One Hundred White Doves
Leila Leopard lives on one side of a wall, Charlie Cheetah on the other. But friendship knows no barriers...
A wall separates the inhabitants of Callipso Island; the rich cheetahs live on one side, and the poor leopards on the other. The story is about a friendship that develops between Leila Leopard and Charlie Cheetah, two children who are not allowed to be friends. It is an important story, as in today’s world, there are so many walls separating people; both physical and virtual. ‘One Hundred White Doves’ is essentially a story about love, friendship and humanity overcoming geographical borders, and it ends with the wall on Callipso Island being demolished.
We hope you enjoy One Hundred White Doves.
Leila was a leopard cub. Like all children, she liked to draw and collect shells from the beach. And she loved basking in the shallow waters of the ocean, watching the sun set over Callipso Island where she lived.
Leila was a leopard, but she wished she was a cheetah. The problem was, leopards did not like cheetahs and cheetahs did not like leopards. That’s just how it was. Cheetahs lived on the other side of Callipso Island, behind the big, grey wall that was a hundred feet tall and a thousand feet long.
Cheetahs were rich and leopards were poor. Cheetahs had enough food to eat, and they lived in tree houses with rope ladders and slides and roof tops with swimming pools. Cheetah children had fun playgrounds with helter-skelter slides made of glass so it felt like you were floating through the air, and swings that whirled you through waterfalls and over cliff edges so it felt like you were flying with the birds. There were no playgrounds or tree houses for the leopards. Leopards did not even have enough food to eat.
Every morning, Leila would lick her breakfast bowl clean of milk, then climb the great olive tree by the giant, grey wall. The olive tree was very old. It was older than her grandfather and her great grandfather. The knobbly branches twisted and turned like a crooked staircase. From the top, Leila could see over the wall. She would watch the cheetah children having fun. Her chest would hurt, wishing so much that she could join them. Climbing down, Leila picked olives that her and her mother would squeeze into olive oil during the evenings.
Leopards were not allowed on the cheetahs’ side of the wall. Tigers and grown-up cheetahs policed it. They stood tall on four legs with sharp teeth and sharp claws, and they would roar fiercely if any leopard tried to pounce over.
One morning Leila was very sad because it was her birthday and her mother was too poor to buy ingredients to bake a cake. No cake. No special breakfast. And no presents because her parents had no money.
She snuck away to her olive tree and curled up at the top. Amidst the silence of the dawn, her tears sounded very loud.
On the cheetahs’ side of the wall, a flower patch glowed with colour. A group of cheetah children played football by it. It made Leila sad because there were no colourful flowers on her side of the wall. One of the cheetahs accidentally kicked his football too far, and the ball landed beneath the branches of Leila’s olive tree that curled over the wall. The cheetah galloped to chase it. He heard Leila cry and looked up. Leila’s teardrops fell onto his snout.
“Why are you crying?” the cheetah asked.
“Because it’s my birthday and I didn’t get any cake or presents because my parents don’t have any money.”
“That’s horrible. Happy birthday!” said the cheetah, kindly. “I will make you a present today at school because we have arts and crafts.”
“Thank you.” Leila said. “You are a nice cheetah. I didn’t know cheetahs were nice. What’s your name?”
“My name is Charlie. What’s your name?”
“My name is Leila.”
“Meet me here this evening after school,” said Charlie, and he galloped off with his football.
That evening, Leila climbed her tree and wondered if Charlie would remember to bring her a present. She wondered how he would give it to her as she was so high up in her olive tree, and they weren’t allowed to cross the wall.
Charlie came as promised.
“Catch!” he said.
A paper aeroplane came gliding through the air and Leila caught it in her paws.
“Open it!” Charlie called.
Leila opened the aeroplane and inside was a bunch of flowers that Charlie had threaded into a bracelet. The message on the wing of the plane said: ‘Happy birthday Leila. Love from Charlie’. Leila grinned from ear to ear.
“Thank you!” she called back.
Charlie saluted her and then ran off because the police tigers had started to growl at him. Cheetahs and leopards were not allowed to be friends.
Leila wore her new bracelet to her birthday party on the beach. She felt happy and had a lovely time with her friends. They played stuck in the mud, and sleeping leopards, where you had to lie very still in the sand even though the little crabs would crawl over your tummy and their feet felt tickly.
Leila was allowed to stay up till midnight as a special birthday treat. Her father arrived home very late. He had missed her party. He said,
“I travelled all day to pick you some strawberries from the strawberry bush. I’m sorry I don’t have enough money to buy you a cake, but you are my little girl and I wanted you to have something special on your birthday.”
Leila gave her father a big cuddle. She had not had strawberries in a year and they were her favourite fruit.
At dawn, Leila went to the beach and hunted out the prettiest shell. She wanted to give Charlie a ‘thank you’ gift in return for her birthday present. She found a shell that was cone shaped, with swirly golden and white stripes. She filled the cone with water from the ocean, and caught a baby starfish. She placed the starfish in the cone and carefully made her way to the olive tree, climbing it with the cone shell wrapped safely in her tail.
“Hey! Charlie!” she yelled, because the cheetah children were playing football again. “I’ve bought you something to say thank you for getting me a present. But it is very precious so you have to make sure to catch it!”
Leila dropped the cone shell and Charlie caught it nicely between his paws.
“I will call the starfish Leila, after you!” he said.
At twilight, a shimmering, silver glaze settled over the ocean. Leila liked to rest here, in the shallows, ducking her tail in and out of the water. Her grandfather lay next to her. He enjoyed telling Leila stories as the gentle evening waves trickled over their speckled fur.
“Grandad, tell me about the olden days, when leopards and cheetahs were all friends on Callipso Island.” Leila said. Leila’s grandfather lit his pipe and began,
“In the early days when I myself was a child, the cat kingdom existed in harmony. Leopards and cheetahs lived happily side by side on Callipso Island. They shared the sunshine. They walked the same beaches, swam in the same oceans and climbed the same trees. The children went to school together and the adults hunted antelope in the abundant fields and fished in the plentiful waters.”
“In the olden days, it didn’t matter if you were a cheetah with a spotty fur coat or a leopard with a spherical pattern speckled across your back. All cats were friends. And the sky was alive with one hundred white doves. And the apple trees and strawberry bushes flowered with enough food to feed one thousand cats”.
“So what went wrong?” Leila asked.
“The greedy tigers came from the other side of the ocean. The tigers wanted all the antelope. The tigers wanted all the apples and the strawberries. The tigers wanted all the doves. The leopards told the tigers they could not take their harvest and their animals because that would be stealing.”
“But the tigers still wanted the antelope and the apples and the strawberries and the doves so they asked the cheetahs. The tigers were rich and they said to the cheetahs, ‘if you let us have these things, then we will give you gold and silver and we will protect you’. The cheetahs wanted gold and silver so they said ‘ok’.”
“Over night, the tigers and cheetahs built a big wall that cut through the heart of Callipso Island. The cheetahs were allowed to stay on the good side of the island with all the antelope parks and the fruitful land. The leopards were hounded into the bad, smaller side of the island, stuck on the barren land.”
“Since that day, the leopards have been poor. Mummy leopards have to swim to the deeper part of the ocean, where the sharks are, to find fish. Daddy leopards have to walk for miles and miles to find antelope to hunt. And children go hungry. Our dens where we live are small and the cheetahs have all the good mud and sticks so no rain tumbles through their roofs. Our schools are too poor to buy pencils but their schools have pencils and paint and pastels.”
“Grandad, what else did the greedy tigers do?” Leila asked.
“The tigers caught all the doves and put them in cages to take back home with them. A few tigers stayed to guard the big, grey wall with their sharp teeth and sharp claws. They were like the police, and they did not let any leopards climb across the wall to the good side of Callipso Island. We became trapped leopards.” Her Grandfather bowed his head. “That day was our catastrophe.”
“Didn’t the lions do anything?” Leila asked.
“Lions are the most powerful cats. They live far away in magnificent palaces. But they keep themselves to themselves and do not care about a little island like Callipso Island.” Grandfather sighed. “The problem is, we are all cats, but some cats are big, fat cats who are greedy and forget to be kind.”
“That makes me sad, Grandad.”
“Do not be sad. Do not think about what you don’t have, but think about what you do have. You don’t need money to be happy.” Grandfather continued… “We still have the beach. We can watch the sun rise every morning. We still have our imagination. We can play dot to dot with the night’s sky and dream up pictures between the stars. We still have our voices. We can sing beneath the moon and dance in the summer sun. We do not have pencils but we can take the chalk from the sand and we can draw our thoughts across the land.”
The next year, Leila turned eight. On her eighth birthday, Charlie already stood waiting for her at the bottom of the olive tree. This year he bought her a pallet of paint and some brushes. He wrapped them in wrapping paper and attached the parcel to his football, which he chucked over the wall, towards the olive tree for Leila to catch.
Leila loved her present. She had never seen paint before and was amazed by the brightness of all the colours. She had only ever drawn with chalk and chalk only ever came in crumbly white or grey.
This time Leila was not sad when her family could not afford to buy her a present. She felt more grown up now that she was eight. Her father walked all day again to collect strawberries, but because the weather was bad, all the strawberries were mouldy.
Leila’s father was sad that he had not been able to get his daughter anything special. He decided to climb the wall at sunset to see if he could find some cake or strawberries on the cheetahs’ side on the wall. He was very brave.
The tigers and cheetahs on watch saw Leila’s father jump over the wall. They pounced upon him. They cut his flesh with their sharp claws, and bit through his fur with their sharp teeth. Then they dragged him back through the heavy grey gates to the leopard’ side of the wall.
Leila’s father was bleeding badly. He limped back to his den, and Leila and her mother spent the night licking his wounds better. That night, the tigers and grown-up cheetahs prowled through the leopards’ land. They were angry, and they wanted to make sure no leopard ever tried to cross the wall again.
The leopards were scared of the tigers and cheetahs, so they stayed inside their dens and blew out their candle light. The tigers patrolled and growled until the sun rose in the morning. Only then did they return to the cheetahs’ side of the wall.
Leila awoke especially early. She raced up her olive tree, her safe space, and cried and cried. She felt that last night was all her fault.
“Why are you crying?” Charlie asked her.
She told him all about the tigers and the cheetahs hurting the leopards.
“Leila, I want to give you a cuddle but I can’t reach you.” Charlie said. Instead, he stood on the ground beneath her, wondering how he could help.
Charlie’s friends came over to see what the matter was. The other cheetahs saw Leila crying and listened to her story. They said they felt very sorry for her. They said they did not realise that some grown-up cheetahs were so mean. They sent paper aeroplane after paper aeroplane laden with bandages and plasters and medicine for Leila’s father, because there was no hospital or chemist on the leopard side of the wall.
Eventually, the tigers chased the nice cheetah children away, and Leila crawled sadly down her tree to look after her father. When she got home, she discovered her new paints were missing and that made her even more sad.
Leila’s friends knocked on her den door.
“Look, Leila, look! We borrowed your paints and look what we did!”
Her friends dragged Leila to the big, grey wall which was no longer grey. It was alive with purple swirls and multi-coloured flowers; with orange clouds and yellow sunshine.
“We will not let the tigers and the cheetahs make us sad! These colours will give us hope and happiness.”
That night, Leila joined hundreds of leopards at the big, colourful wall. They sat under the glittery stars and held candles and prayed that Leila’s father would get better. They prayed that the cheetahs and tigers would attack them no more. Then they heard singing from across the wall, a beautiful melody carried in the calm wind.
“Where is the music coming from?” Leila’s mother asked. “Leila, climb your olive tree and see!”
When Leila reached the top of her tree she saw rows of cheetahs, stretching as far as her eye could see. They were holding paws and their singing became louder and louder as more and more cheetahs came out of nowhere to join the chain. Behind the cheetahs, the tigers were roaring but the singing was so loud that it drowned the tigers’ anger out. Leila spotted Charlie, bang in the middle. And Charlie saw Leila. He dashed to her and shouted up to the tree,
“My friends and I were so angry about how the tigers hurt you all. We don’t want this wall. This wall is silly. Leopards and cheetahs should be friends again. We told all our families and friends at school. And they told all their families and their friends. And here we all are. BREAK DOWN THE WALL!”
“Break down the wall!” all the cheetahs chanted. “We are all cats! We are all equal!”
Leila waved to her leopard friends. “Come up here!” she cried. One by one, the leopards climbed the olive branches and pounced onto the wall. They stood on top of the wall and held their paws together too, joining in the chanting.
“Break down the wall. We are all cats, spotty or stripy, roaring or purring, big or small. Break down the wall.”
They stood together, their voices in harmony, leopards and cheetahs. Eventually, the horrible, police cheetahs crept away. The tigers lost their voices and stopped roaring. The leopards jumped over the wall in their droves, and the cheetahs clapped and cheered in welcome.
Charlie held up his paw and Leila gave him a high five. The tigers crawled away, back to the land they came from. One hundred white doves were set free and they roamed the skies once more. Charlie took Leila on the glass helter-skelter and they swung through the waterfalls. He gave Leila the cuddle he had wanted to give her on her eighth birthday. It was the best party that Leila had ever had.
And so this day became known as the day when the little cats broke down the wall. Though the tigers and evil cheetahs lashed out with ravaging roars and terrifying talons, it was the sheer numbers of small cats with their small voices who made the impossible possible. It was their bravery and their good hearts which finally brought peace to Callipso Island.
The cats destroyed the wall, but one section of rock remained to remind leopards and cheetahs about the time when they were separated and not allowed to be friends. This part of the wall became a mural as a symbol of freedom and kinship. The cats were allowed to draw and paint whatever they wished upon this free space.
They built a bridge across it, and this bridge was like a handshake between the leopards and the cheetahs; a handshake of unity, a handshake of equality, and a handshake for the hope of a happy future on Callipso Island.
Illustrations by ArtsyBee, Agnali, Marty-Arts and Lextotan at Pixabay, with thanks.
1. How did Charlie Cheetah show himself to be a friend to Leila Leopard?
2. Why do you think the Tigers set up a wall between all the different types of cats?
3. Do you think the cats could love each other while there was a wall between them? Why or why not?