by Joan Hoile

The legend of the Tamel begins in the ancient Mesopotamian world. They stand at the height of six feet, average for an ordinary camel, with a long tan face and a two humped back. However, their legs are a mixture of protective scales and tufts of fur and their humps are covered in tough shells of turtles, that grow as they age.

These animals were born when a camel, neglected by its possessor, was brought to the water by a suffering human. This human had been lost in the desert, scouring the barren sand for sustenance for itself, but when it came upon the beast, its heart had deserted all personal desires and instead filled with compassion and determination to save the creature.

Inch by inch they trudged sluggishly under the continuous sun, together, in hope of finding life. As the sun lowered, scattering its last sparks of orange flame, the wanderers happened on the Great Water. Blue liquid muddled together in a small lake, waving gently at the travelers.The human attempted to exude a mighty exaltation, however it caught in its dry throat. The camel was in a more feeble state. It collapsed onto the sand, exhaustion preventing further progress; the water, a human’s arms reach away. In despair, the human tore at its shawl and the hair on its head. It sat, whispering prayers to a god, to anyone that could hear.

Ea, the creator and protector of humans, watched his creation suffering and seeked to ease the human’s pain. Through the water he sent a turtle from his home in the ocean under the earth. When it surfaced, it carried a lilypad of water over to the human as directed by its master. The human peered down and with a nod of thanks took the water, but poured it on the camel. Ea stared through the eyes of the turtle in disbelief. The turtle returned to the water and retrieved another lilypad of water, yet again the liquid was given to the dying animal. Twice more this occurred, before an astonished Ea travelled through his messenger and appeared before the human.

“Why do you do this?” Ea questioned, as the human drained the remaining water into the camel’s mouth.

“Are you not dying as well?” He cried incredulously. As if in defiance of death, the human took the lilypad and half stumbled- half crawled to the water, where it gathered more to give to the beast. Ea watched its limbs shake under the weight of the lilypad. Ea listened to its breaths become ragged due to exertion. Ea felt each pulse of its heartbeat slow, falter, stop.

Ea stared at the camel, strong enough now for a sitting position. It gazed woefully at its fallen companion, missing its compassion. However, Ea had failed, but he would not again.

"As the human has saved you,” Ea began, somehow gentle as his anger simmered under his skin, “you shall save them.” As the camel looked up at him, he turned to the turtle.

“My faithful servant, you will be with the animal through all endeavors; to be the salvation of water. You will be as steadfast as when you provided for the human. In one form, you both will live in service to the kindness and sacrifice of this human.”

And with these words the animals were fused for eternity, as a wanderer of hope for the lost.