Thembu Takes a Tumble

Thembu would rather watch the ants and lizards than do his chores. It is only when he disobeys his sister that he finally learns his lesson.



This is a picture story for young children and is set in South Africa.


This story is in the process of being illustrated.

A Taste of the Story

Thembu lay on the warm dusty ground watching a colony of ants. They were hurrying back and forth searching for food. He placed a small stone in their path, laughing as the ants changed direction and ran round it.

Suddenly he heard his mother calling. “Thembu. Thembu, where is the wood I asked you to get for the fire? How can I cook the chicken with no wood!”

“The wood! I’ve forgotten about the wood.” Thembu jumped up and ran off in search of some dry kindling.

But he was too late. The other boys from the kraal had collected nearly all the dry wood. He looked about in dismay. Then he saw two small saplings growing close by. “I’ll have to use those,” he thought. But when he tried to break off the thin branches, he found they were full of thorns.

“Ow,” he cried as they scratched and pricked his fingers. He was very careful how he carried the thorny branches home.

“This wood is no use for the fire,” said Thembu’s mother crossly. “It’s too green to burn. And if you cut down all the young trees, soon there will be no trees at all.”

“I’m sorry,” said Thembu. “I was watching the ants.”

“Watching ants!” Thembu’s mother was angry. “Because you didn’t do your job we’ll have to have amasi and bread for supper.”


The next day Thembu’s brother asked him to help look after the goats. “Drive them to places where there’s plenty of green grass,” said Thembu’s brother. “And watch they don’t stray too far.”

Thembu followed the animals to grassy hillocks, and guided them away from the dusty dirt road. But soon he grew tired. He tethered the goats to a tree and lay down to watch a lizard lazing on a sunny rock. It turned to look at him, and then slowly closed its eyes. It lay so still that Thembu’s eyes also began to close. Soon he fell asleep.

When the goats had eaten all the grass, they began to tug on their ropes. They tugged until they were free to wander where there was more grass. When Thembu woke, the goats were gone. Oh, no” he thought. He ran to the next hill, and the next, but he could not find the goats.

Thembu’s brother was very angry. “Your job was to watch the goats, not watch a lizard,” he scolded. “Because you weren’t doing your job we’ll have to search for the goats instead of going home for supper.”


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