Rudolph's African Adventure
Rudolph's African Adventure was originally serialized in the erblist email group a few years ago and then brought out of hibernation to be shared in a couple of facebook ERB groups one Christmas ago. This year, I'm serializing it on my personal facebook page and thought I'd share it here as well since not all of you are on facebook.
I'm considering negotiating with Little Golden Books to come out with an edition of this charming little Christmas tale to add to the canon of Rudolph adventures. I'm sure the warm interaction of the red-nosed reindeer with other living creatures in Tarzan's jungle will appeal to kiddies of all ages.
Today, the first chapter, with five more to go as we continue the trek toward Christmas.
Collected herein are all six parts, and the illustrations created (or borrowed) by the author. We hope you enjoy this holiday special! —Editor
RUDOLPH'S AFRICAN ADVENTURE
John "Bridge" Martin
Chapter 1, Reigning in Rudolph
Neither Mr. or Mrs. Claus, nor any of the elves, would say anything about it, and Santa even went out of his way to speak highly of the lead reindeer's abilities, but the truth was that Rudolph was no longer necessary.
Yes, he had been greatly needed that foggy Christmas Eve so many years ago when, with his shiny nose—so bright—he had guided Santa's sleigh on its rounds so children of the world would not be disappointed.
And, his glowing nose had led the way on many a subsequent foggy night as well.
But technology had caught up to, and bypassed, the red-nosed reindeer. Santa not only had his sleigh equipped with GPS, but he also carried a laptop that was tied into various websites with maps and directions. Then there was Santa's personal radar set, which was attuned to tracking dishes around the world.
Nonetheless, Santa being a traditionalist and a very nice man, kept Rudolph in the lead position of the reindeer team each Dec. 24, and always had good things to say about the creature's abilities.
The other reindeer, though, were not fooled. They knew that Rudolph's skills and, therefore, Rudolph himself, were no longer needed., And they had begun to laugh among themselves and even called Rudolph names, although, knowing that Santa's elves spied on them as well as the children of the world, they tried to walk a line so that their taunts were just barely passable.
And while Rudolph, technically, was still allowed to play in reindeer games, he sensed the hostility of the others and, after a time, began to absent himself voluntarily, usually pleading a headache.
Yes, Rudolph was no fool. He knew the score. And it generated within him a deep sadness.
One day Rudolph could stand it no longer. He said to his friend, Willy the Arctic Fox, "I don't want to stay where I'm no longer appreciated. I'm leaving. I'm going as far away from here as I can. I'm going to Africa."
And without another word, the little fellow turned and leaped into the sky on a southward heading.
Willy, a tear in his eye, watched until the glowing snout was out of sight.
Chapter 2, The Hunger of Histah
Tarzan of the Apes was sitting in the fork of a tall tree, scratching his back on the rough bark, when he caught the unmistakable scent of Bara the Deer, although there was something different, yet familiar, about this smell. For some reason, it reminded him of Christmastime. When the ape man thought of Christmas, he thought of all the delicious foods Jane always prepared for that holiday. Even though Tarzan was still an ape at heart, and he loved nothing better than insects and raw meat, he had developed a taste over the years for the types of special goodies that Jane concocted at Christmastime.
Now, feeling a bit of an appetite, Tarzan decided he might like to have a little snack of Bara, and the one now coming into range would do just fine.
But then a new scent tickled the ape-man's nose hairs; it was the revolting smell of Histah the snake—Histah the python, in this particular case.
Below, on the forest floor, Bara the deer, in the person of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, stood staring in fright as the huge snake stared at him while slithering closer preparatory to getting itself into position for the strike. Rudolph was unfamiliar with snakes, as there were none at the North Pole, but he sensed that this unusual-looking living creature was no friend. Just what, exactly, it might do to him, he had no clue, and he didn't even have sense enough to run. He just froze, like a deer in the proverbial headlights, quivering in nameless dread.
Histah's heat sensors had homed in on the extra bright red light of Rudolph's nose. In actuality, Rudolph as a whole was nothing more than a bright red blob to Histah, signaling to his poor snake eyesight that there was something which lived and breathed and was, therefore, food. The little section of extra bright red light meant nothing to the nearly brainless Histah, other than that it had caught his attention and he was now focused on it.
Histah was now close enough and he began coiling up, then cocked his head section like a spring ready to be unleashed.
Chapter 3, How Histah Became History
To Tarzan of the apes, Bara the deer was prey.
But also, to Tarzan, Histah the snake was a despicable enemy, fit only for destruction.
As Histah was about a second away from opening his slavering jaws and snapping his head forward to close on his intended prey with multiple needle-like teeth, the huge snake suddenly noticed a tightening around his neck area, the disappearance of the red blob, and a sensation new to Histah, that of rising into the air.
Above, Tarzan hauled on his grass rope, with which he had dropped a lasso about the head of the malevolent constrictor and then, tightening the noose, had begun drawing it up toward him.
With Histah's head finally about 10 feet below him, Tarzan quit pulling the rope, but still holding a section of it, began climbing further up the arboreal giant. At last he reached a height where the branches were having difficulty supporting his weight. Here, he hauled Histah up the rest of the way until he could look directly into the dark eyes of the monster.
"Hi, Histah," said Tarzan.
"Bye, Histah," said Tarzan, cutting the rope with the hunting knife of his long dead father.
The snake began dropping to the ground, 200 feet below, crashing into limbs along the way. So unusual was this treatment it was receiving that the snake did not even think—if it thought at all—to attempt to slow its fall by snagging a passing limb with its sinuous body.
At last the snake, bruised and beaten, crashed through the final set of limbs and landed with an ominous thunk on the hard ground. Though not quite dead, Histah had received enough damage that he was dying. Already, giant jungle ants were coming out of their holes and advancing toward the writhing creature.
So fast had all of this happened that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had not even given a thought to moving. Then, another whump sounded as a tall man, clad in only a loin cloth, landed beside him. Here was something Rudolph understood—people. And all of the people Rudolph had met, up until this time, were friendly.
The giant man reached down and scooped him up and carried him through the upper terraces until at last the forest dissolved into a clearing and bright lights beckoned from the windows of a human habitation. For a moment, Rudolph thought he was back at the cozy home of Santa, but he soon realized this place was different. He had been carried to the jungle home of Tarzan of the Apes, the man sometimes known to the world as John Clayton, Lord Greystoke.
Lady Greystoke, the former Jane Porter, walked out on the porch to meet him.
"Look what I found," said Tarzan. "A little pet deer for you, Jane."
"Oh Tarzan," she said. "He's so cute." She reached out to pet him and then, unable to resist his doe-like eyes and soft fur, cradled him in her arms and began kissing him.
"What shall we call him, dear?" she asked.
"I think he already has a name," said Tarzan. "See, it's there on the tattoo he's got on his rear end."
Jane looked at the words and read: "Rudolph."
"Why Tarzan," said Jane. "This is the red-nosed reindeer, the one who has gone down in history. What's he doing here?"
"That I don't know," said Tarzan. He turned to Rudolph and the reindeer told his story, thanks to the magic of Santa, which had enabled him to understand and speak some English, and to the ape man's uncanny ability to speak the languages of the wild beasts
"Well, I'm sure Santa is missing you," said Tarzan. "You're welcome to stay here as long as you want, but since you have Santa's brand on your thigh, I do need to honor his right of ownership and at least send him an email so he'll know you're here. I'm sure he and Mrs. Claus are very worried about you."
Chapter 4, Jad-bal-ja on the Prowl
Jad-bal-Ja, The Golden Lion, who was Tarzan's faithful companion, roamed the nearby veldt every day to find himself a delicious creature that could satisfy his ever-ravenous hunger
Jad-bal-ja was no young, inexperienced lion. He well knew his way around the jungle, and knew the ways of the jungle as well. He had been aware from the very first that Bara the Deer was now freely scampering around the Greystoke Estate in British East Africa. But the mighty king of the beasts knew better than to attack this Bara and drag him off into the bushes, for he remembered the sharp raps on the nose he had gotten from the haft of Tarzan's spear during his training, and did not wish to relive the experience.
That The Golden Lion was eyeing him hungrily had not gone unnoticed by Rudolph.
There were no cats at the North Pole. Mrs. Claus had begged for a kitty but Santa wouldn't stand for one to be in the house. Among other things, he had been worried about it wreaking havoc with the cute Christmas mice, who sometimes assisted the elves.
But, from children's storybooks dished out by Santa, Rudolph was well aware that such prowling creatures existed and he recognized in Jad-bal-ja the cat of his nightmares.
So Rudolph tended to do his romping in daylight, when Tarzan, Jane or the members of the neary Waziri tribe were around to keep Jad-bal-ja in check. But the red-nosed reindeer was loath to go out at night or when the estate was otherwise barren of protective humans.
It seemed inevitable, though, that there would come a day when Rudolph would not be on his guard, and when Jad-bal-ja's patience would pay off.
Tarzan, meanwhile, was out in the jungle as usual, enjoying a midnight swing through the trees. Suddenly his eyes were caught by strange activity in the distant sky. It was some kind of flying object that seemed difficult to identify. It had blinking lights, and it seemed to be headed toward the Greystoke property.
"It must be Santa," thought Tarzan, "coming to try to talk Rudolph into going back to the North Pole."
Tarzan turned and headed back home. If this was, indeed, the Jolly Old Elf, he wanted to be there to welcome him.
Chapter 5, Horror from the Hollyhocks
The great lion had been lying in Jane's bed of hollyhocks, which were at the peak of their growth. He had been there a long time, partly because, like all male lions, Jad-bal-ja had a touch of laziness, and partly because Jad-bal-ja, having been trained by Tarzan, had learned to be patient, very patient.
And now, he could hear the thumpity-thump of his potential prey coming closer to the flowers, and he could see, through his surroundings of leaves and stalks, the glow of a bright, shiny blob of red.
With the natural-born instinct of the great cats, he knew the precise moment when the stars were aligned and it was just the right time for an attack. Giving out a thundering roar to temporarily paralyze his intended victim with fright, he leaped through the bushes and grabbed the hapless creature, gave it a couple of rough shakes, and then greedily consumed it.
When Tarzan got back to Greystoke Manor, Jane was frantic. "I can't find Rudolph anywhere," she said, "and I know Jad's been watching him like a hawk...I mean, like a ravenous kitty cat."
Tarzan had a tightness in his own gut as well, but tried to hide it from Jane. "I'm sure he'll turn up," he said.
When Jane had gone back into the house, Tarzan did some exploring of his own. His nose told him where fresh blood had been spilt and he saw the matted grass and footprints around the Hollyhocks.
He called to Jad and, in a few moments, the mighty lion made his way slowly through the bushes. Tarzan was not sure if he actually saw an expression of guilt on Jad's face for just a moment, but he certainly noticed the huge yawn, which male lions traditionally make before settling down to sleep off a huge repast. And deep inside that cavernous throat Tarzan could glimpse a red glow, throbbing off and on like a light at a railroad crossing.
Tarzan folded his arms and glared down at the lion. "So," he said, "I save you from certain death, I train you, I feed you, I give you the run of the place, and this is how you repay me?"
Now Jad did look guilty.
At that moment, Tarzan felt something warm poke him in the back. Like lightning he turned and gave whatever it was a karate chop. Then, he realized it was Rudolph as he saw the unconscious form of the deer lying on the turf. He knelt and picked it up and gave it artificial respiration and soon Rudolph was moving, opening his eyes, and looking happy again.
"Well, you're alive at least," said Tarzan.
But then he remembered Jad-bal-ja.
He turned and looked once again at his lion, who appeared to actually be a little bit sick, as if he had consumed something which had not quite agreed with him.
He could still see the pulsating red light, now faintly visible through the tawny hide of Jad's brawny side.
Then something several yards behind Jad caught Tarzan's eye. He saw the crumpled wreckage of what was obviously a small alien spacecraft.
"What on earth is going on?" thought Tarzan.
As if in answer, he heard a voice coming from out of the lion's mouth—not a lion sound at all, but a sound not quite human, and yet with elements of humanity. The words it was saying over and over again were understandable enough, though they were gradually decreasing in volume:
"Phone home... phone home..."
Chapter 6, The Fat Man Again
Tarzan of the Apes was not like other men.
Others might have wasted time in futilely mourning the demise of an alien creature from outer space. But Tarzan knew that there was not much point in doing that since it was over and done. He was more concerned about Jad contracting some strange virus from having consumed an inhabitant of unknown origin from a planet with strange bacteria.
He was also concerned about Rudolph. He turned his attention to the red-nosed reindeer. "We need to get you back up to the house, little guy," he said gently. "Jane is worried sick about you. Besides, Santa ought to be here soon."
Rudolph gulped. He was not all that anxious to be confronted by Santa. Well did he remember the sharp raps on his nose with the haft of Santa's whip during his training time. Rudolph had been born with a nose that was naturally red and shiny, but Santa's disciplinary maneuvers had assured that it would stay that way.
Jane had a bowl of warm milk waiting for Rudolph and, as he eagerly lapped it up, she sweetened it by dumping some Kellogg's Frosted Flakes into the dish.
Then, in a twinkling, Rudolph heard on the roof the heavy footsteps of eight aged and somewhat overweight reindeer. He knew it would be only seconds before Santa would be coming down the chimney to get him. What should he say to Santa? What could he possibly say to apologize for running away and for all the trouble he had put Santa to in making this special trip to retrieve him?
But a little time in the jungle amidst fierce predators had made Rudolph forget a bit about what a kind, gentle soul Santa could also be. A moment later, the big man himself was standing there, running his fingers through his flowing beard in a foredoomed attempt to remove flecks of chimney cinders. Jane knew she would be breaking out the carpet sweeper after he left.
"Ho ho ho, Rudolph," exclaimed Santa. "I hope you're ready to come back to the North Pole with me and lead the team again this year. You know, that radar and GPS is nice, but a lot of times it helps to have someone along who has eyes...and a nose. Ho Ho Ho."
Rudolph tried to look as if he were happy to see Santa.
"At least you're not always saying, 'recalculating,' " said Santa.
"And don't worry about the other reindeer giving you a bad time anymore," said Santa. "A few sharp raps on their noses from the haft of my whip have made them adjust their attitudes."
Rudolph's face lit up in a broad grin.
"Well," Santa said, turning to Tarzan and Jane. "I guess Rudolph and I better git back to the North Pole. Thanks for everything!"
Santa turned to go, but was halted by a firm hand on his shoulder. He stopped and turned around slowly to gaze into the grim expression on the face of the Lord of the Jungle.
"Aren't you forgetting something Santa?" asked Tarzan.
"Oh, sorry," said Santa, fumbling for words. He reached for his wallet. "I guess I do owe you something for Rudolph's room and board."
"No," said Tarzan. "I wouldn't think of charging you for that. You just forgot our Christmas lists." Jane smiled and handed her list to Tarzan, who handed both his and Jane's list to Santa.
The red-clad gent laughed loudly as he took the lists and stuffed them into his pocket.
"Ho ho ho, no, I wouldn't want to forget those," he said. "Especially those!"
Rudolph wagged his tail in farewell as he followed Santa to the chimney.
Santa was probably, once again, just being a nice guy by saying he really needed him to guide his sleigh, but Rudolph was ready to go back. It would be nice to be, once again, in a place where a bunch of meat-eaters weren't constantly stalking him for their next meal.
And meanwhile, thousands of miles away, in the bitter cold of the North Pole winter, Willy the Arctic fox contemplated his shrunken belly and wished he could warm it with the blood of the kill.