Many moons ago, in the shade of a large tree, Christine sat and stared out in front of her. She was very sad. She had been married for ten years and still didn’t have a child. Every day when she went to fetch water alone, she wondered about this misfortune that had struck her. She stood up with a sigh and put the clay pot with water on her head. Some of the water spilled and ran in streams down her back.
More days and months went by and, eventually, Christine didn’t laugh at all anymore. She just did her work quietly. The other women talked among themselves and laughed quietly when they saw her coming: “Tsk-tsk-tsk! Poor Christine. Married for so long and still not even a single child! But she comes from the desert. What else can you expect ...”
Her husband, Peter, was also unhappy. She didn’t know how to make his heart happy anymore. The wise old preacher was the only one who told her to continue waiting patiently.
Then, one day, Christine knew that she was going to become a mother. There was great joy in her heart. Now she was one of the women of the town. And, even though some women had laughed at her previously, the others were glad with her. They talked and laughed and gave advice.
When she started getting the birth pains one morning, she was suddenly very scared. Her husband went to call the old woman who always helped with babies and she arrived with her herbs. Christine suffered a great deal of pain and it was dark already when the baby was born. After ten minutes, she finally heard her own baby cry. But before she could ask anything, the old woman took the bundle and walked outside. Something was wrong! She knew it. It felt as if the darkness was also coming to settle in her insides. She cried.
When the old woman came back into the house, Christine grabbed her baby from her hands. She unfolded the cloths carefully. Dismayed, she looked at a little boy with a hunchback in her arms. At the same time, however, she felt a great love for him swell up inside her. He was, in spite of everything, still her own, long-awaited child. “We will call you Patrick,” she said and hugged him tightly to her breast.
Like all children, Patrick grew with the years. The bigger he became, the larger his hump became and the more he pulled in his shoulders. It looked as if his neck was becoming shorter and shorter and, even though the other children were always teasing and mocking him, there also came a day that he was big enough to take a herd of goats to the field.
Near the town, Patrick still dragged his feet but, when he was far enough for no one to see him, he started running and singing joyfully. While his goats were grazing below in the valley, he sat on the flat stone ridge and played his reed flute. He really enjoyed being on his own because then he didn’t have to listen to the mocking of Sam and the other goatherds who pulled in their shoulders to mimic him.
When the goats started wandering away, he quickly stopped the leading goats and then looked for a nice, sunny spot to sit down. Everything was so peaceful and quiet…
Suddenly the loud barking of a troop of baboons broke the silence. Patrick got a fright when he saw how close the troop was. He carefully crept under a bush. Luckily it looked as if they hadn’t seen him.
One small little baboon wandered away after a fat scorpion. He quickly grabbed it and stuffed it into his mouth. A large male saw it and charged him to take the treat from him. The little baboon made a loud noise. The male grabbed the little one behind his neck and threw him through the air like a rag. The little one landed almost on Patrick’s feet where he was hiding between the branches. The next moment the female baboon was there to save her little one and he was looking straight into her eyes. “She’s going to attack me!” he thought in alarm and screamed loudly.
To his surprise, the female baboon just stared at him, her own little one clean forgotten. Carefully, she came a step closer and softly touched the hump on his back. Then she turned around and started talking to the rest of the troop.
The male leader tilted his head and frowned, baring his pointed teeth, but slowly he quietened down. The other baboons also came closer and chattered and made a noise. If Patrick hadn’t been so scared, he would probably have laughed out loud at the baboons sitting there in a circle, making wild gestures!
Patrick was a field child at heart, however. All he could do was to quietly stand and wait. His mouth was dry and his knees were lame from shock. The female came closer again. She softly took his hand and pulled him to the group. He allowed himself to be dragged to the centre of the circle. It looked as if the baboons were sneering at him. Then the female left his hand and casually started looking for food with the rest of the troop.
Suddenly Patrick remembered his goats. Luckily, they hadn’t wandered too far. He gathered them together and followed the baboons with them, as they grazed.
Ever since that day, Patrick and his goats walked with the baboon troop every day. Now they could go much further after juicy green grass and the goats grew fat, and none of his goats ever got lost. If a predator dared to come closer, the watchers gave warning and the baboons attacked immediately. He himself became big and strong from walking so far.
Christine saw how big her child was becoming and how happy he looked. It was only after many months, when Patrick was coming from the field with a heavy bundle of wood, some of the others began noticing that he had become big and strong. They then also started wondering why his goats were so fat and how the herd had grown.
That evening around the fire, the preacher suggested that a few of the men follow Patrick when he went out with his goats again.
The next morning, Patrick and his goats quickly ran to the field and the men struggled to keep up with them. When they caught up with him, they saw that Patrick and his goats were moving along with the baboon troop. They could hardly believe their eyes! But now they knew why his goats never got lost and why he had become so strong.
“Perhaps we should give Patrick all the goats to look after,” the men said. “And put out leftover food for the baboons to say thank you that they are helping him to look after his goats so well,” said the preacher.
Sam and the other goatherds heard what the grown-ups were saying. They had been jealous for a long time already, because their goats weren’t so fat. “Let’s teach Patrick a lesson,” Sam suggested. “Someone with a hump can’t look after all the goats!”
Late that afternoon they were waiting for Patrick and tried to block off and drive away his goats. If all his goats got lost, the grown-ups wouldn’t think that he was such a good goatherd after all!
Suddenly there was a terrible screaming noise. They heard branches break and then the troop of baboons were on top of them. Sam and the other goatherds ran home screaming, with the baboons at their heels.
That evening around the fires, everyone was chatting about Patrick and his baboons and how clever and strong he had become.
Christine smiled quietly where she was sitting at the fire. Even though her child had been born with a hump, her dreams for him had all been realized!