Pretty Rita

By Sandra Siemens, Amanda Mijangos


Alejo Avila Huidobro


This tale is based on a true story. To stop the Javan rhinoceros going extinct, people decided to take a desperate but effective step: to cut off their horns and remove the object of their hunters’ greed.
Rita is a rhino who’s had her horn cut off. And she isn’t happy about it. The story is told by Bufágido, a little bird who runs along Rita’s back picking off the bugs that gather there. It begins like this:

I have chestnut-brown feathers and a white breast.
My real name is Bufágido, but Rita
calls me Budo.
Rita’s feeling sad.
I’ve been rehearsing the words
to tell her since the morning, but it’s no use. Every time I try,
I get all nervy and start stammering.

What’s happening to Bufágido – Budo – isn’t hard to understand: he’s hopelessly in love with Rita. And she… hasn’t even realised. Rita’s sad because her horn’s been cut off. He does his best:

From morning
to night I run around her back and keep it
spotless. No grubs, no flies, no ticks.

But it isn’t enough to make Rita’s sadness to go away:

Though she doesn’t know it, my little heart
is bursting with love for hers.

But for all the difficulties that crop up right from the beginning, this is a typical love story with a happy ending. Rita finds her partner. Dok is a rhino who, like her, has had his horn cut off to save his life. And Bufo finds a companion in the beautiful little bird who cleans Dok’s back. It was love at first sight:

She has chestnut-brown feathers and a white breast.
Nibbling a tick, she cocks her head and gives me a look out of
the corner of her yellow eyes that takes my breath away.
Then she snuggles down between Dok’s ears,
gives an exhausted sigh with her red beak and says to me:
‘Tomorrow will be another day.
I’m afraid I’ll stammer, but
miraculously the words come out all in one rush.
‘Yes,’ I say, ruffling my white feathers.
‘Tomorrow everything will be perfect.’