bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Waxing lyrical

I hadn't come across this tale from Laurens van der Post's The Lost World of the Kalahari. This excerpt has appeared in a new literary book on birds, The Bedside Book of Birds: An Avian Miscellany by Graeme Gibson as reviewed in The Guardian.

... a honey hunter is led by a curiously loud-voiced species called a honeyguide to the location of wild-bees' nests. Eventually, greed causes the hunter not to leave a share of the honey for his bird partner, and the creature takes revenge by guiding the man not to a bee's nest but to a puff adder that bites and kills him.

It is a classic Postian sermon about the dangers of neglecting our dues to the realms of nature. The only problem is that the honeyguide doesn't eat honey. It eats the grub-filled nest and -- most remarkable of all -- the wax comb itself, a substance indigestible to almost all other animals. In other words, the bird-human partnership is a perfect symbiosis. Now there's the stuff of an interesting myth: human desire and nature are at one.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read this Van der Post book in the early 1980's and remember his excellent prose. His love for and knowledge of the Aboriginal people of the Kalahari is told of in this book.

I remember this particular passage.

1:21 pm  

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