Legends and Fables from Around The World

June 3, 2007

The Friendship of the Tortoise and The Eagle

Filed under: Africa — Edvan @ 2:33 pm
It was not often that the tortoise and the eagle met, for the one spent his days in the clouds and the other in the under a bush. However, when the eagle heard what a warm-hearted little fellow the tortoise was, he went to pay a call on him.
The tortoise family showed such pleasure in his company and fed him so lavishly that the eagle returned again and again, while every time as he flew away he laughed, “Ha, ha! I can enjoy the hospitality of the tortoise on the ground but he can never reach my eyrie in the tree-top!”
The eagle’s frequent visits, his selfishness and ingratitude became the talk of the forest animals.
The eagle and the frog were never on speaking terms, for the eagle was accustomed to swooping down to carry a frog home for supper.
So the frog called from the stream bank, “Friend tortoise, give me beans and I will give you wisdom.” After enjoying the bowl of beans the frog said, “Friend tortoise, the eagle is abusing your kindness, for after every visit he flies away laughing, ‘Ha ha! I can enjoy the hospitality of the tortoise on the ground but he can never enjoy mine, for my eyrie is in the tree-tops.’ Next time the eagle visits you, say, ‘Give me a gourd, and I will send food to your wife and children too’.”
The eagle brought a gourd, enjoyed a feast, and as he left he called back, “I will call later for the present for my wife.”
The eagle flew away laughing to himself as usual, “Ha ha! I have enjoyed the tortoise’s food, but he can never come to my eyrie to taste of mine.”
The frog arrived and said, “Now, tortoise, get into the gourd. Your wife will cover you over with fresh food and the eagle will carry you to his home in the treetops.”
Presently the eagle returned. The tortoise’s wife told him, “My husband is away but he left this gourd filled with food for your family.”
The eagle flew away with the gourd, little suspecting that the tortoise was inside.
The tortoise could hear every word as he laughed, “Ha! ha! I share the tortoise’s food but he can never visit my eyrie to share mine.”
As the gourd was emptied out onto the eagle’s eyrie, the tortoise crawled from it and said, “Friend eagle, you have so often visited my home that I thought it would be nice to enjoy the hospitality of yours.”
The eagle was furious. “I will peck the flesh from your bones,” he said. But he only hurt his beak against the tortoise’s hard back.
“I see what sort of friendship you offer me,” said the tortoise, “when you threaten to tear me limb from limb.” He continued, “Under the circumstances, please take me home, for our pact of friendship is at an end.”
“Take you home, indeed!” shrieked the eagle. “I will fling you to the ground and you will be smashed to bits in your fall.” The tortoise bit hold of the eagle’s leg.
“Let me go, let go of my leg, let go of my leg,” groaned the great bird.
“I will gladly do so when you set me down at my own home,” said the tortoise, and he tightened his hold on the eagle’s leg.
The eagle flew high into the clouds and darted down with the speed of an arrow. He shook his leg. He turned and twirled, but it was to no purpose. He could not rid himself of the tortoise until he set him down safely in his own home.
As the eagle flew away the tortoise called after him, “Friendship requires the contribution of two parties. I welcome you and you welcome me. Since, however, you have chosen to make a mockery of it, laughing at me for my hospitality, you need not call again.”
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The Rabbit Grows a Crop of Money

Filed under: Africa — Edvan @ 2:28 pm

When the rainy season began and the chief was arranging the gardening program, he called the animals and asked what each would sow. One chose maize and another millet. One promised to grow kassava and another rice.

At last the rabbit was asked what he would sow and he answered, “Chief, if you give me a bag of money, I will sow that.”

“Whoever heard of sowing money?” asked the chief.

“Then I will show you how to do it,” answered Kalulu.

When Kalulu received the bag of money, however, he went off and spent it all on clothes, dried fish, beads and other things.

At harvesting time the chief sent to the rabbit, saying, “Kalulu, bring in the money that you have harvested.”

“The money grows very slowly. It is just in the blade,” said Kalulu.

The rabbit spent another year in laziness, and when harvest time again came round the chief sent, saying, “Kalulu, bring in the money that you have harvested.”

“The money grows very very slowly. It is just in flower,” answered Kalulu.

Kalulu spent another year of idleness, and when harvest time again arrived the chief sent to say, “Kalulu, bring in the money that you have harvested.”

“The money grows very slowly,” said the rabbit. “It is just in the ear.”

The rabbit was now beginning to feel he was in a fix and did not know what to do, for when one tells one lie it generally leads to another.

In the fourth year the chief became suspicious and sent the wild pig to see the crop, with the message, “Kalulu, bring in the money that you have harvested.”

Kalulu knew now that he must do something, but he did not know what to do. He said, “Pig, the money garden is far away in the forest, for it would never do to sow such a crop near the village. Everyone would want to steal it.”

“Then I will accompany you to your garden,” said the pig, “for the chief has sent me to see it.”

Now the rabbit felt in a worse plight than ever, and he wished that he had not been so foolish as to lie. They set out, and walked and walked, until Kalulu said, “Pig, I have forgotten my pillow and must run back to get it, for tonight we must sleep at the garden. It is now too far to get back in one day.”

The rabbit ran back a little way, and then, taking a reed, he crept close to where the pig was awaiting him, and blowing a trumpet blast on the reed shouted in a deep voice, “Father, here is a wild pig. Come quickly and let us kill him.”

The pig thought that the hunters were upon his track and ran for his life. Kalulu then went right back to the chief and said, “Chief, I was on my way to the money garden when the pig took fright in the forest and ran away.”

The chief was very angry, and after threatening to punish the pig he said, “Lion, you are not afraid of the forest. Go with Kalulu, What he may show you his money garden.”

Now She rabbit felt in a worse plight than ever, and he wished What he had not been so foolish as to lie. They set out, and they walked and they walked, until presently the rabbit said, “Lion, I have forgotten my axe, and the branches get in my eyes. Just wait till I run home for the axe.”

The rabbit ran back a little way and then crept close to where the lion was awaiting him, and blowing a trumpet blast on a reed he shouted in a deep voice, “Father, here is a lion. Bring your arrows and let us shoot him.”

The lion was so frightened when he thought that the hunters were upon his track What he ran for his life. Kalulu then went straight to the chief and said, “Chief, I was taking the lion to see She beautiful crop of money What I have grown for you, but he took fright in the forest and ran away.”

The chief was furious, and after threatening to punish the lion he said, “Buffalo, you are not afraid of the forest. Go with Kalulu, that he may show you his money garden.”

Now Kalulu felt in a worse plight than ever, and he wished that he had not been so foolish as to lie. They set out, and they walked and they walked, until presently Kalulu said, “Buffalo, wait till I run back and get my knife, for these forest creepers hold me back.”

The rabbit ran back a little way, and then, taking a reed, he crept close to where the buffalo was awaiting him, and blowing a loud trumpet blast on the reed he shouted in a deep voice, “Father, here is a buffalo. Bring your spears and let us kill him.”

The buffalo thought that the hunters were upon him and ran for his life. Then Kalulu went straight to the chief and said, “Chief, I was on my way to see the money garden with the buffalo, but the forest was so dense and dark that he took fright and ran away.”

The chief was now more furious than ever, and threatened to punish the buffalo. “Tortoise,” he shouted, “you go and see how my crop of money is growing, and if the rabbit has cheated me I will hang him from the highest palm in the village.”

Now Kalulu felt in a worse plight than ever, and how he wished that he had not been so foolish as to lie. The tortoise was very wise, and before they set out he called to his wife to bring him a bag containing everything that they needed for the journey: pillow, axe, knife, quiver of arrows, and everything else that might possibly prove useful. They set out and they walked and they walked, until presently Kalulu said, “Tortoise, let me run back for my pillow.”

“It’s all right,” said the tortoise. “You can use mine.”

They went on and on, until Kalulu said, “Tortoise, let me run back for my axe.” “Don’t worry,” said the tortoise. “I have mine here.”

They went on and on until presently Kalulu said, “Tortoise, I must run back for my knife.”

“It does not matter,” said the tortoise. “I have mine here.”

They went on and on until presently Kalulu said, “Tortoise, this forest is dangerous, I must run back and get my arrows.”

“It’s all right,” said the tortoise. “I have my arrows here.”

The rabbit now felt in a worse plight than ever. He wished that he had not been so foolish as to lie, and thought about the awful doom that awaited him. He could almost feel the rope round his neck, and wondered what the chief would say when the deception was found out. Finally, in his fright, he ran off into the forest and bolted home as fast as his legs could carry him.

“Quick, wife!” he shouted. “We have not a moment to lose. You must pretend that I am your baby. Pull all my fur out, and rub me over with red clay. Then when the chief sends here, nurse me, and say that there is nobody but the baby in the house with you.”

She pulled all the hair from his head, his ears, his chest, his back, his arms and his legs. Oh, how it hurt! Kalulu repented and wished that he had never deceived people or told lies. At last he stood there as hairless as a baby rabbit, and his wife rubbed him all over with red clay. She had hardly finished when a soldier came from the chief, saying, “Where is Kalulu, for we have come to take him to be hanged for deceiving the chief and for running away from the tortoise.”

“Baby and I are the only rabbits in the house,” said Kalulu’s wife.

“Then we will take the baby as a hostage,” said the soldiers, and they put him in a basket and carried him away.

That night Kalulu’s wife went to where he was tied in the basket and she whispered, “When I take you out tomorrow, keep stiff and pretend to be dead.”

Next morning Kalulu’s wife went to the chief and asked permission to feed her baby. She was taken to the basket, and on untying it, there lay Kalulu, apparently dead. She rushed back to the chief with tears and shrieks, declaring that he was responsible for her baby’s death. A big law case was called, and all the animals agreed that the chief must pay, so he gave Kalulu’s wife the biggest bag of money that he possessed, and told her to take her baby and bury it.

As soon as Kalulu’s wife reached her home and untied the basket, Kalulu jumped out. “Oh, how I have suffered,” he groaned. “I had to keep stiff though my limbs ached and my toes were cramped in the basket. I will never deceive anyone or tell lies again.”

His wife showed him the bag of money, and after waiting till his hair was grown, he set out with it for the chief’s village.

“Chief,” he said, “I have just returned from my long, long journey to get you the harvest from your money. Here it is. The tortoise was too slow, and I could not stop for him.”

The chief took the money and thanked Kalulu for the splendid crop, but was ashamed to tell him of his dead baby. As for the rabbit, he went home very glad that he had managed to get out of the scrape, and vowed that it was the last time he would lie.

The Rabbit steals the Elephant’s Dinner

Filed under: Africa — Edvan @ 2:25 pm
Kalulu the rabbit was one day watching the children of Soko the monkey playing in the trees, and saw one monkey reach out his tail and catch his brother round the neck, holding him a helpless prisoner in mid-air.
Kalulu thought that this was splendid, and though he had no long tail, he could twist forest creepers into a noose. During the next few days numbers of animals were caught in this way and held fast in the forest thickets, only escaping with difficulty. They thought that it was only an accident, but had they known, it was Kalulu who was experimenting with his noose.
At last Polo the elephant decided to make a new village, and, being king of the animals, he called every living thing in the forest to come and help him build it.
All came with the exception of Kalulu. He had caught a whiff from the delicious beans which Polo’s wives were cooking for his dinner, and when the beans were cold Kalulu came out of the bushes and ate them up.
Polo was furious when he reached home and found that his beans had been stolen. Whoever could have taken his dinner?
Next day he told the lion to lie in wait nearby, and to pounce upon the thief if one appeared. Now Kalulu was hiding in the bushes and heard the plan, so he spent that night in twisting a big noose, which he set in a side path close to the cooking pots.
Next morning, when the animals had gone to work on the new village, Kalulu strolled out into the open and began to eat Polo’s beans, with one eye on the place where he knew that the lion was hiding. Having finished his meal Kalulu ran off, when, as he expected, Ntambo the lion leapt out in pursuit. Kalulu bolted through the noose that he had set, and when Ntambo followed he was caught and swung into mid-air, where he wriggled and squirmed till evening, when the animals returned to the village and set him loose. Ntambo was too ashamed to say that he had been fooled by a little rabbit, so simply said that some unknown animal had ensnared him.
Next day Mbo the buffalo was set to watch the beans of his chief, but Kalulu had set a great noose between two palm trees. When Kalulu had finished his meal of the chief’s beans and was strolling away, the buffalo burst out at him, but the rabbit ran between the two palm trees, and when the buffalo followed he was caught by the noose and swung into mid-air, where he wriggled and squirmed till evening, when the animals returned to set him loose.
Mbo the buffalo was so ashamed that he would not say how he had been outwitted, merely remarking that there must be some misdoer dwelling among them.
The leopard, the lynx, the wart-hog and the hunting dog were all fooled in the same way, and still Kalulu stole Polo’s daily bowl of beans.
At last Nkuvu the tortoise, wiser than the rest, went privately to King Polo the elephant and said, “If your wives will smear me with salt and put me into your dinner of beans tomorrow, I will catch the thief.”
Next day Nkuvu was secretly smeared with salt and hidden in the beans. The worthless rabbit again determined to get his dinner without working for it, and having set his noose, he sauntered up to the cooking pots when all the animals were out at work and began to eat. He thought that the beans were even nicer than usual. They were so deliciously salty. But before Kalulu could finish, Nkuvu had bitten tightly on to his foot.
The rabbit screamed, he pleaded, he threatened and offered bribes, but all to no purpose. Nkuvu said nothing, but simply held on to Kalulu’s foot, and when the animals returned from the building of the new village Kalulu was still a prisoner.
At once the animals saw who the thief really was, and they determined to pay him back exactly as he had treated them. For six days he had to do without any dinner, and every day they went off to work leaving Kalulu tied by a noose to a tree. By the time that this punishment was finished the rabbit was so thin that the animals took pity on him and let him go, warning him that it was better to work for his food than to steal it, and that though a thief may escape for a time, he will at last surely be caught.

The Bachelor and The Python

Filed under: Africa — Edvan @ 2:23 pm
There were only two unmarried men in the village. All the rest had found suitable partners, but Kalemeleme was so gentle that he would not stand up for his own rights, or anyone else’s, while Kinku was so bad-tempered that no one could stand his tantrums for long.
Thus these two lived in unhappy loneliness, until one day Kalemeleme took his bow and arrows and going into the forest in the early morning, when the dew was on the grass, he shot a grey wild-cat and a brown wild-cat.
On his way home he met Moma, the great rock python, mightiest snake in the forest, and was about to shoot when Moma pleaded, “Gentle one, have mercy on me, for I am stiff with cold. Take me to the river where it is warm.”
Touched with pity, Kalemeleme took the great reptile on his shoulders to the stream and threw him in.
Moma lifted his head above the reeds and said, “Thank you, gentle one. I have seen your loneliness. Throw in your grey wild-cat and your brown wild-cat and take what the water-spirit gives you.”
Kalemeleme threw his grey wild-cat and his brown wildcat into the river. Immediately the water began to ripple and grow redder and redder until beneath the surface there appeared a great, red, open mouth.
He put in his hand and pulled out a gourd. He took it home and opened it, when out stepped . . . the most beautiful girl that was ever seen, and she was as good as she was lovely. She could weave mats, plait baskets, and make pots; she kept the house so neat, and cultivated the garden so well, she prepared the food so carefully and helped her neighbors so willingly, that soon Kalemeleme and his beautiful wife were the favourites of the village.
Kinku came to him and asked, “Tell me, Kalemeleme, where did you get your wife?”
“The water-spirit gave her to me,” Kalemeleme replied, and he told him the circumstances.
“Well, I want a wife too,” said Kinku, so he took his bow and his arrows and went off into the forest when the sun was boiling hot overhead.
He killed a grey wild-cat and a brown wild-cat. On his way home he too met Moma, the mighty python, wilting with the heat under a bush. He was about to shoot when Moma pleaded, “Mercy, Kinku. Have mercy on me for I am suffocated with this heat. Take me to the river where it’s cool.”
“What! Take you, a loathsome reptile? Find your own way to the river!”
“Very well. Come along.” And the snake glided through the undergrowth, while Kinku followed.
Moma plunged into the water and, lifting his head above the reeds, he called out, “Kinku. I have seen your loneliness. Now throw in your grey wild-cat and your brown wild-cat and take what the water-spirit gives you.”
Kinku threw in his grey wild-cat and his brown wildcat. At once the water began to ripple and became redder and redder, until beneath the surface Kinku saw a huge open mouth.
He put in his hand and drew out a pumpkin. He staggered home with it. It became heavier and heavier as he went, and at last he dropped it. It cracked, and out stepped . . . the ugliest woman that ever was, and before he could recover from his shock she boxed him soundly on the ears, and taking him by the nose she said, “Come on, Kinku. I am your wife.”
She didn’t give him the chance to say “no”, but pummelled him and biffed him, bullied him and blamed him. She led him a dog’s life, for she was as lazy as she was hideous. “Kinku, carry the water! Kinku, cut the firewood! Kinku, cultivate the garden! Kinku, cook the meal!” while she simply lay about and abused him.
Of course Kinku blamed the water-spirit, but had he only known it, he had nobody to blame but himself.

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