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Authors: Hugh Vernon-Jackson,Yuko Green

African Folk Tales (4 page)

BOOK: African Folk Tales
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A Hunter, when the World began

VERY LONG time ago, in the beginning of the world, there lived a famous hunter. He had killed so many wild animals that he had been given the title, King of All Hunters.

The King of All Hunters had two sons. When one of the sons wished to marry a young girl in the town, the King of All Hunters decided to test the strength and cleverness of this son.

“All the wildest, most savage animals I have killed,” he said to his son, “except one. Go out into the bush. If you are able to kill this one remaining savage creature you will have permission to marry the young girl.”

The young man prepared to go into the bush to hunt the savage creature.

“Remember,” his father warned him, “what you are going to hunt is the most fearful animal in the world: with many mouths; with fire-like eyes; with enormous strength.”

The young man took some food, then took his gun and his knife, called for his three dogs, and went off into the bush. He walked all day, and in the evening caught a hare for his supper. He walked all the next day and the day after that.

At last he came to the hut of an old woman who lived alone. She was outside her hut by a stream, where she was washing cooking-pots. She called out to him.

“I cannot stop,” the young man replied, “for my business is urgent.”

The old woman called to him again that it was very important for him to speak with her. The young man turned and went to see what she wanted.

“Here is food,” said the old woman.

It was good food and the young man enjoyed eating it.

“Here is a calabash,” said the old woman, “please wash it. ”

The young man went to the stream and started to wash the calabash. But as he washed it, it broke. Inside he found an egg, a round smooth stone, and a small broom of palm-raffia.

“You have broken the calabash and I am glad,” said the old woman. “Take with you what you have found inside. In case of danger drop one at a time, first the egg, then the small broom, then the round smooth stone.”

The young man thanked her and went on his way.

The next day the young man reached a dark forest. He entered the forest, and at once his dogs started to bark. To his surprise, the young man suddenly saw the fearful creature which he had set out to hunt. The creature had many mouths, and fire-like eyes, and enormous strength.

The young man aimed his gun and fired, but the fearful creature only looked at him and grew bigger and bigger. The young man made a sign to his dogs to attack the fearful creature, but having looked into the fire-like eyes, their own eyes were blinded. The young man took his knife and ran to attack the fearful creature. They fought all that day, all that night, and all the next day, but at last the young man was victorious and killed the fearful creature.

The young man was glad, for he was now certain to marry the young girl in his town, and also he had destroyed a more fearful creature than any other hunter had done. The young man put the fearful creature on his back and started on his homeward journey. He left the forest and was walking through some woods when it became dark. He lay down to sleep.

The next morning was bright and clear, but as the young man woke up he saw coming towards him another animal, far larger than the fearful creature he had killed, far fiercer, and with far more fiery eyes.

He dropped the egg, and at once, there was a wide lake behind him.

The young man jumped up and started to run, with the wild animal following him. He remembered what the old woman had given him, and he dropped the egg. At once, there was a wide lake behind him, the greatest lake in the world. The wild animal still followed him. He dropped the broom, and at once there was the largest forest in the world behind him. The wild animal still followed. But the young man was nearing his father's house. He dropped the round smooth stone, and at once there stood the highest mountain in the world. But the wild animal still followed.

At last the young man reached his father's house.

“Quick, quick!” he cried to his brother who had been left at home, “open the door for me!”

As the young man ran in and the door was closing after him, the wild animal reached out and seized what he could from the young man's back before the young man escaped. And that is how the young man lost his tail and why no man in the world after that ever had a tail.

Koba, the Hunter who stopped Hunting

HERE WAS once a man called Koba, a hunter. One day he left his house and went off to hunt in a place which was far away.

When Koba reached a certain locust-bean tree, he made his camp under it. Every day he went out hunting, and every night also, resting only for necessity, to eat and to sleep.

One day when he was out hunting he suddenly heard the mighty roar of a lion very close to him. Never had he heard such a roar before. Greatly alarmed, Koba turned and ran as fast as he could towards his camp. He was carrying a bow and some arrows. On the way his bow caught in the low branches of a tree. He pulled but could not release the bow, and he thought it was the lion who had caught it, but he was too frightened to turn his head to look.

“Please, King of Animals,” cried Koba, “let go of my bow. I have not come out to hunt you. You are the king not only of animals but also of human beings who are your Majesty's subjects.”

Koba never turned his head. He waited for an answer from the lion, but as it was branches of a tree holding his bow there was no answer.

“If you are angry with me because of other hunters,” Koba continued, “I promise to tell them no longer to hunt you. If you are too angry to release my bow, keep it. Only let me go free to tell other hunters not to hunt lions.”

Again there was no answer. Koba left his bow and ran on to his camp by the locust-bean tree. Quickly he packed his belongings, and then made the journey back to his house with all possible speed.

“My brothers!” Koba cried when he reached his house and found two of his friends, “I have a terrible story to tell you of my escape from a lion whose roar is greater than any thunder.”

After he told them his story, the two friends said, “Lead us to the place where the lion caught your bow.”

“See, ” said Koba, “the lion must have given my bow to this tree.”

Koba led the two friends all the way back to the place. When they arrived, they saw the bow in the low branches of a tree.

“See,” said Koba, “the lion must have given my bow to this tree in order to return it to me. The lion is not only the king of animals, but he is also the king of trees.”

The two friends said that it was the branches of the tree which had caught the bow, not a lion.

“No, no,” Koba declared. “It was certainly a lion. He pulled the bow and I pulled the bow, but the lion being stronger than me forced me to leave the bow with him.”

From that day onwards, for the rest of his life, Koba never dared go far into the forest or the bush from his home. However much his two friends might laugh, he feared that he would meet a lion, and that the lion would remember his promise to tell all other hunters never to hunt lions again. Koba himself never hunted again: he became a farmer.

A Rich Man and his Goat

N A SMALL town in the north there once lived a rich but foolish man whose name was Abdullahi. This rich and foolish man owned many sheep, many cattle, and many goats, but unfortunately Abdullahi had no sons and no daughters.

One day Abdullahi met the judge of the town.

“Because you have neither sons nor daughters,” the judge of the town said to Abdullahi, “all your sheep, your cattle, and your goats will be given to the chief of the town when you die.”

“Why is that?” Abdullahi asked.

“In this town,” the judge replied, “that is the law.”

Now Abdullahi was very angry when he heard this, because he did not want all his sheep, his cattle, and his many goats to be given to the chief of the town.

“I will sell my animals in the market,” Abdullahi told his friends, “and I shall enjoy the money while I can.”

When three rascals in the town heard what Abdullahi planned to do, they decided to play a trick on him and at the same time gain some advantage for themselves. When they saw Abdullahi go out of the town they greeted him. After greetings they asked where he was going.

“I am going to get one of my fat goats,” Abdullahi told them. “I shall bring it to market and I shall sell it.”

“We will be seeing you on your way back,” the three rascals said.

After Abdullahi had gone, the rascals separated, each going to a different place beside the path where they waited for two hours.

After two hours had passed the first rascal saw Abdullahi on his way back, carrying a fat goat on his shoulder. The first rascal greeted Abdullahi very politely and humbly; then he said, as if he were saying a shameful thing, “It disappoints me, my friend, to see a gentleman like you carrying a pig, which is against our religion, instead of a goat.”

Abdullahi was very surprised. He put his hand to his head.

“You cannot think I am carrying a pig,” he said, and he went on his way.

Abdullahi had not gone far when he saw the second rascal sitting by the side of the path. The rascal was pretending to finger his string of beads and to pray. Abdullahi stopped to ask the pious man for his blessing.

“How can I bless you,” the rascal said, “when you are carrying a pig?”

Abdullahi had not gone far when he saw the second rascal pretending to finger his string of beads and to pray.

Abdullahi rubbed his eyes as if he were trying to see what was the truth. Without a word, but with a much troubled mind, he went on his way.

Abdullahi reached the third rascal, who also had a string of prayer beads in his hand. The rascal stood up when he saw Abdullahi and stepped to one side to show his disapproval.

“You are doing strange things,” he said to Abdullahi, and he spoke with a stern voice. “You told me you were going to get a goat and now you are carrying a pig.”

“Is it really a pig?” the foolish Abdullahi asked, and the rascal told him it was.

“When you reach the market,” said the rascal, “all the townspeople will be horrified that you are carrying a pig.”

This was too much for Abdullahi. He threw down his goat, thinking it was a pig, and ran into the town. He went to the compound of the chief of the town, and as he went he told the townspeople what had happened.

“I am not well,” Abdullahi cried when he and the townspeople came before the chief. He told the chief the story of what had happened.

But the chief and the townspeople understood how the foolish Abdullahi had been tricked out of his goat and they laughed and laughed at Abdullahi's great foolishness.

Meanwhile, the three rascals had caught the goat which Abdullahi had thrown down. They took it to another market and sold it, and then divided the money among themselves.

BOOK: African Folk Tales
13.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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