Funani the Horse lived on a farm at the foot of beautiful green hills in Mpumalanga. All the farm animals were friends. They had lots to say to each other, except for Funani. He also wanted to talk to the others, but he was too shy.
Early one morning, Funani wanted to greet Klaas the Donkey. He opened his mouth … but nothing happened. His voice was just missing.
‘What did you say?’ asked Klaas. The only reason he asked was because Funani opened his mouth, but only a soft whisper came out.
‘My voice,’ whispered Funani. ‘I’ve lost it.’
‘Lost your voice?’ asked Klaas. ‘Don’t worry. I’ll look for it on the other side of the river.’
So Klaas clip-clopped over the river to the other side. But as soon as he got there, he forgot to look for Funani’s voice and started chomping on the sweet grass.
Back on the other side of the river, Funani decided to go down to the pond. ‘I’ll open my mouth, lift up my tongue and ask the fish if they can see my voice under it,’ he thought.
Funani stopped at the pond and opened his mouth. The fish looked up at him.
‘No, Funani, there is nothing under your tongue. But, don’t worry, we will look under the lily pads for your voice.’
But as soon as the fish were under the lily pads, they found such scrumptious food to eat there that they forgot all about Funani’s lost voice.
Funani sighed sadly and walked on. Then he came across Snorkel the Pig and Dozie the Cow.
‘What are you looking for?’ asked Snorkel and Dozie.
‘My voice. I’ve lost it,’ whispered Funani.
‘How did you manage that?’ they asked. ‘Never mind, we’ll look for it in the grass on the other side of the river.’
But poor Funani − the moment Snorkel and Dozie reached the sweet grass on the other side of the river, they stopped and crunched and munched and also forgot all about helping him find his voice.
The rabbits were not any help either. They promised to look, but when they crossed the river all they could think of was the taste of the sweet grass.
Funani looked at his friends. ‘Nobody’s helping me. Everyone is just munching and crunching,’ he whispered sadly.
He walked back to the farm to continue his search on his own. Funani looked under the bushes, behind the shed and up at the clouds. Then he looked towards the hills.
‘Oh no, there’s a storm coming! It’s already raining in the hills. That means the river is going to flood. I have to warn the animals. But I can only whisper, they’ll never hear me.’
Funani felt the first raindrops plip-plop on his back. The river was already rising. All the others were still busy munching and crunching and didn’t notice.
Funani opened his mouth, but nothing happened.
He had to do something. If his friends tried to cross the river, they would all drown! He tossed his head, shook his mane and stamped the ground with his hooves. None of his friends noticed him. The waters in front of him raced and rushed.
Just then it started to rain harder. All the animals looked up and started to run towards the river.
Funani forgot about his lost voice. He faced the rushing river and, galloping as fast as he could towards it, took an enormous jump right over the raging water. As he landed on the other side he opened his mouth and shouted, ‘STOP! DON’T CROSS!’
The animals were shocked. They had never heard such a loud voice come out of Funani’s mouth.
‘Go back!’ Funani shouted. ‘Go up to the rocks.’
Everyone ran to the rocks to find shelter from the rain.
‘You saved us, Funani,’ said Klaas. ‘Thank you.’
‘You found your voice,’ said Snorkel.
‘Yes,’ said Dozie, ‘it’s nice to hear you. You were always so quiet, we thought you just didn’t want to talk to us.’
‘I’m shy,’ said Funani. ‘I never know what to say.’
‘But we’re friends,’ said the rabbits. ‘You don’t have to be shy with us.’
‘From now on,’ said Klaas, ‘we want to hear you speak. Promise you will?’
‘Promise! Promise! Promise!’ they all said together.
And Funani lifted his head to the sky and shouted, ‘YES! YES! YES, I PROMISE!’
Read more: We have to go!
By Avril Wiid. Illustrations by Jiggs Snaddon-Wood.