Little Gorilla

    “Little Gorilla,” Friend, May 1988, 44

    Little Gorilla

    1 At the edge of the Congo rain forest near the equator, where the days are hot and steamy and the nights are cool and damp, Little Gorilla sleeps snuggled next to his mother on the jungle floor. Night sounds around him of softly moving leaves and a far-off leopard’s roar soon become the morning noises of chattering monkeys and twittering birds.

    2 Before long Little Gorilla and his mother are following their troop leader, Silverback, in search of food. Moving slowly through the forest, they nibble leaves, wild celery, bamboo shoots, and blackberries.

    3 Little Gorilla’s mother discovers more fruit in a nearby tree. She is too heavy to climb the tree, so Little Gorilla climbs the tree and gathers the fruit for both of them.

    4 At midmorning the adult gorillas stop in a clearing to rest. For a while Little Gorilla plays with the other young gorillas, wrestling, sliding down a log that is slick with moss, and playing tag. Then he goes over to his mother, and she grooms him. It feels good as she parts his fur with her fingers, cleaning him from head to toe before his nap.

    5 At midafternoon it is again time to search for food. As the gorillas follow Silverback, he stops abruptly and begins hooting. He places a single leaf between his lips and beats his chest. The other gorillas run to hide in the underbrush.

    6 Silverback’s usually gentle brown eyes now stare in anger from under the thick, bony ridge of his forehead. He thumps the ground with his hand and begins ripping up bushes and throwing them around.

    7 Little Gorilla and his mother peer between the leaves of their hiding place and watch Silverback run sideways, then charge toward a leopard. The spotted cat snarls at Silverback but swiftly retreats. Cautiously the rest of the gorilla troop again fall in line behind Silverback in search of food.

    8 As Little Gorilla follows his mother, he watches Silverback. He had been depending on his mother for everything, but now he is older and will soon leave her. Part of him wants to grow up and be a fearless leader like Silverback. And part of him wants to remain a baby and stay with his mother.

    9 It is hard to let go for both Little Gorilla and his mother, but tonight Little Gorilla is to sleep by himself, up in the trees. He has been practicing how to build his nest of twigs and leaves, and he can do it very well. Sitting in his nest, he hears the sound of the distant river. He is lonely.

    10 Climbing down to be with his mother, he finds that she does not welcome him as she once did. She will not let Little Gorilla sleep in her nest. It is hard for her to send him away, but she must. Little Gorilla once again climbs the tree to his own nest, where he listens to the river’s current until sleep comes.

    Illustrated by Shauna Mooney