Archive for the ‘animals’ Category

Image: allposters.com

I think dogs are wonderful animals and really your closest friend. We’ve had several breeds of dogs as pets in South Africa and I can’t make up my mind about the best breed, but I think, if I really have to choose a favourite, which is of course very difficult as I loved them all so much, then it should be Jackie…our last doggie, she was a cross between a fox terrier and a Jack Russel. She had some more Jack Russel “blood”  and ways of doing things/manners. We used to have a few foxterriers on the farm, so that’s why I know she had some little more JR-manners…but do take  a look at her on this pic! She was sooooooo cute!! and sooooo clever! She loved raisins and when I discovered that…very early after we’d rescued her from a plot, I taught her to stay, sit and paw in one night! It tookme about 30 min…and that’s really no joke!… – of course with the help of the raisins!! This little basket she’s in, was her favourite to chew for those baby teeth! and you can see how much  she loved to be in it! In this pic you can see that she spotted something and was looking at it…I think it was the hoopoe …as there was always one near the house…she never chased any bird/cat, but could sit and watch them for hours…she reminded me about the Afrikaans Chidrens’ story I’ve read to children in school, the book’s title is “Koningskind” and it was translated into English with the title  “Prince”…if you can get hold of this book..about an English Bull dog…written by Anita du Plessis, you should do so, as it is written from the dog’s point of view and you will laugh yourself into stitches when reading it! If I ever have to get another dog, it will surely  be a Jack Russel. When we got her as a pup, many people warned us, because of their behaviour. Maybe because she was a cross, she was more “well-behaved”…but I always say — and I think I’m right! – that pets are like your children. If you discipline them, they are lovely…but if not…well, you have to suffer the consequences then… and I’ve seen people on TV with their pets and they way their pets behave and if you look at the people, the way they speak and behave, well, then you know why they have all  those troubles with their pets! I can truly say that none of our pets had ever caused us any trouble of any kind. Give your pet the love they need and they will be those “dream” pets!

Jackie as a pup on the bed! her favourite spot to take a nap!

This pic is one I’ve found on the internet and this is what our foxie looked like when I was a child…Scotty…and we had one before him, Spotty! This is now a dog you can trust! Scotty used to spend hours with me in the mountains…on the farm…he used to LOVE it when we went for a jog during the evenings…he was going crazy and would run up and down the room when I was getting my trainers or “tekkies” like we use to say in Afrikaans.

Image: historic-scotland.gov.uk
Please click
HERE to read my post about Grey Friars Bobby and how he looked after his master, even after his death! There was also a movie about Bobby! Another book I couldn’t resist…but do read my post about this book…it’s worth reading about the history so many people – even in England – don’t know about!

Oor die boek: Koningskind…deur Anita du Plessis..
In hiedie verhaal wil Keiser, die naam van die hond, baie graag “goed bedoel” met als en hy probeer “help” waar hy kan, alhoewel hierdie “help” nie altyd positiewe gevolge het nie. Koos, die kat, het hom ‘n paar keer gekrap en Keiser ervaar dit as “steek met daardie drade”… wat dit skreeusnaaks laat klink…een hoofstuk wat ek baie amusant gevind het, was die hoofstuk oor “Kalkoene, katte en Kerk”.. Keiser het altyd vir die kalkoene gekyk en met die tyd het hulle groter geword, maar eendag het een uitgekom en hy het probeer “help” deur die kalkoen te vang… maar hy het ook geglo dis al sy “gekykery” wat hulle laat “groot” word het…dan die Kerk…daardie episode was ontsettend snaaks…die dominiee met sy “lappe” wat swaai as hy preek en Keiser wat die “gehuil” probeer stilmaak…wel, ek gaan niks meer sê, kry die boek en lees dit…kinderboek of te nie! Dit verryk jou siel! Ek het hierdie boek vir 9-11 jariges voorgelees met trane in my oë soos ek gelag het.. op party plekke kon ek nie eens lees nie, want soos ek vooruit sien wat ek moes lees, het ek myself ‘n papie gelag …natuurlik sit die kinders dan en giggel-giggel-lag-lag….maar weet nie waaroor nie…want ek het nog nie gelees wat so erg snaaks was nie…..hahaha…

“A book entitled “Koningskind” by Anita du Plessis won first prize in the “Daan Retief “children’s book competition. The book was also translated into English under the title Prince. It tells the story of how a bulldog pup joins a family as a gift to a little girl. Out of the 67 entries received the three judges agreed that his adventures, as told by himself, made for an unforgettable read.”..from… chakabulldog.co.za


red indian in the cupboard

The  Indian in the cupboard. – Afrikaans title: Die Rooihuid in die kassie

Three bestselling stories about Omri, and his friend Patrick, who turns his plastic Red Indian, Little Bull, into a real miniature person. The Indian in the Cupboard Who’d want a boring little plastic Red Indian as a birthday present? Omri doesn’t — until his brother gives him a very special cupboard which can make the Indian come alive…Return of the Indian Omri is unexpectedly reminded of his beloved Red Indian, and can’t resist making sure he’s still all right. But when he opens the cupboard door Little Bull is wounded, nearly dead, and Omri must find help. The Secret of the Indian Omri’s friend Patrick goes back in time to the Wild West, and keeping the secret safe becomes even more difficult for Omri…

Die verhaal van Omri is ook in Afrikaans verkrygbaar en as jy kinders het wat lief is vir lees, ouderdom 8-11/12…dan moet jy vir jou “Die Rooihuid in die kassie” kry…deur LR Banks. Daar het sowat ‘n paar jaar gelede ‘n film gedraai met die Engelse titel, ek weet nie wie van julle het die film gaan sien nie. Ek het NIE, want my ondervinding met die films is dat dit terleurstellend is, die boeke is gewoonlik baie snaakser. My kinders het dit gesien en dit was wat hulle bevestig het. Dieselfde het gebeur met “Skaapvark” – “Sheep pig”.. ek het die boek vir kinders voorgelees laaaa…nk voor die film en ek was vreeslik terleurgesteld toe ek die film sien. Daarna het ek weggebly van films as ek reeds die boek gelees het. “Skaapvark” is baie snaakser as die Engelse boek ook. In hierdie boek, “Die Rooihuid in die kassie”, kry Omri ‘n “charm” as ‘n geskenk by ‘n maat en ontdek ‘n kassie waarin hy dit kon sit. Sy broer kry ‘n sleuteltjie wat toevallig hierdie kassie oop-en-toe kon sluit…en dit is daar waar die pret begin! Kry die boek en lees homself! – as jy nog die film gesien het nie, moenie!! kry eerder die boek…

On THIS LINK – on my blog – you can read about other childrens’ books I’ve blogged before  and books written by Dalene Matthee…her books translated into English and her target group  is more the adult audience …


Please click HERE to listen to the BBC program about “Where the wild things are”.

This book is really a MUST-have if you have little children…and I’ve bought it myself again…here in London…as I can’t resist a good book, even if it’s chidren’s books…which any teacher can’t go without…if you teach primary…

Who the Wild Things Are (30 min)
Broadcast on Radio 4 Tue 24 Jun – 11:30

Philip Glassborow explores the origins of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book Where the Wild Things Are. Featuring readings by Henry Goodman and Jewish Klezmer music.
HERE  for program the program information.

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Update: August 2011 – In this photo you can see the REAL Lompie! Since I have my photos with me – at last! – I’m updating some posts with the actual photos. Now you can see how close I was on finding a pic on the internet similar to Lompie and Nikki! In the next photo, you can see MY cat…Nikki. Lompie was hubby’s cat. Two wonderful pets we had. Look at Nikki in the first pic. She used to do that!

Lompie and Nikki… not our pictures, but our cats looked exactly like these two cats!!  They were like two children…and you can click HERE to read about Nikki and Lompie….As a cat-lover, I want to blog a few books about cats and also some lovely poems! Enjoy!!

Image: puffin.co.uk

These first two books are both books on my shelf! Great books if you work with children or gifts to children age 9 and up to read…

This book is really a MUST-have if you’re a cat-lover! The pages are glossy and there’s interesting info about cats and cat-quotes too! This is a fantastic gift to someone that’s a cat-lover! It’s also a diary…any-year-diary…

How to draw a cat…one way! Image from the book:

 “The Complete Guide to Drawing and Illustration”…A Practical and Inspirational Course for Artists of all abilities by Peter Gray.

The following three books- by Anne Fine –  are really the most hilarious cat-books I’ve read!! Yes, if you’re a teacher…and a booklover!! you DO read books that children read too…well, that’s me…I’m a lover of children’s books!! They are the best!! If you want to spoil a child, this is really THE book(s) to have! I’ve got the first two books and have used it with children in Primary and even with slow readers age 12/13 and they just LOVE these books!! Children in Primary had begged me to continue reading from these books, as I’d always kept it for that last 10-15 min of the day. They couldn’t pack their stuff away fast enough to sit quietly and ready to listen. I’ve used it with a slow reader, age 12 and she wasn’t really very keen to listen/read from the books and once I’d started it, she couldn’t wait to read the entire book. You can get any child to read, it all depends on your enthusiasm and the example you as an adult set for the child. Children that don’t love reading, would love reading if they are allowed to read comics! As long as they read!! You can buy them Asterix and Obelix to get them into reading… make it fun for any child to enjoy reading! I always say to  children that tell me they hate reading…the reason is..that they’ve never been introduced to good stories/stories THEY like and interesting books.  As a qualified library teacher it was part of my job -the first nine years of my teaching, -to spend the library’s budget on books to be used by teachers in subjects and for children to read. I can still recall books children had big fights about and there were always endless waiting lists for all those fiction books. One way to get them into reading was to read only the first  two chapters and then watch the fighting! hahaha…sometimes when their name was on a waiting list and they forgot to get the book, when it was their turn, there were some really big sparks, but if you snooze…you lose! that was our slogan in the library!!
One particular book that is still fresh in my mind, is a book written by Jenny Seed…”The 59 Cats”…this is really a funny/good book and any South African reading here…should try and get hold of this book for your child age 6-8…it’s about an old lady with all these cats…59 of them! and the people of the town want her to get rid of them and they even went to the Mayor! Sadly, she had to get rid of them, but there’s a happy ending to this story! She got her 59 cats back! Get the book and see why!!

Jenny Seed is one of South Africa’s most prolific and widely published English children’s book authors.and was of the first to be published internationally. Since the publication of her first book in 1968 in the UK, Mrs Seed was for quite a while one of a handful South African English children’s book authors that produced indigenous children’s books of an exceptional quality. Many of her books had been translated into Afrikaans (and some into German). Professor Elwyn Jenkins considers her to be presumably the most widely read English children’s book author in the country and certainly one who had a considerable didactic impact on children because she was so widely published. It is therefore no wonder that Jay Heale calls her “the mother or perhaps grandmother of South African English children’s literature”.

Jenny covers a wide spectrum with her writing – from folktales to adventure stories, some of them for early learners and ideal to be read aloud. It is, however, for her historical novels, also for different age groups, that she has become known.

In Jenkins’ book, Children South of the sun, he refers to the fact that Jenny Seed is moved by her liberal view of history and the urgings of Christian compassion to convey to her young readers, through the personal story of individuals, what she sees as both sides of the story. She impresses upon them how personal values can make a significant mark for good in the midst of great historical events over which the individual would seem to have little control. In keeping with her concern for objectivity, she bases her novels on meticulously accurate historical detail.

Because her historical novels are widely published, prescribed and read, her work occupies an exceptional place in the forming of the historical sensibilities of white South Africans (Jay Heale).

In 1983 her book, The New Fire, was honourably mentioned for the Percy Fitzpatrick Award and in 1987 Place among the stones became the first English book to be awarded with the MER Prize for children’s literature. The only reason that she didn’t won more awards and prizes for her books is the scarcity of such awards for English children’s books in South Africa.

The Children’s Literature Research Unit of the University of South Africa would like to rectify this in a small way in presenting Jenny Seed with this Certificate in recognition of her exceptional contribution to South African children’s literature.

On this link you can see this certificate awarded to Jenny Seed…

Click HERE to read Anne Fine’s biography.

So hang me.
I killed the bird.
For pity’s sake,
I’m a cat.

Poor Ellie is horrified when Tuffy drags a dead bird into the house. Then a mouse. But Tuffy can’t understand what all the fuss is about.

Who on earth will be the next victim to arrive through the cat-flap? Can soft-hearted Ellie manage to get her beloved pet to change his wild, wild ways before he ends up in even deeper trouble?

The hilarious antics of Tuffy and his family as told by the killer cat himself.

So slap my teensy little paws.
I messed up – big time

Tuffy can’t wait for Ellie and the family to go away on holiday. A week of freedom lies ahead – if only he can get away from the catsitter. But everything goes wrong when Tufty is catapulted into the arms of horrid, sweet-as-pie, Melanie.

Melanie has always longed for a lovely, cuddly ickle pussykins. And with the promise of cream, fresh fish and escape from the catsitter, Tufty loses all his dignity. Dressed up in baby-clothes and pampered like a pussycat, has the killer cat really gone for good?

So stick my head in a holly bush!

Tuffy, the killer cat, knows what he likes. And he isn’t loving the ‘art’ that Ellie’s mum brings home from her new class. So what’s a cat to do?

A scratch here just happens to shred a painting. A nudge there somehow slips a clay pot off a shelf.

Dad hopes a particularly hideous sculpture will be next, but Tuffy’s having none of it.

The killer cat will go his own sweet way!

Mischief and mayhem rule in Anne Fine’s brilliant new story, with hilarious illustrations by Steve Cox throughout. It is perfect for developing readers aged 5-8 years. (for slow readers or children with English as a second Language, this book can be read up to age 11/12—all depends on the level of the child)

The Killer Cat spreads mayhem amongst the paint pots!

“Nonchalant Tuffy the cat makes his triumphant third outing in this latest tale by Anne Fine. Tuffy is fast becoming an archetype in children’s literature.”===achuka Reviews

“Well, stretch my stripes! Tuffy’s back, with more problems… This, the third of the Killer Cat sagas, is enough to make a dog laugh.” –Carousel

The author of the owl and the pussycat was of course Edward Lear ==1812 – 1888 ==and the first publication date of the owl and the pussycat was 1871. Wonderful illustrated graphics have also been set to the words of the owl and the pussycat poem helping to fire the imagination of a child! The burning question remains, however, what exactly is the runcible spoon referred to in the words of the owl and the pussycat poem? The probable definition of this term is that a runcible spoon is a small fork with three prongs, one having a sharp edge, and curved like a spoon. This spoon is used to eat pickles, etc.

Edward Lear
Read here on WIKIPEDIA more about Edward Lear.
The Owl and the Pussycat poem

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are, you are, you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are.”
Pussy said to the Owl “You elegant fowl,
How charmingly sweet you sing.
O let us be married, too long we have tarried;
But what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows,
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose, his nose, his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.
“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling your ring?”
Said the Piggy, “I will”
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon.
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand.
They danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

Cat in the window

What do you see?
Cloud, wind, birds,

a bird in a tree.
The daffodils shivering
in the February breeze,
A puddle in the road
beginning to freeze.

Snow on the wind
Dusk in a cloud.
Leaves in a frenzy,
The bird’s head cowed.
Winter – though the sun shines.
Blizzard, and the north wind’s whine.

~~~Brian Morse

Cat Kisses

Sandpaper kisses
on a cheek or a chin –
that is the way
for a day to begin!

Sandpaper kisses –
a cuddle, a purr
I have an alarm clock
that’s covered with fur.

—Bobbi Katz

Cat Warmth

All afternoon,
My cat sleeps,
On the end of my bed.

When I creep my toes
Down between the cold sheets,
I find a patch of cat-warmth
That he’s left behind;
An invisible gift.

John Cunliffe
The last 2 poems from: Read Me2: A Poem For Everyday Of The Year.

On THIS LINK you can read about the book.. “Two Frogs”…

Ahw….Wow! just look at this cute kitty!! which Streathambrixtonchess has on their blog!

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Read HERE more about South Africa’s wildlife and also about the Rock Jumper!
The Klipspringer (‘rock jumper’ in Afrikaans) is a small African antelope that lives from the Cape of Good Hope all the way up East Africa and into Ethiopia.

Reaching approximately 58cm at the shoulder, klipspringers are relatively small animals compared to some of their larger antelope cousins. Males have fragile horns that are usually about 20-25cm long. With a thick and dense speckled patterened coat of an almost olive shade, klipspringers blend in well with the rock outcrops on which they can usually be found.

Klipspringers are herbivores, eating rock plants. They never need to drink, since the succulents they subsist on provide them with enough water to survive.

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I have the book about Greyfriars Bobby, exactly the one in the pic here. I bought it in Edinburg and isn’t Edinburgh the most wonderful place in this whole of England! Easy to drive, a clean city! Beautiful scenery….historical buildings that speak their stories by just looking at them! Wow….Edinburgh! I fell in love with you and it won’t be long before you see me, permanently! Hopefully! To come back to the book….this statue is in Edinburgh and two people living there couldn’t tell us about it and incidently, I saw the book in a shop…just an ordinary shop selling all kinds of furniture, with a few toys/books and…my book was on sale for just about £1!! And it is a RED FOX book!! I love my Bobby book and he reminds me of South Africa’s Jock of the Bushveld… our own true story about a Staffie…
I’ve got two links here, one with the story about Bobby….and the other with pictures. Oh, of course, the grave in this one pic, is Bobby’s master’s grave, but read the story, I don’t want to tell more…it is a bit of a sad story, if you haven’t seen the movie…you better read the story!
Follow THIS link for Bobby’s story ………..and THIS LINK for the photos. Enjoy!

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This is what Nicky looked like. I’ve found this photo on the internet as our photos of Nicky and Lompie are packed away in South Africa.

She was a cat found at a nursery. It was a rainy day in Centurion. I wanted to get some plants for a big clay pot in my class. I walked into the nursery. While looking around in the section where they kept all sorts of pots and stands with seeds, I heard a cat meowing. It was a soft, fainted meow and I couldn’t make out where it was coming from. I kept on looking around, but saw nothing. There were tons of shelves, covered in hessian, with stuff on display. I starting lifting up the hessian, near where I heard the cat. There she was! A very young kitty…..with a plate of milk. I couldn’t resist stroking her and picked her up immediately, as I love cats, I just couldn’t resit doing it. In the vicinity was a man serving customers – with a wheelbarrow busy doing all sorts of odd things around the nursery. Stroking this beautiful little kitty, I walked to him and asked him whose cat it was.”Nobody’s, ” he replied, I only feed her while she’s around. “Oh, my I have her!!” I pleaded very excitedly and continued, “I love cats and will look after her!” “Sure…I only fed her, because she came here, hungry….and nobody to look after her…”

That day was my lucky day! I locked her in my car and ran back to get the plants…very excited! I got back to the car and there, very pleased with herself, she was waiting on the back seat…paws curled up infront of her, looking me very thankfully in the eyes through the window…I still remember those large green eyes, head a bit tilted sideways. When I got into the car, it was only a loud purrrr-purrrr…I could hear…and I knew she was happy. She looked as if she was used to being in this car, for years and used to drive around like this – for years. I couldn’t wait to get home!

Nicky loved water! It was funny….I found her on a rainy day….and she loved water so much, she liked it if you poured it all over her. She  would then look over her shoulder and just say…”purr-meow”…as she was asking for more…LOL!! I used to have a small red watering can and when I had it with me, she came to me as if she was asking to have water running down her spine. When I poured the water down her spine, she would then wriggle her body and, “purr-meow”, to show how she enjoyed it.

She was friends, big friends, with Lompie. Lompie was the Blue Lilac-point siamese! They were like kids…crazy kids, chasing one another up and down the flat – and later in the house [when we moved into a house] and around the garden, looking a bit silly most of the times, making uslaugh when they were doining it. Lompie would start to chase and then suddenly turned around and then Nicky would chase Lompie. Completely two ‘silly’ children. We had great fun with them and could sit in the garden looking at them playing ‘hide-and-seek’ with one another, hiding behind plants, or going up a tree. It was as if they enjoyed entertaining us and knew how we enjoyed them. Their tails were swishing from side to side when they were taking position, when playing. It was funny. 

The following pictures were found ont he internet. I was looking for pictures that portray her personality the best.

Nicky used to get into the basin quite often and loved it when you open the tap slightly to drink some water from the tap. I think she enjoyed the coolness of it too.

She loved to wriggle on the carpet, also when they played, she was always the one on her back, defending herself from Lompie.

Nicky was curious, very curious and I know we have a similar photo of her which we took in our garden, almost this very same position, looking at ‘something’.

In our flat, we also had a beam like this! [behind the front door]. She loved to walk on it, sometimes she was ‘hiding’ there when she heard us coming up the stairs [from outside] and when we opened the door, she would “purr-meow”, as if she couldn’t help herself saying, “hello, here I am!”  or maybe it was her way of saying, “wha! got you!” [hihi]

Very scary, but this photo IS Nicky!! 100% Nicky! Found on dreamstime.com, but this is SO, SO Nicky! 500% to be exact!

This is typical what Nicky was like, at times. Lazy-looking, self-content expression on her face. Very much like Nicky!

Enjoy this cat-poem.

 Cat in the window

What do you see?
Cloud, wind, birds,a bird in a tree.

The daffodils shiveringin the February breeze,
A puddle in the roadbeginning to freeze.

Snow on the wind
Dusk in a cloud.
Leaves in a frenzy,
The bird’s head cowed.
Winter – though the sun shines.
Blizzard, and the north wind’s whine.

~~~Brian Morse

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I spy something with my little eye and it is….type the word “eye” in the box when the page opens!

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His book translated into Flemish here.


Read ON THIS LINK about Marais.Have you read….”The soul of the white Ant”…or…”Die siel van die Mier!” by Eugene Marais… if not….you have a gap in your culture…:))….get “The soul of the white ant..” and read it…

And……on THIS LINK you can read his poem…”Dans van die reen”…which I translated into English for my blogreaders….”Dance of the rain”…enjoy!

Where is the soul of a termite, or the soul of man?
“Someone once said that all behaviourism in nature could be referred to as hunger. This saying has been repeated thousands of times yet is false. Hunger itself is pain – the most severe pain in its later stages that the body knows except thirst, which is even worse. Love may be regarded as a hunger, but it is not pain.
“What protects animals, what enables them to continue living, what assures the propagation of race? A certain attribute of organic matter. As soon as one finds life, one finds this attribute. It is inherent in life; like most natural phenomena it is polarised, there is a negative and a positive pole. The negative pole is pain; the positive pole is sex. This attribute may be called the saving attribute of life; and it is here where one comes closest to what appears like a common purpose beyond nature.” (Eugène Marais, The Soul of the White Ant, 1989:261)

Eugène Nielen Marais[1] (1871-1936) was a South African lawyer, naturalist, poet, and writer. Although Marais is remembered by South Africans more for his contribution to Afrikaans literature than for science, he has been described as being a scientist far ahead of his time.

He began life after leaving college as a journalist, then studied medicine for four years, but eventually took up law and was called to the bar by the Inner Temple. He was a scholar and a man of culture.

However, it was not only as jurist that Marais distinguished himself as a brilliant (yet eccentric) character in South African history. He has been described as “… a human community in one man. He was a poet, an advocate, a journalist, a story-teller, a drug-addict, a psychologist, a natural scientist.”

In 1910, he abandoned his law practice and retreated to the remote Waterberg (‘Water Mountain) – the mountain area north-west of Pretoria. Here he studied two creatures – termites and baboons that, on the face of it, had nothing in common. Both fascinated him, as did all wild creatures.

Settling near a large group of chacma baboons, he became the first man to conduct a prolonged study of primates in the wild. It was in this period that he produced My Friends the Baboons and provided the major inspiration for The Soul of the Ape.

His studies of termites led him to the conclusion that the colony should be considered as a single organism. Although Marais could not have known it, he was anticipating some of the ideas of Richard Dawkins (1941— ). He also observed chacma baboons at length and he was the father of the scientific study of the behaviour of primates. Because Marais refused to translate his works into English, they remained almost unknown outside of southern Africa, which is the only place in the world where Afrikaans is spoken to any degree.

Termites are social insects and are most closely related to the cockroaches with which they share a close common ancestor (?). They are among the most important groups of animals on land because they play a vital role in breaking down dead plant material. They have symbiotic flagellates or bacteria in their hindguts that are able to break down plant cellulose to a digestible form and in the subfamily Macrotermitinae the termites culture and eat fungi in their nests using dead plant material.

Ants (order: Hymenoptera; family: Formicidae) are often confused with termites because they are also social, and termites are sometimes called ‘white ants’ (a confusing term). Ants, like wasps (from which they evolved (?)), have a constriction half way down their body whereas in termites the body is uniformly broad. The prominent mounds you see in the South African countryside are made by termites not ants. Whereas ant workers are all females, in termites, workers can be both male and female. In ants, mating occurs before the nest is founded and the male dies after mating – he does not become a king, and live and mate with the queen in the new colony, as in termites.

Marais published his conclusions about termites as a series of speculative articles, written entirely in Afrikaans and appearing only in local newspapers, as The Soul of the White Ant. While observing the natural behaviour of these creatures, he noticed that firstly, the whole termitary (a termite nest) had to be considered as a single organism whose organs work like those of a human being.

Termitaries, as one sees them so frequently in Central and Southern Africa, are tall, compacted columns of earth sometimes four to five metres high. Within the terminary lives the society, with its castes and its ranks, in countless numbers.

Marais concluded that all members of the colony and the terminary itself form what is essentially a single living organism. The terminary itself is the body. The various castes in the society have the functions of the body’s organs, with fungus gardens contributing the digestive tract, soldiers and workers the cells of the blood stream, the queen the brain as well as the reproductive organs, and even the sexual flight executing the function of sperm and eggs. How all communicate (pheromones, telepathy?) we do not know, but the ‘soul’ of the termite – the psyche, we should say – is the property of the entire society. He concluded secondly that the actions within the termitary were completely, instinctive.

His work on termites led him to a series of stunning discoveries. He developed a fresh and radically different view of how a termite colony works, and indeed, of what a termite colony is. This was far in advance of any contemporary work. In 1923, he began writing a series of popular articles on termites for the Afrikaans press and in 1925; he published a major article summing up his work in the Afrikaans magazine Die Huisgenoot.

He published The Soul of the White Ant (1937) and then My Friends the Baboons (1939) which was posthumously published after he had taken his life.

His book Die Siel van die Mier (The Soul of the Ant, but usually given in English as The Soul of the White Ant) was plagiarised by Nobel Laureate Maurice Maeterlinck, who published The Life of the White Ant in 1926, falsely claiming many of Marais’ revolutionary ideas as his own. Maeterlinck was able to do this because he was Flemish and therefore understood Dutch, from which Afrikaans was derived. Maeterlinck was as a consequence one of the few people in Europe who had read Marais’ original texts.

Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949) was a leading literary figure of the time. In 1911, he won the Nobel Prize for literature following the success of his play The Bluebird. In 1901, he had written The Life of the Bee, a mixture of natural history and philosophy, but he was a dramatist and a poet, not a scientist.

In 1926, one year after Die Huisgenoot published Marais’ article, Maeterlinck stole Marais’ work and published it under his own name, without acknowledgement, in a book titled The Life of the White Ant, first published in French and soon afterwards in English and several other languages.

Maeterlinck’s book was met with outrage in South Africa. Later, in 1935, Marais wrote to Dr Winifred de Kok in London. She was beginning her English translation of The Soul of the White Ant, “You must understand that it was a theory which was not only new to science but which no man born of woman could have arrived at without a knowledge of all the facts on which it was based; and these Maeterlinck quite obviously did not possess. He even committed the faux pas of taking certain Latin scientific words invented by me to be current and generally accepted Latin terms.

“The publishers in South Africa started crying to high heaven and endeavoured to induce me to take legal action in Europe, a step for which I possessed neither the means nor inclination. The press in South Africa, however, quite valorously waved the cudgels in my behalf. The Johannesburg Star [South Africa’s biggest English-speaking daily newspaper] published plagiarised portions that left nothing to the imagination of readers.

“The Afrikaans publishers of the original articles communicated the facts to one of our ambassadorial representatives in Europe and suggested that Maeterlinck be approached. Whether or not this was done, I never ascertained. In any case, Maeterlinck, like other great ones on Olympus, maintained a mighty and dignified silence.”

Marais took legal action against Maeterlinck but gained little satisfaction.

Marais began writing Soul of the Ape in 1916, but never finished it. It was published posthumously years later. His theory was that, unlike termites, baboons – and by extension all primates – had the ability to memorise the relationship between cause and effect. They could therefore vary their behaviour voluntarily. While termites were instinctive, the mind of baboons was based on ‘causal memory’.

The reason for this difference, according to Marais, was natural selection. According to him, natural selection was not, as Darwin had insisted, ‘the survival of the fittest’, but rather ‘the line of least resistance’. Those species best able to adapt to their specific environment survived, while those not able to, would become extinct. Natural selection, therefore, had the tendency to both localise and specialise species.

The conclusions to which he came were new and radical and might well have had an influence in Europe. However, Marais was half a hemisphere away, half a century too soon and writing in a language no one could understand.

The Soul of the White Ant was brought under the attention of the world only by being seemingly plagiarised by a Belgian Nobel prize laureate, Maurice Maeterlinck. The Soul of the Ape was incomplete and originally only published in South Africa.

Maeterlinck’s The Life of the White Ant, in which he describes the organic unity of the termitary and compares it with the human body. This theory aroused great interest at the time and was generally accepted as an original one formulated by Maeterlinck. The fact that an unknown South African observer had developed the theory after many years of indefatigable labour was not generally known in Europe.

The 1927 files at The Star to which Marais referred were checked and confirmed by American author and social anthropologist Robert Ardrey (1908-1980) forty years later. “Maeterlinck’s guilt is clear”, Ardrey wrote. It is easily confirmed by a comparison of the two books. Marais’ point is indisputable: his picture of the termitary is startlingly original, it could not possibly have been hypothesised or inferred without a great deal of original research, at the very least – and yet there it is in Maeterlinck’s book.

Yet it is impossible to ignore the fact that Marais’ work is revolutionary, especially if one takes into account the time and place in which it was written. Robert Ardrey says in his introduction to Marais’ work on ants and baboons published in 1973, “As a scientist he was unique, supreme in his time, yet a worker in a science unborn.”

He was master of a science that was only invented fifty years later (ethology). It was sixty years before anyone else attempted to study what he had studied (ape societies in the wild). He described natural mechanisms and systems that were not identified by mainstream science until forty years later (pheromones), and neither science nor society has yet caught up with many of his findings and conclusions. Marais made no direct contribution to entomology, but his ghost continues to haunt the discipline.

His fourth book, The Soul of the Ape, completed in 1919, might just have made him world famous if it had been published then, but in fact half a century was to pass before it appeared in book form in 1969, thirty-three years after his death.

Their observations and the insights Marais gained from them formed the basis of a serious work later to be called The Soul of the Ape.

They also led to a more popular work, Burgers van die Berge (Citizens of the Mountains, translated as My Friends the Baboons), first published in book form in 1938, two years after Marais’ death.

In 1948, twelve years after Marais’ death, Nikolaas Tinbergen[2] (1907-1988) reformulated Marais’ extremely important concept of the phyletic (inborn) and causal (acquired) memory.

Thirteen years later, in 1961, Washburn and De Vore[3] published a lengthy article, ‘The Social Life of Baboons’, in the Scientific American. Though some of their observations were contested, they were seen as the first serious observers of baboons in the wild (meaning not in captivity), a title which surely Marais had earned fifty years before. His notes on baboon behaviour in The Soul of the Ape are regarded as honest and reliable by modern ethologists.

When The Soul of the Ape was finally published in 1969, it was too late.

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Winter’s Night

Oh the small wind is frigid and spare
and bright in the dim-light and bare
as wide as God’s merciful boon
the veld lies in starlight and gloom
and on the high lands
spread through burnt bands
the grass-seed, astir, like beckoning hands.

Oh East-wind gives mournful measure to song
Like the lilt of a lovelorn lass who’s been wronged
In every grass fold
bright dewdrop takes hold
and promptly pales to frost in the cold!

Translated by J.W. Marchant

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