Traditional Storytelling: The Hummingbird

The Hummingbird can be an example to us all. Find out why in this retelling of the story performed by Amanda.

Author: Keiko Kasza
Performed by: Amanda


Hi I’m Amanda. I’m Children’s Services staff with Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and I am going to be telling the story of the Hummingbird by Wangari Maathai. Wangari Maathai wrote four books. She earned her PHD. She served on the UN. She even got her Nobel Peace Prize. But probably the thing she was proudest for was planting trees. Yes – planting trees and caring for the people of Kenya, Africa. All those other things? Pretty good. Okay pretty great. But, they didn’t’ mean as much to her as planting trees and caring for other people – a fact that she illustrated in her story, The Hummingbird, which she often told and I would like to tell you today. It goes something like this:

Once, a great and terrible fire swept across the forest, engulfing it in seconds. And all the animals fled before it, until they came to a stream and the safety there. And they were frozen in fear as the forest, their home, their life, was taken from them. And they could nothing. It didn’t matter how big they were, how strong they were. They were nothing before their fear and before the fire, except for one animal, the tiniest of them all – the hummingbird.

The hummingbird did not stop for the fear. The hummingbird did not stop for the fire. The hummingbird flew to the stream, and flitted down to it, and dipped its tiny beak in the water, and pulled up one drop of water. That was all the hummingbird could hold. And the hummingbird flew back to the fire, flew back to the fear, and dropped that one tiny drop on the raging fire – again and again and again and again – the hummingbird flew back – fighting fear, fighting exhaustion, fighting the fire.

The other animals could not believe this. They were frozen with fear. They were nothing before the fire. And yet the hummingbird kept on. “Stop! What are you doing? You are too small! You are too tiny! You are nothing. Stop! What are you doing?” The bear called out, “You are powerless. Look at me! I can do nothing. What are you doing? What are you thinking?” The elephant tried to stop the hummingbird. The elephant had the great big nose that could carry so much more water. “Stop! What are you doing? Your beak is too small. Stop!” All the animals tried to discourage the hummingbird.

And finally, the hummingbird, not even resting, not even stopping, said, “I will do what I can do.” And that is all we can do. In the face of poverty, in the face of hatred, in the face of racism, we can only do our best. And I know that I would rather be like the hummingbird than all the animals in the forest. So do your best. Be like the hummingbird.