At the edge of the sea there grew a huge tree which spread half its branches over the land and the other half over the water.
It was the favourite tree of a little monkey, who would swing and play among its branches all day, stopping only when he was hungry to pick and eat some of the delicious fruit which grew there.
Now in the sea there lived a shark. One day the monkey threw fruit into the water and the shark gobbled it up. It was very tasty and tie shark began to swim close to the tree every morning, until he made friends with the monkey and persuaded him to throw fruit down for him every day. “Thank you, friend Monkey, – the shark said. – I get so tired of eating nothing but fish all the time. This fruit is delicious.”
The monkey enjoyed the shark’s friendship and he also enjoyed throwing the fruit into the sea, aiming it at different patches of water as a child throws stones at the waves rolling up the beach.
One day the shark looked up at the monkey as he swung among the branches of the huge tree and said: “You have been very kind to me these last few months, providing me with fruit every day, and I should like to do something for you in return.”
The monkey chewed his fingers and looked down with interest at the shark, but said nothing. ” I have decided to take you and show you my home – continued the shark – . Then you will meet the other members of my tribe and they will be able to thank you for your kindness to me.”
The monkey looked doubtful, and replied after a moment’s thought, “I don’t think I want to go, thank you. We land animals are not fond of getting our fur wet and, as you know, I cannot swim. I shall be much happier if I stay in my tree.”
” Come now – . said the shark – . Who said you would get wet? I shall carry you to my home on my back and not a drop of water will touch you, for I shall swim very carefully without splashing my tail about.”
The monkey was still undecided, but the day was hot and the fruit season was almost over. Thinking it would be cooler on the water and that there might be something good to eat at the end of the journey, the monkey at last agreed to go. He climbed down the tree, leapt on to the shark’s back, and they were off.
At first the monkey was more frightened than he had expected to be, since it was not easy to cling to the shark’s slippery back, and they seemed to be travelling so swiftly through the deep blue water. But presently he got used to the movement and opened his eyes wide at the sight of the fish and plants he could see below.
” Are you enjoying yourself? – called the shark – . Don’t you find it much cooler here than on dry land?” “Yes -, replied the monkey -, but I wish your back wasn’t so slippery. How much further have we to go? “We’re just about half-way -, answered the shark – , and there is something that I think I ought to tell you.
The chief of our tribe, the biggest and most powerful shark in the sea, is very ill, and we fear he will die. But our medicine-man has told us that if the chief can be given a monkey’s heart to eat, he will recover. Therefore I am taking you to him, but because you have always been kind to me, I thought I would prepare you for what lies ahead.”
The monkey was terrified and bit his lips to stop himself crying out with fear, while he thought of a plan to help him escape. At last he said as calmly as he could: ” But how foolish of you not to have told me this before we left the land. How can I give my heart to the chief when I have not brought it with me?”
” You have not brought it with you? – repeated the shark -. But what else could you do with it?
” It’s obvious that you don’t know much about monkeys, or you would have heard that most of us leave our hearts hanging in the tree where we sleep. We only use them at night time -, replied the monkey. Then he sighed. “But I don’t suppose you’ll believe me. You’d better go on swimming until we reach your home and then when you have killed me, how angry your chief will be when he finds I have no heart.”
The shark knew only too well how angry the rest of his tribe would be if what the monkey said was true. ” As I said before – remarked the monkey – . ” If you had only told me that you needed my heart, I would have brought it with me. I would have been only too happy to let your chief eat it, since you are such a great friend of mine.”
So the shark turned in the water, and swam towards the land, saying: “If I take you back to your tree will you go and get your heart?” “Of course I will – replied the monkey. “Let us make haste, so that we do not keep your chief waiting.”
The shark streaked through the sea like an arrow with the monkey on his back, who scarcely dared to believe his good luck. At last they reached the shore and the monkey leapt on to the land and shot up the tree calling: “Wait for me! I shan’t be long. I know exactly where I put it.” Then there was silence, The shark floated backwards and forwards in the water below, waiting for the monkey – but not a sound did he hear from the tree above, nor did he sec the slightest movement among the leaves. Presently he called: “Monkey! Monkey! Have you got your heart yet?” But there was no reply.
Thinking that the monkey had left his heart in a tree further inland, the shark waited a little longer. But still everything was silent. At last the shark became angry and impatient and shouted loudly: “Monkey! Monkey! How much longer are you going to keep me waiting?”
A half-rotten fruit landed with a thud on the shark’s nose, and a burst of laughter came from among the branches of the tree. “What sort of a fool do you think I am? – asked the voice of the monkey -. Did you really expect me to come back with you to your home to be killed?’
But you said you would fetch your heart, – complained the shark -. Can you not find it?’
The monkey laughed louder than ever. ” My heart is in the right place, in the centre of my body -, he shouted – What’s more, it has been there all the time. Now go away! Our friendship is ended! You may find some other monkey foolish enough to go with you, but – he added, emphasising each word by hitting the shark on the nose with a shrivelled fruit, ” you won’t . . . get . . . me! “.
So the shark swam sadly away. But the monkey laughed and chattered in the tree, calling all his friends together, telling them how he had outwitted the shark and warning them against being persuaded to take a sea voyage, if they wanted to live to a good old age.
Folktale from Brazil