• Naifa Zahir

The Jungle Boy & His Dream

Updated: Oct 12, 2018



The story begins in a hut, on the northern mainland, shadowed by an untamed forest which lay beyond its wooden walls and thatched roof; rich with danger and mystery. A couple lived in this hut, they were ragged and poor, and they fed off the creatures that roamed outside their comfort. On a day as bright as the face of the moon when she’s ripe, the husband went off to hunt for dinner, never to return.


His pregnant wife sweat and worried until she could bear it no longer, and went out - a strong woman into the night. Walking through the tangle of the trees, she was stricken with the agony of childbirth. She sank under an Asoka tree and through the tremble and labor of pain, a healthy boy was born. But she, having offered the gift, sank into a dreamless slumber. The boy lay wrapped within the foliage, and the roots of this humongous Asoka tree hid him, as if the roots themselves were the wings of a guardian, protecting him from danger. And the danger came, in the shape of a ravenous tiger; hunger glinted in his eyes, as bright as the fire of his fur. He came and before the sleeping woman could stir, devoured her, splattering the green of the forest in scarlet viscera. Sated, he turned away, the guardian of the tree stood true and strong, as if to say, yes, that’s right, and the boy remained, unharmed.


The morning came, bringing goodness in the guise of a herd of cows. A cow settled over him, her udders tender with milk. And the boy now hungry, suckled the cow, feeding himself and relieving the poor cow, of her swollen udders. The cow in turn returned, day after day to be relieved, and the boy fed, and he grew, and he roamed with the cows on his hand and his feet, crawling; a jungle boy, well versed in the language of moo.


Hunters wandered the jungle, and soon they encountered this boy, who had now blossomed into a handsome youth. Struck by the youth’s beauty, and his primitiveness, the hunters went back to the kingdom, and informed the king of this wonder. The king had to see for himself, so he ordered his men to bring to him this boy, whom the huntsmen thought was a troubled beast. The boy caged, travelled from the shadows of the forest into the kingdom, where he was presented to the king, naked and pure. The king fascinated, called all the doctors and learned men around, all of whom came to the fact that this beast was in fact a boy (or this boy was indeed, a boy).


The king took the responsibility of bringing the youth to the golden bar of civilization, calling scholars from different fields to come and teach. Soon, he learned to walk and talk like a nobleman, and ripening into Koimala (flower boy), named after his beauty as that of a flower. The delicate simplicity of his features gave him an air of grace and nobility. Beauty, however, the king found, was the least alluring characteristic of Koimala; he was virtuous, honest, compassionate and courageous. The king grew to love and trust him more than any other of the court, he spoke with him and sought counsel from him often.


One day they were having one of their conversations in the palace’s garden. The king asked him, “Koimala, tell me of the wonders that lie beyond the walls of my kingdom, you must have come to face quite a lot of them, tell me of the greatest one.” Koimala pondered for a while, and then he answered, “My herd, and I, we came to the coast. While they grazed, I stood and marveled at the great expanse of the sea. And then I saw against the horizon, a chain of seven ships, of great size and marvel. They sailed against the wind, strong and brave, yet out of the blue, leapt an enormous fish; bejeweled in scales of red, white, and yellow, and this fish, it swallowed the seven vessels whole. Then before the fish could leap back in, a bird of greater size, flew through the sky of cerulean. The tips of its wings just as blue, and consumed the poor fellow whole. The bird flew on, only to encompass a short distance. Before it could rise back into the heavens to oblivion, a snake jutted its head of colossal emerald from a cave in a mountain, snapping the bird, well, into oblivion.”


The king intrigued, asked the youth if he could trace his footsteps back to the mountain and if he would lead him there. Koimala, of exceptional recollection, said he indeed could. And so they prepared for the journey to the mountain, the king’s men, the king, and Koimala himself. They walked many days through the arduous terrain, finally reaching the great mountain. Then they climbed the mountain, each man with sheer will and strength, for it was steep and strenuous. Upon the arrival of the legendary cave, they were struck with awe at its size. It gaped out at them with a black mouth, whispering menace and sin. Many of them shrank back with fear, including the king himself. And so, they proceeded to fill the hole with wood, to burn away the threat lurking inside. When they did and set it alight, the fire danced, its arms reaching heights unbelievable, as if to knock on heaven’s door, and they stood, bewildered and entranced by the sight. The fire burned bright for 40 days straight, and they had to retreat, away from its fury, until it withered, and nothing was left but ashes and smoke.


When they reached the entrance again, the light of their lamps couldn’t illuminate it to the end, and darkness swallowed their beams. None had the courage to venture into its depths but for Koimala. And so he did, fumbling yet sure footed through the enclosing gloom, until he reached the end. Outside the mouth of the cave, the king grew restless, for it had been a long time since Koimala had left them. In the roaring silence of great suspense, the king wept thinking he had sent his friend into the jaws of peril. Yet he refused to move from the entrance, for he still held in his heart, the greatest of faiths for his friend. Days passed, and on a day as bright as the one which foretold Koimala’s greatest tragedy, he emerged from the cave, unharmed and smiling. The king ran and embraced his companion, before noticing what Koimala held in his hand.

“Dear god! It cannot be, the finest gold!” The king stood there, unable to believe his eyes. “The bottom of this place is filled with this,” Koimala replied. The king wept again, this time for his luck and he ordered his men to retrieve the treasure enshrouded in darkness.


Upon the discovery of the treasure, the kingdom thrived and overflowed with riches. The king was delighted, wed Koimala to his daughter, and asked him what he wished for, as a sign of gratitude. Koimala wanted none, except for a ship, a crew and a load of gold. The king gifted him without hesitation for he thought they were quite too simple for a man such as Koimala, but Koimala was satisfied. Then Koimala sailed away from the coast, southward into the mysteries of the Indian Ocean.


He arrived in the Maldive Islands, braving thrashing waves and hard rain to stop at an island (R.Raskatheemu), where the inhabitants saw him as foreign royalty. They garlanded him, crowning him their King supreme, and they urged him to stay. He did. However, something in his heart had stirred from the days travelling and the glory of the sea, it would not go to sleep. He troubled over this many a night, and no answer that presented itself sufficed. One night as he slept, a dream stole into his mind, covering his spirit, giving its breath ease. In his dream, a bird of cerulean tipped wings flew against the open sky. He awoke puzzled, a familiar feeling touching his heart, but he couldn’t quite place it. He wandered down to the beach, the waves came to lap at his feet. It was then that he saw the bird of his dream, resting on top of the main mast of his ship.


Koimala understood the omen, and without hesitation called the men and women, and set assail once more, into the uncertain tides. He then came to an islet, now named Dhoonidhoo, and again he stayed. Yet, the calling in his heart remained. He was walking again by the beach when he saw the bird, once more resting on his mast. He gathered his people convinced that the bird was leading him somewhere, and boarded the ship, the bird their own North Star. Through the warm glow of an afternoon sun, the bird circled and settled on a sandbank of scarlet, the water caressing the ruby grain also red; a mark left by fishermen of the nearby island cutting their catch. Koimala, who had always danced to the whim of his heart, realized now the end of his dream, his longing, and founded his home here and named it, Mahale, Male’.

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