Once upon a time, there was a little squirrel named Rudy. He was lost all alone in the forest. He was sitting under a tree thinking of his mother’s words: Rudy, always stay close by. Don’t run too far away.
Rudy remembered playing hide-and-seek with his siblings in the high treetops. He smiled thinking about how they had chased each other and raced to see who would get to the top of the tree first.
Most days, once they were quite exhausted, their mother would call them all together and they would gather in a big fork in the tree which served as their nest.
It was very cozy and soft. It was nicely padded with moss and leaves and there were always lots of goodies. Together they ate delicious nuts, mushrooms, fruit, and berries.
Each new day, their mother would remind them: “Don’t run too far away from the nest! A large hawk is lurking nearby. He is just waiting to snatch one of you to prepare a scrumptious meal for himself.”
But Rudy, the youngest and smallest squirrel, was not afraid of the hawk at all and did not listen to his mother’s warnings. Which is how he had ended up especially far away from the nest this warm autumn day.
He had only wanted to explore the forest on his own. He had jumped from one branch to the other, climbed from one treetop to the next, and had not stopped until his stomach growled. Only then had he slowed down and noticed it was getting dark. He had looked around, but could no longer tell the way home. All the trees looked the same.
Rudy was scared and terribly lonely. He called very loudly for his mother, but there was no answer. Now he sat under the tree not knowing what to do.
Then he heard something rustling in the leaves. He ran to see what was making the noise and saw a big, old hedgehog making his way through the undergrowth.
He was carrying a juicy, somewhat rotten apple on his back. Rudy knew this hedgehog. He was very old and somewhat forgetful.
“Good day, Mr. Hedgehog,” said Rudy. “I’m lost. Do you know how I can find my way home?”
“I can’t tell you the way home,” he replied. “But you are welcome to come with me and we can go ask the wise owl for advice. She lives in my neighborhood and gets around a lot in the forest. Maybe she knows the way to your family.”
Rudy was relieved. At least he was no longer alone.
When they found the wise owl, she said she would have liked to show Rudy the way home, but she didn’t know it either.
So she sent them to a nice mouse family. “Maybe they can help you!”
When they arrived at the mouse family, Rudy again asked for the way home. Everyone pricked up their ears but no one knew Rudy’s family.
The mice sent them on to the clever fox. He knew his way around the forest very well but didn’t have the answer either.
“I know many animals in the forest,” he said. “But I haven’t met your family!”
Just then, a porcupine passed by the fox’s den and overheard their conversation.
“Hey!” the porcupine called out. “I think I know the way! When I was looking for acorns, I heard a mother squirrel calling for her baby. I could lead you there!”
Rudy wanted to go right away. All the animals felt sorry for the young squirrel, and decided to go with him. So they set off.
The owl flew ahead, the fox sniffed along the path, the mice rustled wildly through the leaves, the hedgehog followed, and the porcupine gave directions.
The fox spotted the hawk and Rudy remembered his mother’s warnings. He knew he must be close now. He still wasn’t afraid of the hawk, especially now that he had so many friends watching over him.
When Rudy heard his mother’s voice, he ran ahead and straight into her arms. He felt happier and safer than ever before. He knew he’d never run so far away from the nest again.
Rudy’s mother thanked their new friends for bringing her family together again.
All the animals rejoiced with the squirrel family and then started to make their own ways home.
Rudy’s mother listened to his story and explained that he had made the right choice to follow the hedgehog because he knew him. She also reminded him that he must not simply trust any animal in the forest.