Welcome to the third edition of Leighgendary Shorts.
This week we will be discussing Yankari: A Talking Earth Tale by Ann Christy.
Yankari: A Talking Earth Tale was published in The Powers That Be: A Superhero Collection, proceeds from the sale the anthology benefit the Sickle Cell Clinic at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.
Ann Christy also published Yankari on her own.
They come, and she watches. They hunt, and she warns. Nigeria’s Yankari National Park is a place of nature’s wonder. Tourists come and go, leaving with life-changing experiences and memories they will cherish for the rest of their days. There are others, though. They come to take more than a head filled with memories. They come to take lives and—even worse—trophies. Olisa doesn’t mind the temporary trespass of the tourists. They’re more or less harmless. The poachers are a different story. Even nature has its breaking point. And so does Olisa, who is more than an eight year old girl. She is Yankari’s voice and its weapon. When the two finally meet face to face, it’s not just her survival Olisa finds herself fighting for, but the survival of all who call Yankari home.
Yankari is the first time that I have read anything by Ann Christy, and it is so beautifully written. Even though I will be discussing the story, there are still so many beautiful details not mentioned. I hope you will take the time and read the story.
We start out by meeting Olisa. Olisa has a special gift, she can sense things in nature and also communicate with the animals. She communicates with the animals through ripples that go over the ground, the ripples work like sonar or radar.
She is hiding in some brush watching a hunting party. She sensed the hunting party days before they actually came and her Dibia was proud of her for that, Olisa is still in training. They are in Yankari National Park and Wildlife Preserve, part of the African wilds. One of the porters in the group is very nervous. He keeps looking around as he stirs the pot of food, Olisa decides to call him the Stirring Man. The Stirring Man is the person who drove the truck to the campsite and he was the one that felt the vehicle run over a small animal that should have been killed but saw it running off. He knows that someone is around.
Once Olisa was sure that no hunting was going to happen that day, she decides to head back to the village. She can get some food and also meet with her Dibia.
Once Olisa gets back to her village, she goes to Dibia’s hut. The Dibia feeds her and gives her water. Dibia asks her if the people are hunting. Olisa responds that they are hunting but she isn’t sure for what. Before Dibia can answer there is an inquiry from outside the hut. A man enters and says “elephants.” The Dibia nods and says, “Thank you. They will be taken care of.”
Once the man is gone, Dibia asks Olisa if she would like to do it. Olisa says she does and she puts her hands on the dirt. She then starts the communication with the elephants, using the ripples. At first, Olisa is trying too hard and the Dibia has to tell her to just communicate, don’t force it. After the advice, Olisa is able to contact the elephants with no problem. The message at first isn’t clear, so the Dibia tells her what she should have the elephants do. Olisa is able to communicate to the elephants what they should do and they communicate back that they understand. The Dibia then tells Olisa that they will discuss what she is to do about the hunters.
The story then jumps to the next day. We do not know what the plan for Olisa is but we find out that this will be the first time she will try to stop the hunters by herself, the closest help will be a three hour walk away. The Dibia is worried and Olisa can sense it. Dibia then calms herself down and tells Olisa that she will do well.
Olisa gets to the camp of the hunters and goes back to where she was watching the day before. When she gets there she realizes that she did not get rid of the evidence that she had been there the day before. This sends a panic through her and she slowly calms herself down.
Once calm, she gets settled into her spot and looks over the camp. She is ready. Her plan is this: “When the tracker left, she would communicate his picture to the animals and then listen for the ones that saw him. From there, it was all a matter of keeping animals away from the tracker and the hunters. If it came down to it, she would do what she did for the little animal on the road and throw up a shelf of dirt so stiff it would stop a bullet.” There is only one problem though, Olisa lays down and closes her eyes. She tells herself she will not sleep but she does.
She dreamed of a really hard rain. She was then being lifted up off the ground, both in her dream and in real life. The group of men had found her. Olisa realizes that when she was sleeping she let out a really strong pulse (ripple), she can see chairs that were toppled over and dishes all over the ground. She tries to kick loose and one of the porters sees her stretching her legs to the ground. The porter tells them to “Keep her off the ground.” Olisa looks at him and begins to think that he used to be part of their tribe but left for worldly things. He must know about her and Dibia.
The porter has the man who is carrying Olisa take her to the back of the truck. As they get closer to the truck she sees a metal box and realizes what is about to happen. Olisa knows that the man carrying her will have to put her down in order to open the metal box and she knows that she will only have one chance to touch the ground. She tries to jump down but the man catches her and puts her in the box. Olisa realizes that the box is going to get really hot really quick.
Time passes, I am not sure how much but it had to be hours. Olisa realizes that the truck/box is bouncing up and down, but she does not have much energy because of how hot it is in the box. Then she hears the men’s voices. The box is the opened up and the sunlight assaults her. She is lifted out of the box and thrown onto the back of the truck. Four buckets of water are brought over to her and they start to pour the water on her. One of the men gets a cup and lets her drink some water. Soon all four buckets are empty and she is sitting in a shallow pool of water. The Stirring Man says, “She has to get out of the sun. She is too hot. She will die.” The leader tells The Stirring Man to “Take her.”
The Stirring Man picks her up and starts to run off. When he picks her up, Olisa realizes how overheated she is, his arms feel cool. She realizes she is in real danger. He takes her to a tent and tells her to “Do what you must.” Once he says that, something builds up inside of her. She starts to wiggle and then he sets her down.
She can feel the ground before she even touches it. What happens next is just amazing and Ann Christy describes it best, but I will try my best to describe what happens. What I believe is anger rises up and comes out of her. The ripples get so tall that it is like a storm out at sea. She calls to the animals “I am here!” The ants that have a huge nest under the ground respond with “We are here!” Then it starts. The ground starts to split and millions upon millions of fire ants come out of the ground and eat the men, the ground splits and the truck and tents fall into the earth. In the end only two people are left standing, Olisa and The Stirring Man.
Olisa then gets a message from the Diabia, “I am here.” She then starts getting responses from all over the world, all of them saying “I am here.” Ann Christy writes, “Olisa let the answers wash over her like a coll night after a long hot day. She tilted her head back and smiled into the sunlight, the heat inside her dissipating even as the ripples around her retreated once more. She might be young, but the voices from all over the world made her certain of one thing. Olisa’s world had just changed.”
I think the last paragraph in the chapter sums up the last chapter nicely, “In China, Tonga, Greenland, Norway, Peru, Hawaii, north Korea, Wales and a thousand other places, all over the world, the girls stirred. They left their meals, their chores or their bed in their hundreds. They touched the water, the land, the ice, or the trees. And the world changed. For everyone.”
Wow, and I honestly mean Wow. As I said, this is the first story by Ann Christy that I have ever read, what a disservice I am doing to myself. This story was absolutely beautiful and I cannot do it any justice. I truly hope you will go purchase this story and read it on your own.
Discussion questions for the comments section
Why do you think only girls have this power mentioned in this book? Is it because men do not have the motherly instinct?
What do you think rose out of her at the end? Was it anger or was it something else? Was it a mixture of things?
What did you think of the story?
What questions do you have after reading Yankari?
What will the third Leighgendary Shorts be?