The Little Donkey

A Caribbean story for children by Donna Yawching

Illustration by Gregory St Bernard

Jojo, the little donkey, was happy.

The sun was lovely and warm on his back, and the tiny wildflowers danced in the breeze.

It was the beginning of the rainy season; almost overnight, the grass in his field had turned thick and green and delicious. He loved crunching it between his strong white teeth.

Jojo kicked up his heels for joy, and trotted over to where his mother stood in the shade of a big tree. She had worked hard that day for Jefter, her owner.

She had carried heavy loads of ground provisions from his garden high in the hills, walking carefully down the steep slopes without slipping once.

Now, she was at rest. She drank from a small stream that flowed nearby, and grazed quietly under a tree. At the end of the day, Jefter and Sylvan would come and lead her home, with the little donkey trotting close at her heels.

Sylvan was Jefter’s son. He was eleven years old, with a big smile and dancing brown eyes. He enjoyed helping his father in the garden.

But most of all, Sylvan loved the two donkeys. Especially Jojo. He loved to stroke the little donkey’s soft grey fur and long silky ears.

Often, he would bring Jojo pieces of stale bread, or bits of orange peel. The little donkey loved Sylvan more than anything in the world — except his mother, of course.

The little donkey nuzzled his mother, ate a yellow flower, then trotted off again. He was in a lively mood; he wanted to keep moving. A big blue butterfly flew up and settled on his nose.

The little donkey was surprised. “Hello,” he said to the butterfly.

“Hello,” said the butterfly. “What’s your name?”

“Jojo,” replied the little donkey. “What’s yours?”

“Butterflies don’t have names,” said the butterfly, “just call me Blue.

“Where do you live?” asked the little donkey.

“In the rainforest,” said the butterfly. “Would you like to see

“Oh, yes,” exclaimed the little donkey. And so he followed the blue butterfly off into the bush that surrounded the field.

His mother looked up from where she was tied and called out in alarm: “Hee haw! Come back here, Jojo.

But Jojo didn’t hear her — or perhaps he didn’t want to hear.

He wanted to follow the blue butterfly.

Deep into the forest went the little donkey, with the blue butterfly fluttering on ahead. The trees grew very tall and thick, blocking out the sunlight so it was quite dark.

Long vines hung from the branches, and strange flowers that Jojo had never seen before dropped petals on his head. High above, parrots and cocricos made horrible loud noises. The little donkey began to feel afraid.

He looked back, to see if he could make out the way he had come. But the bushes had closed behind him, and he could not see the path. Suddenly, he wished he was back in his field, with his mother and Jefter and Sylvan.

He looked around for Blue. He would tell the butterfly that he wanted to go home. But Blue was gone. He had flown too far ahead, and Jojo could not see him anywhere. Now the little donkey was truly lost in the forest.

It was starting to get dark; soon it would be night. Jojo tried to find his way out of the forest, but everywhere he turned, the path was blocked by a tangle of vines and bushes. The birds of the forest started coming home to roost. They filled the trees with their night songs and flapping wings. Somewhere, unseen, the cicadas began to drone, and frogs in the nearby river began to croak loudly.

The noises of the forest at night frightened the little donkey even more. He wished he had never left his nice green field, or his gentle mother. Unhappy and scared, he added his own voice to others.

“Hee haw!” he bawled miserably. “Hee haw! Hee haaaaw!”

What was that he heard! Far away, a voice called his name.

“Jojo! Jojo-o-o!”

Jojo knew that voice; he would have known it anywhere. It was Sylvan, his friend and master, who had come into the forest to find him.

The little donkey hee-hawed louder than ever, this time from joy. Soon Sylvan was at his side, patting his head and hugging him tightly.

“You silly donkey,” the boy said, fondly. “Why did you run away?”

Jojo wished he could tell Sylvan about the blue butterfly, but of course he couldn’t. But he knew, as he followed his friend out of the forest, that he would never run away again. Not for all the butterflies in the world.