Another South African tale of a garden paradise for animals: Ummemo the Echo (“Animated Tales of the World,” 2004):
There are two ways of understanding this story. One is that the animals have mistaken a mindless natural phenomenon for a person. The other is that the animals have correctly identified as a person what we have mistaken for a mindless natural phenomenon. That Ummemo behaves just as we should expect her to behave if she is the mindless natural phenomenon we take her for does not, of course, settle the question, since the animals are just as ready with explanations as we are, and being talking animals in a fairy-story, they have more credibility than would a real-life person propounding a similar theory about an echo – since once we have bought into the talking animals, our grounds for resisting the sentient echo become weaker.
Part of the charm of the story is that it does not force upon us one interpretation over the other, thus allowing us a double pleasure – the pleasure of taking the animals’ story as correct and so playing along with the enchantment, and the pleasure of seeing through the animals’ story by picking up on the hints that would support the scientific explanation.
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