird, the other animals agreed that she would judge the winner fairly. As soon as the parade was over, she stood up and made the following announcement:

“In the opinion of the judges, the winner of the “Most Beautiful Animal Competition is…………………..”

And then she paused for a long time to keep everyone in suspense, before she announced the winner.

Who do you think they chose?

Well, as expected, they chose the animal with the beautiful, shiny, black, curly hair – the hippo, who was everyone’s favourite. Well, everyone’s apart from the baboons.

The winning hippo walked proudly forward to collect her trophy cup on behalf of all the hippos.

Mrs Marabou spoke again, “I declare the hippo to be the most beautiful animal in the whole of Africa!”

All the other animals, apart from the baboons, agreed.  

They enthusiastically clapped and cheered the winning hippo.

Mrs Marabou led the applause, “Hurrah, for the hippos! Let’s all celebrate with a party!”

But then, without any warning at all, P-A-N-D-E-M-O-N-I-U-M broke out!

The baboons ran towards the judges and demanded that they change their minds and declare the baboon as the winner. Their complaining barks became louder and louder. The baboons were so angry with the decision of the judges, that they tried to steal the trophy cup and run away with it.

Altogether, in complete unison, the other animals shouted,

“STOP!! You baboons called the beauty pageant. If you don’t accept the decision of the judges, then you must go away and leave the rest of us to celebrate.”

At that point, the baboons started to leave, one by one, with their tails between their legs in shame. Sadly, the baboons’ jealousy of the hippos had got the better of them.

They were showing themselves to be sore losers! Once every baboon had left, the other animals had a big party and the hippos danced in triumph.

But that was not the end of the matter! What do you think happened next?

The angry baboons went away to plot their revenge. In the dead of night, they crept up on the grazing hippos. The baboons had lighted torches which they used to set fire to the beautiful, shiny, black, curly hair of the hippos. How spiteful! The hippos screamed and ran to the nearest waterhole. They jumped into the water to put out the flames but, when they looked at each other, they realised that they had lost all their beautiful, shiny, black, curly hair.

From that time onwards, hippos have been as naked as the day they were born. These days, to prevent their skin from being burned by the mid-day sun, hippos stay in the water all day long and only go onto the land to feed at night when the moon and stars are shining.

Many years after that dreadful day, the other animals of the savanna still feel sorry for the hippos. They all keep well away from the vain and jealous baboons, who now keep themselves to themselves. I wonder if the baboons regret that they behaved so badly.

Humfry awoke from his daydream feeling rather sad for the whole hippo race. The Legend of How the Hippos’ Lost Their Hair is an exciting story, but it is also a very upsetting one for hippos. Who would imagine today that hippos were once voted the most beautiful animal of the savanna? At that time, they had the loveliest hair of all the animals – it was beautiful, shiny, black and curly! But now they have none!

As well as being a sad story for hippos, Humfry remembered his parents saying that the story has an important lesson for everyone.

The Moral of this Story is: We should not be jealous of others who have things we don’t have.

If jealously turns to anger, as it did with the baboons, it can cause a lot of pain. In the legend, the jealousy of the baboons led to the hippos being burned and their lives were changed for ever. Perhaps when we see nice things in others, we should praise them, instead of being jealous.

What do you think?

A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.


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