THANDO’S VAN­ITY

Her beauty was ad­mired by ev­ery­one, but a spe­cial gift helped Thando re­alise its true mean­ing

DRUM - - In The Classroom -

THANDO was blessed with ex­tra­or­di­nary beauty. Vil­lagers trav­elled from far and wide to catch a glimpse of her an­gelic face. They claimed her bright smile would make even the moon en­vi­ous. Her mother, Zodwa, had wanted a baby for a long time but doc­tors had told her it wasn’t pos­si­ble. So when she dis­cov­ered she was preg­nant, Zodwa promised the gods she’d raise a kind, gen­tle and obe­di­ent child who would make her mark on the world.

Dur­ing Thando’s child­hood Zodwa stayed true to her prom­ise. When she played with chil­dren from the vil­lage, Thando would en­sure no child was ex­cluded. She en­chanted them with fan­tas­tic sto­ries of cas­tles, dragons and princesses.

Ev­ery­one was charmed by her gen­tle spirit, but most of all they were drawn to her beauty. Some­how, the sun seemed to shine more brightly wher­ever she was and peo­ple felt hap­pier in her pres­ence, sur­rounded by love and laugh­ter.

The years went by and when Thando turned 18 her beauty con­tin­ued to flour­ish. Her long braids were black as night, her large al­mond-shaped eyes were the colour of rich soil, and her caramel skin was as flaw­less and smooth as silk.

All the men in the vil­lage were keen for her at­ten­tion. They flat­tered her, show­ered her with end­less praise and presents, and pro­posed mar­riage.

Thando be­came ac­cus­tomed to be­ing told she was beau­ti­ful and that she was a gift from the gods.

One day a suitor brought Thando a large of­fer­ing wrapped in colour­ful pa­per. She swiftly un­rav­elled the par­cel and dis­cov­ered a full-length mir­ror. She’d never owned a mir­ror be­fore and quickly be­came mes­merised by it.

For hours she’d gaze at her own re­flec­tion and soon un­der­stood what ev­ery­one had been say­ing all these years was true – she was in­deed beau­ti­ful.

Her eyes sparkled like rain­drops on the petal of a lily. Her hair shone like sun­shine re­flect­ing on a wa­ter­fall as it cas­caded down to the del­i­cate curve of her lower back. Her smile held the power to open the heav­ens. Yes, she was truly beau­ti­ful. She’d heard the words, “Thando is beau­ti­ful” count­less times, but she’d never both­ered pay­ing any at­ten­tion. It meant noth­ing. Her mother had raised her to be kind by shar­ing, to be gen­tle by em­brac­ing oth­ers, and to be obe­di­ent by

lis­ten­ing to her el­ders. Un­til that day beauty was not some­thing she could mea­sure, but now it stared back at her in the mir­ror.

She stopped hang­ing out with her friends as she was too busy ad­mir­ing her­self. She stopped shar­ing sto­ries with the chil­dren and fell more and more in love with her re­flec­tion.

The mir­ror be­came her new best friend, and she wor­shipped it by com­pos­ing songs of praise to her beauty.

“The pea­cock has noth­ing on me, the swans can leave me be. Mother Na­ture worked won­ders on me, my beauty a mar­vel to see,” she sang over and over.

ZODWA came home tired from a hard day toil­ing in the fields. She ex­pected Thando to have done the chores, swept the home and cooked the day’s meal. Won­der­ful aro­mas of her daugh­ter’s food used to tempt her senses be­fore she even en­tered the home.

But now she was struck by the scent of noth­ing – no smell of sautéed onions or freshly baked bread.

The house was quiet and fear stirred in­side her – had some­thing hap­pened to her child?

She called out to Thando, but there was no re­sponse. In a panic, she rushed to her daugh­ter’s room. The door was locked but she could hear singing. Zodwa sighed with re­lief and leaned closer to the door to lis­ten.

“The pea­cock has noth­ing on me, the swans can leave me be. Mother Na­ture worked won­ders on me, my beauty a mar­vel to see.”

Zodwa couldn’t be­lieve what she was hear­ing. She knocked but Thando didn’t re­spond. There was an­other knock, this one com­ing from the front door, and Zodwa dis­cov­ered Zandile, one of the vil­lage chil­dren, star­ing up at her. “Hello gogo.” “Zandile, how are you my child?” “I’m sad, gogo. Thando hasn’t been shar­ing her sto­ries with us. Doesn’t she like us any­more?”

“Don’t be silly child. Thando loves all chil­dren. Come with me and we’ll go and get her.”

With Zandile in tow, Zodwa re­turned to Thando’s room and bashed loudly on the door.

The singing stopped and a fu­ri­ous Thando burst through the door. “Why are you in­ter­rupt­ing my singing?” “Who do you think you are talk­ing to?” Zodwa re­sponded with equal fury. “I apol­o­gise, mama, but I was busy.” “Your friend Zandile is here. She and the other chil­dren miss hear­ing your sto­ries.”

“Oh no mama. I have no time for chil­dren and fool­ish sto­ries. I am far too busy now.”

Zandile’s ea­ger smile fell from her face and she turned to flee from the hurt­ful words of the girl she once adored.

“What has hap­pened to you, Thando?” Zodwa de­manded.

“What do you mean mama? Can’t you see how beau­ti­ful I am? Why would I waste my beauty on silly sto­ries?”

“Heav­ens child, where does all this van­ity come from? Be care­ful, van­ity will strike you with bad for­tune.”

THAT night Thando fell asleep in front of her mir­ror and dreamt about how she could bet­ter show off her beauty. She ex­pected the vil­lagers to mar­vel at her in the same way she now mar­velled at her­self. She dreamt about hav­ing fancy clothes and shoes to im­press them. She dreamt about dif­fer­ent ways to be­witch her suit­ors so they’d buy her ev­ery­thing she de­sired.

When she woke up the first thing she did was look in the mir­ror. She stared in hor­ror at her re­flec­tion. Spots – big ones, small ones, black ones, white ones – her face was cov­ered in spots and her beauty was gone.

She screamed in dis­be­lief and lunged at the mir­ror which smashed into a mil­lion tiny pieces.

Zodwa rushed into Thando’s room, fright­ened by the pierc­ing cry. She found her daugh­ter kick­ing and scream­ing and cry­ing.

“What’s wrong, my child? What has hap­pened?”

Thando slowly raised her head to look at her mother.

“My face!” Zodwa touched her child’s cheeks. “Is that all? I thought some­thing had hap­pened to you.”

“Some­thing has hap­pened! Look at my face!”

“Those are just spots, noth­ing to lose your mind over.”

“Don’t you care? Don’t you care that I’m not beau­ti­ful any­more?”

Thando’s heart was slowly break­ing as she imag­ined the vil­lagers would no longer ad­mire her and the suit­ors would no longer line up at her door with gifts and pro­pos­als.

Zodwa kissed her daugh­ter and hugged her tightly.

“My child, you must un­der­stand that your beauty is be­yond what you see in that mir­ror. It’s in the way you treat peo­ple and how you be­have.

“Those are just spots – they have noth­ing to do with what is in your heart.”

“I’m so sorry, mama,” she sobbed in shame. “I stopped be­ing kind, gen­tle and obe­di­ent. All for van­ity.”

“That’s in the past now, my child. It’s not too late to do the right thing.”

From that day on Thando re­dis­cov­ered her old self and again be­came kind by shar­ing, gen­tle by em­brac­ing oth­ers, and obe­di­ent by lis­ten­ing to her el­ders. Once more she shared en­chant­ing sto­ries with the vil­lage chil­dren who lis­tened with joy and love. And soon enough she found new suit­ors queu­ing at her door ask­ing for her hand in mar­riage.

One night, af­ter they had fin­ished a de­li­cious din­ner she had lov­ingly pre­pared, Thando gen­tly ush­ered her tired mother to her favourite chair.

“I thought no­body would like me be­cause of the spots on my face, but ev­ery­one still looks at me in the same way,” she said. “Even the chil­dren still think I hold the moon in my hands.”

“But that’s be­cause you do, my child,” Zodwa re­sponded. “The moon had fallen but now it’s come back to us. Your beauty will al­ways shine as long as you see with your heart.”

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