Tamasha lived with her mother and her two older sisters, Tisha and Tosha, in a village on the beautiful island of Zanzibar. One day Tisha and Tosha asked their mother if they could go down to the beach and play.
“Only if you take your little sister with you,” their mother said sternly.
“But she will slow us down,” grumbled Tosha. “She’s always running off to explore and getting lost.”
“If she doesn’t go, then neither do you,” said their mother.
So off the three sisters went, down the long path to the sea.
“Don’t you go anywhere without us,” Tisha said to Tamasha, as she and Tosha rushed into the waves, laughing and splashing. Tamasha sighed. I would much rather be searching for a tree
to climb, she thought. But instead she paddled at the water’s edge.
As Tamasha waded into the shallow water, a wave carried a beautiful shell, as white as the moon, on to the beach.
“Oh! How beautiful,” said Tamasha. She picked up the shell and put it to her ear. Inside she could hear the soft swoosh of the sea. It sounded like music, so she made up a song to sing along with the sea-sound while she waited for her sisters.
When it was time to go home, Tamasha and her sisters started back up the path.
“Oh no! Wait!” cried Tamasha, when they were halfway home. “I forgot my shell! I must go back and get it.”
“Well, you’ll have to catch us up,” said Tisha with a scowl.
“We won’t wait,” said Tosha, sticking her nose in the air.
But Tamasha wasn’t listening – she was already running back to the beach.
“There you are, lovely shell,” she said, grabbing it from the rock where she had left it. Then she began to sing her song again.
But hiding behind the rock was a wicked Zimwi troll.
“That’s a pretty song, little girl,” he said, jumping out in front of Tamasha.
And, before she knew what was happening, the Zimwi grabbed her and pushed her into a big drum he was carrying.
“You can sing for my supper!” he shouted, pulling the drum-skin tight so that Tamasha was trapped inside.
The Zimwi bent over the drum and banged on the skin again and again. “Whenever I beat the drum like this, you must sing!” he commanded. “Understand?”
Tamasha didn’t want to sing for the troll. But she knew that she wouldn’t be able to escape straight away. So, as he beat the drum, she started to sing, as he had ordered.
“Very good!” said the Zimwi. Then he picked up the drum and off they went.
After a while they came to a village and the Zimwi called out, “Bring me some food and I will play my magical singing drum for you!”
As soon as the villagers had gathered round the fire, the Zimwi started to beat the drum. Tamasha took a deep breath and sang her sweet shell song. The people were amazed and gave the Zimwi as much food as he could eat.
And so each day the Zimwi travelled to a different village, banging his “magical” drum to make Tamasha sing, and every time the villagers gave the greedy Zimwi all the food he could ever wish for.
Sometimes Tamasha changed the words to her song, but the Zimwi didn’t seem to notice.
Then, one day, they came to Tamasha’s own village.
“Bring me some food,” called the Zimwi, “and I will play you my magical drum.”
“I will cook you fish and rice,” a woman replied, and Tamasha realized at once that it was her mother’s voice. She thought quickly. How could she let her mother know she was trapped inside the drum? Then she had an idea.
This time, when the villagers crowded round the fire to hear the Zimwi play, Tamasha changed the words of her song. Now the beautiful tune told the story of a little girl who had found a shell on the beach. When her sisters heard this, they ran to their mother.
“It’s Tamasha!” they cried. “We’ve found her. Tamasha is in the drum!”
Tamasha’s mother couldn’t believe her ears. They had searched and searched for Tamasha ever since Tisha and Tosha had come home without her. And now quick-witted Tamasha was tricking the Zimwi right under his own nose!
But Tamasha’s mother knew she would have to outwit the Zimwi even further to get her daughter back.
Tamasha’s mother marched straight up to the Zimwi.
“If you will go and get some water from the river for us to have with our meal, I will bring you your food.”
Reluctantly, the Zimwi agreed. As soon as he was out of sight, Tamasha’s mother tore back the drum-skin and found her little girl inside. She pulled Tamasha out and hugged her tight. Tisha and Tosha cried with happiness to see their sister.
“We must teach this Zimwi a lesson,” said Tamasha’s mother.
“But how?” asked Tosha.
“I know,” said Tamasha. “Take a burning stick from the fire and follow me.”
She picked up the drum and led her mother and sisters to a rotten tree at the edge of the village.
“Put the burning stick in there,” she said.
And, when they did, the smoke drove a swarm of bees out and right into the drum. Tamasha quickly pulled the drum-skin closed, took the drum back to the fireside and climbed up a nearby tree to hide.
When the Zimwi returned with the water, the villagers asked him to play again before they brought out the food. Proudly, he started to beat his drum. But, to his surprise, it did not sing. He banged harder, but still he heard nothing except a strange buzzing sound.
“Sing, drum!” he shouted.
The villagers began to laugh.
The Zimwi threw the drum on the ground and kicked it. But still it wouldn’t sing, and the villagers laughed louder.
By now the Zimwi was furious. He picked up the drum and stormed off. “I will make you sing if it is the last thing I do, girl,” he snarled, and ripped off the drum-skin.
The bees poured out and surrounded him, stinging him wildly. The Zimwi screamed and ran out of the village,
with the cloud of bees swarming after him.
“You can’t fool us!” Tamasha shouted from the tree, as the Zimwi raced away and the villagers cheered.
The next day, all the children in the village followed brave Tamasha as she went exploring on the beach. They climbed every tree in sight with her, just to hear over and over about how she had tricked the troll.
And as for the Zimwi – he was never seen again!