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Today we start a 6 week mini-series of folklore and stories from Africa.
HUNGER and want forced Monkey one day to forsake his land and to seek elsewhere among strangers for much-needed work. Bulbs, earth beans, scorpions, insects, and such things were completely exhausted in his own land. But fortunately he received, for the time being, shelter with a great uncle of his, Orang Outang, who lived in another part of the country.
When he had worked for quite a while he wanted to return home, and as recompense his great uncle gave him a fiddle and a bow and arrow and told him that with the bow and arrow he could hit and kill anything he desired, and with the fiddle he could force anything to dance.
The first he met upon his return to his own land was (Brer) Hyena. This old fellow told him all the news and also that he had since early morning been attempting to stalk a deer, but all in vain.
Then Monkey laid before him all the wonders of the bow and arrow that he carried on his back and assured him if he could but see the deer he would bring it down for him. When Hyena showed him the deer, Monkey was ready and down fell the deer.
They made a good meal together, but instead of Hyena being thankful, jealousy overmastered him and he begged for the bow and arrow. When Monkey refused to give it to him, he thereupon began to threaten him with his greater strength, and so when Jackal passed by, Hyena told him that Monkey had stolen his bow and arrow. After Jackal had heard both of them, he declared himself unqualified to settle the case alone, and he proposed that they bring the matter to the court of Lion, Leopard, and the other animals. In the meantime he declared he would take possession of what had been the cause of their quarrel, so that it would be safe, as he said. But he immediately brought to earth all that was eatable, so there was a long time of slaughter before Monkey and Hyena agreed to have the affair in court.
Monkey’s evidence was weak, and to make it worse, Jackal’s testimony was against him. Jackal thought that in this way it would be easier to obtain the bow and arrow from Hyena for himself.
And so fell the sentence against Monkey. Theft was looked upon as a great wrong; he must hang.
The fiddle was still at his side, and he received as a last favour from the court the right to play a tune on it.
He was a master player of his time, and in addition to this came the wonderful power of his charmed fiddle. Thus, when he struck the first note of “Cockcrow” upon it, the court began at once to show an unusual and spontaneous liveliness, and before he came to the first waltzing turn of the old tune the whole court was dancing like a whirlwind.
Over and over, quicker and quicker, sounded the tune of “Cockcrow” on the charmed fiddle, until some of the dancers, exhausted, fell down, although still keeping their feet in motion. But Monkey, musician as he was, heard and saw nothing of what had happened around him. With his head
placed lovingly against the instrument, and his eyes half closed, he played on, keeping time ever with his foot.
Hyena was the first to cry out in pleading tones breathlessly, “Please stop, Cousin Monkey! For love’s sake, please stop!”
But Monkey did not even hear him. Over and over sounded the resistless waltz of “Cockcrow.”
After a while Lion showed signs of fatigue, and when he had gone the round once more with his young lion wife, he growled as he passed Monkey, “My whole kingdom is yours, ape, if you just stop playing.”
“I do not want it,” answered Monkey, “but withdraw the sentence and give me my bow and arrow, and you, Hyena, acknowledge that you stole it from me.”
“I acknowledge, I acknowledge!” cried Hyena, while Lion cried, at the same instant, that he withdrew the sentence.
Monkey gave them just a few more turns of the “Cockcrow,” gathered up his bow and arrow, and seated himself high up in the nearest camel thorn tree.
The court and other animals were so afraid that he might begin again that they hastily disbanded to new parts of the world.
From: South African Folktales
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Sell the Folklore, Fairy Tales, Myths and Legends from the Abela Catalogue and earn yourself 10% of the RRP for every Abela book sold.
Use a captive audience – arrange to read these free stories weekly at local primary schools letting all know that these stories are old, forgotten and out of print Folklore, Fairy Tales, Myths and Legends from the Abela Catalogue and are for sale.
Titles are being are added all the time!
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PASS IT ON
We have made these stories freely available to you and we ask you to please make these booklets freely available friends, parents, teachers and storytellers whom you may know. So, pass them on!
This is a story about an alliance. A story, a story. Let it go, let it come.
Once Upon A Time a chief begat a beautiful daughter; she had no equal in the town. And he said, ‘He who hoes on the day the people come together and whose area hoed surpasses everyone else’s he marries the chief’s daughter. So on the day the chief calls his neighbours to hoe (gayaa), let them come (the suitors) and hoe for him. But he who hoes and surpasses every one else, to him a wife.’
Now of a truth the chameleon had heard (about this) for a long time past, (and) he came along. He was eating hoeing medicine. Now when the day of the hoeing came round the chameleon was at home. He did not come out until those hoeing were at work and were far away; then the chameleon came. When he struck one blow on the ground with the hoe, then he climbed on the hoe and sat down, and the hoe started to hoe, and fairly flew until it had done as much as the hoers. It passed them, and reached the boundary of the furrow.
The chameleon got off, sat down, and rested, and later on the (other) hoers got to where he was. Then the chief would not consent, but now (said) he who ran and passed every one, he should marry his daughter. Then the hartebeest said he surpassed everyone in running. So they had a race. But the chameleon turned into a needle; he leaped (and) stuck fast to the tail of the hartebeest, and the hartebeest ran until he passed every one, until he came to the entrance of the house of the chief.
He passed it.
Then the chameleon let go the hartebeest’s tail; of a truth the chameleon had seen the maiden. So he embraced her, and when the hartebeest came along he met the chameleon embracing the girl. Thereupon the hartebeest began to shed tears, and that was the origin of what you see like tears in a hartebeest’s eyes. From that day he has wept and not dried his tears.
Off with the rat’s head!
Once upon a time, the Ojibways were a great nation whom the fairies loved. Their land was the home of many spirits, and as long as they lived on the shores of the great lakes the woods in that country were full of fairies. Some of them dwelt in the moss at the roots or on the trunks of trees. Others hid beneath the mushrooms and toadstools. Some changed themselves into bright-winged butterflies or tinier insects with shining wings. This they did that they might be near the children they loved and play with them where they could see and be seen.
But there were also evil spirits in the land. These burrowed in the ground, gnawed at the roots of the loveliest flowers and destroyed them. They breathed upon the corn and blighted it. They listened whenever they heard men talking, and carried the news to those with whom it would make most mischief. It is because of these wicked fairies that the Indian must be silent in the woods and must not whisper confidences in the camp unless he is sure the spirits are fast asleep under the white blanket of the snow.
The Ojibways looked well after the interests of the good spirits. They shielded the flowers and stepped carefully aside when moss or flower was in their path. They brushed no moss from the trees, and they never snared the sunbeams, for on them thousands of fairies came down from the sky. When the chase was over they sat in the doorways of their wigwams smoking, and as they watched the blue circles drift and fade into the darkness of the evening, they listened to the voices of the fairies and the insects’ hum and the thousand tiny noises that night always brings.
One night as they were listening they saw a bright light shining in the top of the tallest trees. It was a star brighter than all the others, and it seemed very near the earth. When they went close to the tree they found that it was really caught in the topmost branches.
The wise men of the tribe were summoned and for three nights they sat about the council fire, but they came to no conclusion about the beautiful star. At last one of the young warriors went to them and told them that the truth had come to him in a dream.
While asleep the west wind had lifted the curtains of his wigwam and the light of the star fell full upon him. Suddenly a beautiful maiden stood at his side. She smiled upon him, and as he gazed speechless she told him that her home was in the star and that in wandering over all the earth she had seen no land so fair as the land of the Ojibways. Its flowers, its sweet-voiced birds, its rivers, its beautiful lakes, the mountains clothed in green, these had charmed her, and she wished to be no more a wanderer. If they would welcome her she would make her home among them, and she asked them to choose a place in which she might dwell.
The council were greatly pleased; but they could not agree upon what was best to offer the Star Maiden, so they decided to ask her to choose for herself. She searched first among the flowers of the prairie. There she found the fairies’ ring, where the little spirits danced on moonlight nights. “Here,” thought she, “I will rest.” But as she swung herself backwards and forwards on the stem of a lovely blossom, she heard a terrible noise and fled in great fear. A vast herd of buffaloes came and took possession of the fairies’ ring, where they rolled over one another, and bellowed so they could be heard far on the trail. No gentle star maiden could choose such a resting-place.
She next sought the mountain rose. It was cool and pleasant, the moss was soft to her dainty feet, and she could talk to the spirits she loved, whose homes were in the stars. But the mountain was steep, and huge rocks hid from her view the nation that she loved.
She was almost in despair, when one day as she looked down from the edge of the wild rose leaf she saw a white flower with a heart of gold shining on the waters of the lake below her. As she looked a canoe steered by the young warrior who had told her wishes to his people, shot past, and his strong, brown hand brushed the edge of the flower.
“That is the home for me,” she cried, and half-skipping, half flying down the side of the mountain, she quickly made her way to the flower and hid herself in its bosom. There she could watch the stars as well as when she looked upward from the cup of the mountain rose; there she could talk to the star spirits, for they bathed in the clear lake; and best of all, there she could watch the people whom she loved, for their canoes were always upon the water.
Once upon a time there lived a man of learning and wealth who had an only son, named Hanina. To this son, who was grown up and married, he sent a messenger asking that he should immediately come to his father. Hanina obeyed, and found both his father and mother lying ill.
“Know, my son,” said the old man, “we are about to die. Grieve not, for it has been so ordained. We have been companions through life, and we are to be privileged to leave this world together. You will mourn for us the customary seven days. They will end on the eve of the festival of the Passover. On that day go forth into the market place and purchase the first thing offered to thee, no matter what it is, or what the cost that may be demanded. It will in due course bring thee good fortune. Hearken unto my words, my son, and all will be well.”
Hanina promised obedience to this strange injunction of his father, and events fell out in accordance with the old man’s prediction. The aged couple died on the same day, were buried together and after the week of mourning, on the day preceding the Passover festival, Hanina made his way to the market place wondering what adventure was in store for him. He had scarcely entered the market place, where all manner of wares were displayed, when an old man approached him, carrying a silver casket of curious design.
“Purchase this, my son,” he said, “and it will bring thee good fortune.”
“What does it contain?” asked Hanina.
“That I may not inform thee,” was the reply. “Indeed I cannot, for I know not. Only the purchaser can open it at the feast which begins the Passover.”
Naturally, Hanina was impressed by these words. Matters were shaping just as his father foretold.
“What is the price?” he asked.
“A thousand gold pieces.”
That was an enormous sum, nearly the whole that he possessed, but Hanina, remembering his vow, paid the money and took the casket home. It was placed upon the table that night when the Passover festival began. On being opened it was found to contain a smaller casket. This was opened and out sprang a frog.
Hanina’s wife was sorely disappointed, but she gave food to the frog which devoured everything greedily. So much did the creature eat that when the Passover had ended, in eight days it had grown to an enormous size. Hanina built a cabinet for his strange possession, but it continued to grow and soon required a special shed.
Hanina was seriously puzzled, for the frog ate so ravenously that he and his wife had little food for themselves. But they made no complaint, although their hardships increased daily. They were compelled to dispose of almost everything they possessed to keep the frog supplied with food, and at last they were left in a state of abject poverty. Then only did the courage of Hanina’s wife give way and she began to cry.
To her astonishment, the frog, which was now bigger than a man, spoke to her.
“Listen to me, wife of the faithful Hanina,” it said. “Ye have treated me well. Therefore, ask of me what ye will, and I shall carry out your wishes.”
“Give us food,” sobbed the woman.
“It is there,” said the frog, and at that very moment there was a knock at the door and a huge basket of food was delivered.
Hanina had not yet spoken, and the frog asked him to name his desire.
“A frog that speaks and performs wonders must be wise and learned,” said Hanina. “I wish that thou shouldst teach me the lore of men.”
The frog agreed, and his method of teaching was exceedingly strange. He wrote out the Law and the seventy known languages on strips of paper. These he ordered Hanina to swallow. Hanina did so and became acquainted with everything, even the language of the beasts and the birds. All men regarded him as the most learned sage of his time.
One day the frog spoke again.”The day has arrived,” he said, “when I must repay you for all the kindness you have shown me. Your reward shall be great. Come with me to the woods and you shall see marvels performed.”
Hanina and his wife followed the giant frog to the woods very early one morning, and a comical figure it presented as it hobbled along. Arrived at the woods, the frog cried out, in its croaking voice:
“Come to me all ye inhabitants of the trees, the caves and streams, and do my bidding. Bring precious stones from the depths of the earth and roots and herbs.”
Then began the queerest procession. Hundreds upon hundreds of birds came twittering through the trees; thousands upon thousands of insects came crawling from holes in the ground; and all the animals in the woods, from the tiniest to the monsters, came in answer to the call of the frog. Each group brought some gift and laid it at the feet of Hanina and his wife who stood in some alarm. Soon a great pile of precious stones and herbs was heaped before them.
“All these belong to you,” said the frog, pointing to the jewels. “Of equal worth are the herbs and the roots with which ye can cure all diseases. Because ye obeyed the wishes of the dying and did not question me, ye are now rewarded.”
Hanina and his wife thanked the frog and then the former said: “May we not know who thou art?”
“Yes,” replied the frog. “I am the fairy son of Adam, gifted with the power of assuming any form. Farewell.”
With these words, the frog began to grow smaller and smaller until it was the size of an ordinary frog. Then it hopped into a stream and disappeared and all the denizens of the woods returned to their haunts.
Hanina and his wife made their way home with their treasures. They became famous for their wealth, their wisdom and their charity, and lived in happiness with all peoples for many, many years.
Once Upon A Time there was once a happy king. Great or small, maid or man, every one was happy in his kingdom, everyone was joyful and glad.
Once this monarch saw a vision. In his dream there hung from the ceiling in his house a fox suspended by the tail. He awoke, he could not see what the dream signified. He assembled his
viziers, but they also could not divine what this dream presaged.
Then he said: Assemble all my kingdom together, perhaps some one may interpret it.’ On the third day all the people of his kingdom assembled in the king’s palace. Among others came a poor peasant.
In one place he had to travel along a footpath. The path on both sides was shut in by rocky mountains. When the peasant arrived there, he saw a serpent lying on the path, stretching its neck and putting out its tongue.
When the peasant went near, the serpent called out: ‘Good day, where art thou going, peasant?’ The peasant told what was the matter. The serpent said:
‘Do not fear him, give me thy word that what the king gives, thou wilt share with me, and I will
The peasant rejoiced, gave his word, and swore, saying: ‘I will bring thee all that the king presents to me if thou wilt aid me in this matter.’
The serpent said: ‘I shall divide it in halves, half will be thine; when thou seest the king, say: “The fox meant this, that in the kingdom there is cunning, hypocrisy, and treachery.”‘
The peasant went, he approached the king, and told even what the serpent had taught. The king was very much pleased, and gave great presents. The peasant did not return by that way, so
that he might not share with the serpent, but went by another path.
Some time passed by, the king saw another vision: in his dream a naked sword hung suspended from the roof. The king this time sent a man quickly for the peasant, and asked him to come.
The peasant was very uneasy in mind. There was nothing for it, the peasant went by the same footpath as before.
He came to that place where he saw the serpent before, but now he saw the serpent there no more. He cried out: ‘O serpent, come here one moment, I need thee.’
He ceased not until the serpent came. It said: ‘What dost thou want? what distresses thee?’ The
peasant answered: ‘Thus and thus is the matter, and I should like some aid.’ The serpent replied: ‘Go, tell the king that the naked sword means war–now enemies are intriguing within and without; he must prepare for battle and attack.’
The peasant thanked the serpent and went. He came and told the king even as the serpent had commanded. The king was pleased, he began to prepare for war, and gave the peasant great
presents. Now the peasant went by that path where the serpent was waiting. The serpent said: ‘Now give me the half thou hast promised.’
The peasant replied: ‘Half, certainly not! I shall give thee a black stone and a burning cinder.’ He drew out his sword and pursued it. The serpent retreated into a hole, but the peasant followed it, and cut off its tail with his sword.
Some time passed, and the king again saw a vision. In this vision a slain sheep was hanging from the roof. The king sent a man quickly for the peasant. The peasant was now very much
afraid. And he said: ‘How can I approach the king?’ Formerly the serpent had taught him, but now it could no longer do this; for its goodness he had wounded it with the sword.Nevertheless, he went by that footpath. When he came to the place where the serpent had been, he cried out: ‘O serpent, come here one moment, I want to ask thee something.’
The serpent came. The man told his grief. The serpent said: ‘If thou givest me half of what the king gives thee, I shall tell thee.’
He promised and swore. The serpent said: ‘This is a sign that now everywhere peace falls on all, the people are become like quiet, gentle sheep.’
The peasant thanked it, and went his way. When he came to the king, he spoke as the serpent had instructed him. The king was exceedingly pleased, and gave him greater presents. The peasant returned by the way where the serpent was waiting. He came to the serpent, divided everything he had received from the king, and said: ‘Thou hast been patient with me, and now I will give thee even what was given me before by the king.’
He humbly asked forgiveness for his former offences. The serpent said: ‘Be not grieved nor troubled; it certainly was not thy fault. The first time, when all the people were entirely deceitful, and there was treachery and hypocrisy in the land, thou too wert a deceiver, for, in spite of thy promise, thou wentest home by another way. The second time, when there was war everywhere, quarrels and assassination, thou, too, didst quarrel with me, and cut off my tail. But now, when peace and love have fallen on all, thou bringest the gifts, and sharest all with me. Go, brother, may the peace of God rest with thee! I do not want thy wealth.’ And the serpent went away and cast itself into its hole.