Tanzanian literature was primarily oral. Major oral literary forms include folktales, poems, riddles, proverbs, and songs. The majority of the oral literature in Tanzania that has been recorded is in Swahili, though each of the country’s languages has its own oral tradition.
Tanzania has a very rich, diverse, and sophisticated folklore. Each ethnic group has a store of myths, legends, folk tales, riddles, proverbs, and sayings that embody culture and tradition and are an important element in Tanzanian cultural heritage.
Zanzibar is an insular autonomous region of Tanzania. It is composed of the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 25–50 kilometres (16–31 mi) off the coast of the mainland, and consists of many small islands and two large ones: Unguja (the main island, referred to informally as Zanzibar) and Pemba Island. The stories were translated from their native Swahili by translator George W. Bateman.
The Ape, the Snake, and the Lion
Long, long ago there lived, in a village called Keejee′jee, a woman whose husband died, leaving her with a little baby boy. She worked hard all day to get food for herself and child, but they lived very poorly and were most of the time half-starved.
When the boy, whose name was ’Mvoo′ Laa′na, began to get big, he said to his mother, one day: “Mother, we are always hungry. What work did my father do to support us?”
His mother replied: “Your father was a hunter. He set traps, and we ate what he caught in them.”
“Oho!” said ’Mvoo Laana; “that’s not work; that’s fun. I, too, will set traps, and see if we can’t get enough to eat.”
The next day he went into the forest and cut branches from the trees, and returned home in the evening.
The second day he spent making the branches into traps.
The third day he twisted cocoanut fiber into ropes.
The fourth day he set up as many traps as time would permit.
The fifth day he set up the remainder of the traps.
The sixth day he went to examine the traps, and they had caught so much game, beside what they needed for themselves, that he took a great quantity to the big town of Oongoo′ja, where he sold it and bought corn and other things, and the house was full of food; and, as this good fortune continued, he and his mother lived very comfortably.
But after a while, when he went to his traps he found nothing in them day after day.
One morning, however, he found that an ape had been caught in one of the traps, and he was about to kill it, when it said: “Son of Adam, I am Neea′nee, the ape; do not kill me. Take me out of this trap and let me go. Save me from the rain, that I may come and save you from the sun some day.”
So ’Mvoo Laana took him out of the trap and let him go.
When Neeanee had climbed up in a tree, he sat on a branch and said to the youth: “For your kindness I will give you a piece of advice: Believe me, men are all bad. Never do a good turn for a man; if you do, he will do you harm at the first opportunity.”
The second day, ’Mvoo Laana found a snake in the same trap. He started to the village to give the alarm, but the snake shouted: “Come back, son of Adam; don’t call the people from the village to come and kill me. I am Neeo′ka, the snake. Let me out of this trap, I pray you. Save me from the rain to-day, that I may be able to save you from the sun to-morrow, if you should be in need of help.”
So the youth let him go; and as he went he said, “I will return your kindness if I can, but do not trust any man; if you do him a kindness he will do you an injury in return at the first opportunity.”
The third day, ’Mvoo Laana found a lion in the same trap that had caught the ape and the snake, and he was afraid to go near it. But the lion said: “Don’t run away; I am Sim′ba Kong′way, the very old lion. Let me out of this trap, and I will not hurt you. Save me from the rain, that I may save you from the sun if you should need help.”
So ’Mvoo Laana believed him and let him out of the trap, and Simba Kongway, before going his way, said: “Son of Adam, you have been kind to me, and I will repay you with kindness if I can; but never do a kindness to a man, or he will pay you back with unkindness.”
The next day a man was caught in the same trap, and when the youth released him, he repeatedly assured him that he would never forget the service he had done him in restoring his liberty and saving his life.
Well, it seemed that he had caught all the game that could be taken in traps, and ’Mvoo Laana and his mother were hungry every day, with nothing to satisfy them, as they had been before. At last he said to his mother, one day: “Mother, make me seven cakes of the little meal we have left, and I will go hunting with my bow and arrows.” So she baked him the cakes, and he took them and his bow and arrows and went into the forest.
The youth walked and walked, but could see no game, and finally he found that he had lost his way, and had eaten all his cakes but one.
And he went on and on, not knowing whether he was going away from his home or toward it, until he came to the wildest and most desolate looking wood he had ever seen. He was so wretched and tired that he felt he must lie down and die, when suddenly he heard some one calling him, and looking up he saw Neeanee, the ape, who said, “Son of Adam, where are you going?”
“I don’t know,” replied ’Mvoo Laana, sadly; “I’m lost.”
“Well, well,” said the ape; “don’t worry. Just sit down here and rest yourself until I come back, and I will repay with kindness the kindness you once showed me.”
Then Neeanee went away off to some gardens and stole a whole lot of ripe paw-paws and bananas, and brought them to ’Mvoo Laana, and said: “Here’s plenty of food for you. Is there anything else you want? Would you like a drink?” And before the youth could answer he ran off with a calabash and brought it back full of water. So the youth ate heartily, and drank all the water he needed, and then each said to the other, “Good-bye, till we meet again,” and went their separate ways.
When ’Mvoo Laana had walked a great deal farther without finding which way he should go, he met Simba Kongway, who asked, “Where are you going, son of Adam?”
And the youth answered, as dolefully as before, “I don’t know; I’m lost.”
“Come, cheer up,” said the very old lion, “and rest yourself here a little. I want to repay with kindness to-day the kindness you showed me on a former day.”
So ’Mvoo Laana sat down. Simba Kongway went away, but soon returned with some game he had caught, and then he brought some fire, and the young man cooked the game and ate it. When he had finished he felt a great deal better, and they bade each other good-bye for the present, and each went his way.
After he had traveled another very long distance the youth came to a farm, and was met by a very, very old woman, who said to him: “Stranger, my husband has been taken very sick, and I am looking for some one to make him some medicine. Won’t you make it?” But he answered: “My good woman, I am not a doctor, I am a hunter, and never used medicine in my life. I can not help you.”
When he came to the road leading to the principal city he saw a well, with a bucket standing near it, and he said to himself: “That’s just what I want. I’ll take a drink of nice well-water. Let me see if the water can be reached.”
As he peeped over the edge of the well, to see if the water was high enough, what should he behold but a great big snake, which, directly it saw him, said, “Son of Adam, wait a moment.” Then it came out of the well and said: “How? Don’t you know me?”
“I certainly do not,” said the youth, stepping back a little.
“Well, well!” said the snake; “I could never forget you. I am Neeoka, whom you released from the trap. You know I said, ‘Save me from the rain, and I will save you from the sun.’ Now, you are a stranger in the town to which you are going; therefore hand me your little bag, and I will place in it the things that will be of use to you when you arrive there.”
So ’Mvoo Laana gave Neeoka the little bag, and he filled it with chains of gold and silver, and told him to use them freely for his own benefit. Then they parted very cordially.
When the youth reached the city, the first man he met was he whom he had released from the trap, who invited him to go home with him, which he did, and the man’s wife made him supper.
As soon as he could get away unobserved, the man went to the sultan and said: “There is a stranger come to my house with a bag full of chains of silver and gold, which he says he got from a snake that lives in a well. But although he pretends to be a man, I know that he is a snake who has power to look like a man.”
When the sultan heard this he sent some soldiers who brought ’Mvoo Laana and his little bag before him. When they opened the little bag, the man who was released from the trap persuaded the people that some evil would come out of it, and affect the children of the sultan and the children of the vizir.
Then the people became excited, and tied the hands of ’Mvoo Laana behind him.
But the great snake had come out of the well and arrived at the town just about this time, and he went and lay at the feet of the man who had said all those bad things about ’Mvoo Laana, and when the people saw this they said to that man: “How is this? There is the great snake that lives in the well, and he stays by you. Tell him to go away.”
But Neeoka would not stir. So they untied the young man’s hands, and tried in every way to make amends for having suspected him of being a wizard.
Then the sultan asked him, “Why should this man invite you to his home and then speak ill of you?”
And ’Mvoo Laana related all that had happened to him, and how the ape, the snake, and the lion had cautioned him about the results of doing any kindness for a man.
And the sultan said: “Although men are often ungrateful, they are not always so; only the bad ones. As for this fellow, he deserves to be put in a sack and drowned in the sea. He was treated kindly, and returned evil for good.”
The Calabash Kids
Told by Aaron Shepard
Once there was a woman named Shindo, who lived in a village at the foot of a snow-capped mountain. Her husband had died, and she had no children, so she was very lonely. And she was always tired too, for she had no one to help with the chores.
All on her own, she cleaned the hut and yard, tended the chickens, washed her clothes in the river, carried water, cut firewood, and cooked her solitary meals.
At the end of each day, Shindo gazed up at the snowy peak.
“Great Mountain Spirit!” she would pray. “My work is too hard. Send me help!”
One day, Shindo was weeding her small field by the river, where she grew vegetables and bananas and gourds. Suddenly, a noble chieftain appeared beside her.
“I am a messenger from the Great Mountain Spirit,” he told the astonished woman, and he handed her some gourd seeds. “Plant these carefully. They are the answer to your prayers.”
Then the chieftain vanished.
Shindo wondered, “What help could I get from a handful of seeds?” Still, she planted and tended them as carefully as she could.
She was amazed at how quickly they grew. In just a week, long vines trailed over the ground, and ripe gourds hung from them.
Shindo brought the gourds home, sliced off the tops, and scooped out the pulp. Then she laid the gourds on the rafters of her hut to dry. When they hardened, she could sell them at the market as calabashes, to be made into bowls and jugs.
One fine gourd Shindo set by the cook fire. This one she wanted to use herself, and she hoped it would dry faster.
The next morning, Shindo went off again to tend her field. But meanwhile, back in the hut, the gourds began to change. They sprouted heads, then arms, then legs.
Soon, they were not gourds at all. They were children!
One boy lay by the fire, where Shindo had put the fine gourd. The other children called to him from the rafters.
“Ki‑te‑te, come help us!
We’ll work for our mother.
Come help us, Ki‑te‑te,
Our favorite brother!”
Kitete helped his brothers and sisters down from the rafters. Then the children ran through the hut and yard, singing and playing.
All joined in but Kitete. Drying by the fire had made the boy slow-witted. So he just sat there, smiling widely.
After a while, the other children started on the chores. They quickly cleaned the hut and yard, fed the chickens, washed the clothes, carried water, cut firewood, and cooked a meal for Shindo to eat when she returned.
When the work was done, Kitete helped the others climb back on the rafters. Then they all turned again into gourds.
That afternoon, as Shindo returned home, the other women of the village called to her.
“Who were those children in your yard today?” they asked. “Where did they come from? Why were they doing your chores?”
“What children? Are you all making fun of me?” said Shindo, angrily.
But when she reached her hut, she was astounded. The work was done, and even her meal was ready! She could not imagine who had helped her.
The same thing happened the next day. As soon as Shindo had gone off, the gourds turned into children, and the ones on the rafters called out,
“Ki‑te‑te, come help us!
We’ll work for our mother.
Come help us, Ki‑te‑te,
Our favorite brother!”
Then they played for a while, did all the chores, climbed back to the rafters, and turned again into gourds.
Once more, Shindo was amazed to see the work all done. But this time, she decided to find out who were her helpers.
The next morning, Shindo pretended to leave, but she hid beside the door of the hut and peeked in. And so she saw the gourds turn into children, and heard the ones on the rafters call out,
“Ki‑te‑te, come help us!
We’ll work for our mother.
Come help us, Ki‑te‑te,
Our favorite brother!”
As the children rushed out the door, they nearly ran into Shindo. She was too astonished to speak, and so were the children. But after a moment, they went on with their playing, and then with their chores.
When they were done, they started to climb back to the rafters.
“No, no!” cried Shindo. “You must not change back into gourds! You will be the children I never had, and I will love you and care for you.”
So Shindo kept the children as her own. She was no longer lonely. And the children were so helpful, she soon became rich, with many fields of vegetables and bananas, and flocks of sheep and goats.
That is, all were helpful but Kitete, who stayed by the fire with his simple-minded smile.
Most of the time, Shindo didn’t mind. In fact, Kitete was really her favorite, because he was like a sweet baby. But sometimes, when she was tired or unhappy about something else, she would get annoyed at him.
“You useless child!” she would say. “Why can’t you be smart like your brothers and sisters, and work as hard as they do?”
Kitete would only grin back at her.
One day, Shindo was out in the yard, cutting vegetables for a stew. As she carried the pot from the bright sunlight into the hut, she tripped over Kitete. She fell, and the clay pot shattered. Vegetables and water streamed everywhere.
“Stupid boy!” yelled Shindo. “Haven’t I told you to stay out of my way? But what can I expect? You’re not a real child at all. You’re nothing but a calabash!”
The very next moment, she gave a scream. Kitete was no longer there, and in his place was a gourd.
“What have I done?” cried Shindo, as the children crowded into the hut. “I didn’t mean what I said! You’re not a calabash, you’re my own darling son. Oh, children, please do something!”
The children looked at each other. Then over each other they climbed, scampering up to the rafters. When the last child had been helped up by Shindo, they called out one last time,
“Ki‑te‑te, come help us!
We’ll work for our mother.
Come help us, Ki‑te‑te,
Our favorite brother!”
For a long moment, nothing happened. Then slowly, the gourd began to change. It sprouted a head, then arms, then legs. At last, it was not a gourd at all. It was—
Shindo learned her lesson. Ever after, she was very careful what she called her children.
And so they gave her comfort and happiness, all the rest of her days.
The Monkey, the Shark, and the Washerman’s Donkey
Once upon a time Kee′ma, the monkey, and Pa′pa, the shark, became great friends.
The monkey lived in an immense mkooyoo tree which grew by the margin of the sea—half of its branches being over the water and half over the land.
Every morning, when the monkey was breakfasting on the kooyoo nuts, the shark would put in an appearance under the tree and call out, “Throw me some food, my friend;” with which request the monkey complied most willingly.
This continued for many months, until one day Papa said, “Keema, you have done me many kindnesses: I would like you to go with me to my home, that I may repay you.”
“How can I go?” said the monkey; “we land beasts can not go about in the water.”
“Don’t trouble yourself about that,” replied the shark; “I will carry you. Not a drop of water shall get to you.”
“Oh, all right, then,” said Mr. Keema; “let’s go.”
When they had gone about half-way the shark stopped, and said: “You are my friend. I will tell you the truth.”
“Why, what is there to tell?” asked the monkey, with surprise.
“Well, you see, the fact is that our sultan is very sick, and we have been told that the only medicine that will do him any good is a monkey’s heart.”
“Well,” exclaimed Keema, “you were very foolish not to tell me that before we started!”
“How so?” asked Papa.
But the monkey was busy thinking up some means of saving himself, and made no reply.
“Well?” said the shark, anxiously; “why don’t you speak?”
“Oh, I’ve nothing to say now. It’s too late. But if you had told me this before we started, I might have brought my heart with me.”
“What? haven’t you your heart here?”
“Huh!” ejaculated Keema; “don’t you know about us? When we go out we leave our hearts in the trees, and go about with only our bodies. But I see you don’t believe me. You think I’m scared. Come on; let’s go to your home, where you can kill me and search for my heart in vain.”
The shark did believe him, though, and exclaimed, “Oh, no; let’s go back and get your heart.”
“Indeed, no,” protested Keema; “let us go on to your home.”
But the shark insisted that they should go back, get the heart, and start afresh.
At last, with great apparent reluctance, the monkey consented, grumbling sulkily at the unnecessary trouble he was being put to.
When they got back to the tree, he climbed up in a great hurry, calling out, “Wait there, Papa, my friend, while I get my heart, and we’ll start off properly next time.”
When he had got well up among the branches, he sat down and kept quite still.
After waiting what he considered a reasonable length of time, the shark called, “Come along, Keema!” But Keema just kept still and said nothing.
In a little while he called again: “Oh, Keema! let’s be going.”
At this the monkey poked his head out from among the upper branches and asked, in great surprise, “Going? Where?”
“To my home, of course.”
“Are you mad?” queried Keema.
“Mad? Why, what do you mean?” cried Papa.
“What’s the matter with you?” said the monkey. “Do you take me for a washerman’s donkey?”
“What peculiarity is there about a washerman’s donkey?”
“It is a creature that has neither heart nor ears.”
The shark, his curiosity overcoming his haste, thereupon begged to be told the story of the washerman’s donkey, which the monkey related as follows:
“A washerman owned a donkey, of which he was very fond. One day, however, it ran away, and took up its abode in the forest, where it led a lazy life, and consequently grew very fat.
“At length Soongoo′ra, the hare, by chance passed that way, and saw Poon′da, the donkey.
“Now, the hare is the most cunning of all beasts—if you look at his mouth you will see that he is always talking to himself about everything.
“So when Soongoora saw Poonda he said to himself, ‘My, this donkey is fat!’ Then he went and told Sim′ba, the lion.
“As Simba was just recovering from a severe illness, he was still so weak that he could not go hunting. He was consequently pretty hungry.
“Said Mr. Soongoora, ‘I’ll bring enough meat to-morrow for both of us to have a great feast, but you’ll have to do the killing.’
“‘All right, good friend,’ exclaimed Simba, joyfully; ‘you’re very kind.’
“So the hare scampered off to the forest, found the donkey, and said to her, in his most courtly manner, ‘Miss Poonda, I am sent to ask your hand in marriage.’
“‘By whom?’ simpered the donkey.
“‘By Simba, the lion.’
“The donkey was greatly elated at this, and exclaimed: ‘Let’s go at once. This is a first-class offer.’
“They soon arrived at the lion’s home, were cordially invited in, and sat down. Soongoora gave Simba a signal with his eyebrow, to the effect that this was the promised feast, and that he would wait outside. Then he said to Poonda: ‘I must leave you for a while to attend to some private business. You stay here and converse with your husband that is to be.’
“As soon as Soongoora got outside, the lion sprang at Poonda, and they had a great fight. Simba was kicked very hard, and he struck with his claws as well as his weak health would permit him. At last the donkey threw the lion down, and ran away to her home in the forest.
“Shortly after, the hare came back, and called, ‘Haya! Simba! have you got it?’
“‘I have not got it,’ growled the lion; ‘she kicked me and ran away; but I warrant you I made her feel pretty sore, though I’m not strong.’
“‘Oh, well,’ remarked Soongoora; ‘don’t put yourself out of the way about it.’
“Then Soongoora waited many days, until the lion and the donkey were both well and strong, when he said: ‘What do you think now, Simba? Shall I bring you your meat?’
“‘Ay,’ growled the lion, fiercely; ‘bring it to me. I’ll tear it in two pieces!’
“So the hare went off to the forest, where the donkey welcomed him and asked the news.
“‘You are invited to call again and see your lover,’ said Soongoora.
“‘Oh, dear!’ cried Poonda; ‘that day you took me to him he scratched me awfully. I’m afraid to go near him now.’
“‘Ah, pshaw!’ said Soongoora; ‘that’s nothing. That’s only Simba’s way of caressing.’
“‘Oh, well,’ said the donkey, ‘let’s go.’
“So off they started again; but as soon as the lion caught sight of Poonda he sprang upon her and tore her in two pieces.
“When the hare came up, Simba said to him: ‘Take this meat and roast it. As for myself, all I want is the heart and ears.’
“‘Thanks,’ said Soongoora. Then he went away and roasted the meat in a place where the lion could not see him, and he took the heart and ears and hid them. Then he ate all the meat he needed, and put the rest away.
“Presently the lion came to him and said, ‘Bring me the heart and ears.’
“‘Where are they?’ said the hare.
“‘What does this mean?’ growled Simba.
“‘Why, didn’t you know this was a washerman’s donkey?’
“‘Well, what’s that to do with there being no heart or ears?’
“‘For goodness’ sake, Simba, aren’t you old enough to know that if this beast had possessed a heart and ears it wouldn’t have come back the second time?’
“Of course the lion had to admit that what Soongoora, the hare, said was true.
“And now,” said Keema to the shark, “you want to make a washerman’s donkey of me. Get out of there, and go home by yourself. You are not going to get me again, and our friendship is ended. Good-bye, Papa.”
The Kites and the Crows
One day Koongoo′roo, sultan of the crows, sent a letter to Mway′way, sultan of the kites, containing these few words: “I want you folks to be my soldiers.”
To this brief message Mwayway at once wrote this short reply: “I should say not.”
Thereupon, thinking to scare Mwayway, the sultan of the crows sent him word, “If you refuse to obey me I’ll make war upon you.”
To which the sultan of the kites replied, “That suits me; let us fight, and if you beat us we will obey you, but if we are victors you shall be our servants.”
So they gathered their forces and engaged in a great battle, and in a little while it became evident that the crows were being badly beaten.
As it appeared certain that, if something were not done pretty quickly, they would all be killed, one old crow, named Jeeoo′see, suddenly proposed that they should fly away.
Directly the suggestion was made it was acted upon, and the crows left their homes and flew far away, where they set up another town. So, when the kites entered the place, they found no one there, and they took up their residence in Crowtown.
One day, when the crows had gathered in council, Koongooroo stood up and said: “My people, do as I command you, and all will be well. Pluck out some of my feathers and throw me into the town of the kites; then come back and stay here until you hear from me.”
Without argument or questioning the crows obeyed their sultan’s command.
Koongooroo had lain in the street but a short time, when some passing kites saw him and inquired threateningly, “What are you doing here in our town?”
With many a moan he replied, “My companions have beaten me and turned me out of their town because I advised them to obey Mwayway, sultan of the kites.”
When they heard this they picked him up and took him before the sultan, to whom they said, “We found this fellow lying in the street, and he attributes his involuntary presence in our town to so singular a circumstance that we thought you should hear his story.”
Koongooroo was then bidden to repeat his statement, which he did, adding the remark that, much as he had suffered, he still held to his opinion that Mwayway was his rightful sultan.
This, of course, made a very favorable impression, and the sultan said, “You have more sense than all the rest of your tribe put together; I guess you can stay here and live with us.”
So Koongooroo, expressing much gratitude, settled down, apparently, to spend the remainder of his life with the kites.
One day his neighbors took him to church with them, and when they returned home they asked him, “Who have the best kind of religion, the kites or the crows?”
To which crafty old Koongooroo replied, with great enthusiasm, “Oh, the kites, by long odds!”
This answer tickled the kites like anything, and Koongooroo was looked upon as a bird of remarkable discernment.
When almost another week had passed, the sultan of the crows slipped away in the night, went to his own town, and called his people together.
“To-morrow,” said he, “is the great annual religious festival of the kites, and they will all go to church in the morning. Go, now, and get some wood and some fire, and wait near their town until I call you; then come quickly and set fire to the church.”
Then he hurried back to Mwayway’s town.
The crows were very busy indeed all that night, and by dawn they had an abundance of wood and fire at hand, and were lying in wait near the town of their victorious enemies.
So in the morning every kite went to church. There was not one person left at home except old Koongooroo.
When his neighbors called for him they found him lying down. “Why!” they exclaimed with surprise, “are you not going to church to-day?”
“Oh,” said he, “I wish I could; but my stomach aches so badly I can’t move!” And he groaned dreadfully.
“Ah, poor fellow!” said they; “you will be better in bed;” and they left him to himself.
As soon as everybody was out of sight he flew swiftly to his soldiers and cried, “Come on; they’re all in the church.”
Then they all crept quickly but quietly to the church, and while some piled wood about the door, others applied fire.
The wood caught readily, and the fire was burning fiercely before the kites were aware of their danger; but when the church began to fill with smoke, and tongues of flame shot through the cracks, they tried to escape through the windows. The greater part of them, however, were suffocated, or, having their wings singed, could not fly away, and so were burned to death, among them their sultan, Mwayway; and Koongooroo and his crows got their old town back again.
From that day to this the kites fly away from the crows.
The Lion, the Hyena, and the Rabbit
Once upon a time Sim′ba, the lion, Fee′see, the hyena, and Keetee′tee, the rabbit, made up their minds to go in for a little farming. So they went into the country, made a garden, planted all kinds of seeds, and then came home and rested quite a while.
Then, when the time came when their crops should be about ripe and ready for harvesting, they began to say to each other, “Let’s go over to the farm, and see how our crops are coming along.”
So one morning, early, they started, and, as the garden was a long way off, Keeteetee, the rabbit, made this proposition: “While we are going to the farm, let us not stop on the road; and if any one does stop, let him be eaten.” His companions, not being so cunning as he, and knowing they could outwalk him, readily consented to this arrangement.
Well, off they went; but they had not gone very far when the rabbit stopped.
“Hullo!” said Feesee, the hyena; “Keeteetee has stopped. He must be eaten.”
“That’s the bargain,” agreed Simba, the lion.
“Well,” said the rabbit, “I happened to be thinking.”
“What about?” cried his partners, with great curiosity.
“I’m thinking,” said he, with a grave, philosophical air, “about those two stones, one big and one little; the little one does not go up, nor does the big one go down.”
The lion and the hyena, having stopped to look at the stones, could only say, “Why, really, it’s singular; but it’s just as you say;” and they all resumed their journey, the rabbit being by this time well rested.
When they had gone some distance the rabbit stopped again.
“Aha!” said Feesee; “Keeteetee has stopped again. Now he must be eaten.”
“I rather think so,” assented Simba.
“Well,” said the rabbit, “I was thinking again.”
Their curiosity once more aroused, his comrades begged him to tell them his think.
“Why,” said he, “I was thinking this: When people like us put on new coats, where do the old ones go to?”
Both Simba and Feesee, having stopped a moment to consider the matter, exclaimed together, “Well, I wonder!” and the three went on, the rabbit having again had a good rest.
After a little while the hyena, thinking it about time to show off a little of his philosophy, suddenly stopped.
“Here,” growled Simba, “this won’t do; I guess we’ll have to eat you, Feesee.”
“Oh, no,” said the hyena; “I’m thinking.”
“What are you thinking about?” they inquired.
“I’m thinking about nothing at all,” said he, imagining himself very smart and witty.
“Ah, pshaw!” cried Keeteetee; “we won’t be fooled that way.”
So he and Simba ate the hyena.
When they had finished eating their friend, the lion and the rabbit proceeded on their way, and presently came to a place where there was a cave, and here the rabbit stopped.
“H’m!” ejaculated Simba; “I’m not so hungry as I was this morning, but I guess I’ll have to find room for you, little Keeteetee.”
“Oh, I believe not,” replied Keeteetee; “I’m thinking again.”
“Well,” said the lion, “what is it this time?”
Said the rabbit: “I’m thinking about that cave. In olden times our ancestors used to go in here, and go out there, and I think I’ll try and follow in their footsteps.”
So he went in at one end and out at the other end several times.
Then he said to the lion, “Simba, old fellow, let’s see you try to do that;” and the lion went into the cave, but he stuck fast, and could neither go forward nor back out.
In a moment Keeteetee was on Simba’s back, and began eating him.
After a little time the lion cried, “Oh, brother, be impartial; come and eat some of the front part of me.”
But the rabbit replied, “Indeed, I can’t come around in front; I’m ashamed to look you in the face.”
So, having eaten all he was able to, he left the lion there, and went and became sole owner of the farm and its crops.
The Hare and the Lion
One day Soongoo′ra, the hare, roaming through the forest in search of food, glanced up through the boughs of a very large calabash tree, and saw that a great hole in the upper part of the trunk was inhabited by bees; thereupon he returned to town in search of some one to go with him and help to get the honey.
As he was passing the house of Boo′koo, the big rat, that worthy gentleman invited him in. So he went in, sat down, and remarked: “My father has died, and has left me a hive of honey. I would like you to come and help me to eat it.”
Of course Bookoo jumped at the offer, and he and the hare started off immediately.
When they arrived at the great calabash tree, Soongoora pointed out the bees’ nest and said, “Go on; climb up.” So, taking some straw with them, they climbed up to the nest, lit the straw, smoked out the bees, put out the fire, and set to work eating the honey.
In the midst of the feast, who should appear at the foot of the tree but Sim′ba, the lion? Looking up, and seeing them eating, he asked, “Who are you?”
Then Soongoora whispered to Bookoo, “Hold your tongue; that old fellow is crazy.” But in a very little while Simba roared out angrily: “Who are you, I say? Speak, I tell you!” This made Bookoo so scared that he blurted out, “It’s only us!”
Upon this the hare said to him: “You just wrap me up in this straw, call to the lion to keep out of the way, and then throw me down. Then you’ll see what will happen.”
So Bookoo, the big rat, wrapped Soongoora, the hare, in the straw, and then called to Simba, the lion, “Stand back; I’m going to throw this straw down, and then I’ll come down myself.” When Simba stepped back out of the way, Bookoo threw down the straw, and as it lay on the ground Soongoora crept out and ran away while the lion was looking up.
After waiting a minute or two, Simba roared out, “Well, come down, I say!” and, there being no help for it, the big rat came down.
As soon as he was within reach, the lion caught hold of him, and asked, “Who was up there with you?”
“Why,” said Bookoo, “Soongoora, the hare. Didn’t you see him when I threw him down?”
“Of course I didn’t see him,” replied the lion, in an incredulous tone, and, without wasting further time, he ate the big rat, and then searched around for the hare, but could not find him.
Three days later, Soongoora called on his acquaintance, Ko′bay, the tortoise, and said to him, “Let us go and eat some honey.”
“Whose honey?” inquired Kobay, cautiously.
“My father’s,” Soongoora replied.
“Oh, all right; I’m with you,” said the tortoise, eagerly; and away they went.
When they arrived at the great calabash tree they climbed up with their straw, smoked out the bees, sat down, and began to eat.
Just then Mr. Simba, who owned the honey, came out again, and, looking up, inquired, “Who are you, up there?”
Soongoora whispered to Kobay, “Keep quiet;” but when the lion repeated his question angrily, Kobay became suspicious, and said: “I will speak. You told me this honey was yours; am I right in suspecting that it belongs to Simba?”
So, when the lion asked again, “Who are you?” he answered, “It’s only us.” The lion said, “Come down, then;” and the tortoise answered, “We’re coming.”
Now, Simba had been keeping an eye open for Soongoora since the day he caught Bookoo, the big rat, and, suspecting that he was up there with Kobay, he said to himself, “I’ve got him this time, sure.”
Seeing that they were caught again, Soongoora said to the tortoise: “Wrap me up in the straw, tell Simba to stand out of the way, and then throw me down. I’ll wait for you below. He can’t hurt you, you know.”
“All right,” said Kobay; but while he was wrapping the hare up he said to himself: “This fellow wants to run away, and leave me to bear the lion’s anger. He shall get caught first.” Therefore, when he had bundled him up, he called out, “Soongoora is coming!” and threw him down.
So Simba caught the hare, and, holding him with his paw, said, “Now, what shall I do with you?” The hare replied, “It’s of no use for you to try to eat me; I’m awfully tough.” “What would be the best thing to do with you, then?” asked Simba.
“I think,” said Soongoora, “you should take me by the tail, whirl me around, and knock me against the ground. Then you may be able to eat me.”
So the lion, being deceived, took him by the tail and whirled him around, but just as he was going to knock him on the ground he slipped out of his grasp and ran away, and Simba had the mortification of losing him again.
Angry and disappointed, he turned to the tree and called to Kobay, “You come down, too.”
When the tortoise reached the ground, the lion said, “You’re pretty hard; what can I do to make you eatable?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” laughed Kobay; “just put me in the mud and rub my back with your paw until my shell comes off.”
Immediately on hearing this, Simba carried Kobay to the water, placed him in the mud, and began, as he supposed, to rub his back; but the tortoise had slipped away, and the lion continued rubbing on a piece of rock until his paws were raw. When he glanced down at them he saw they were bleeding, and, realizing that he had again been outwitted, he said, “Well, the hare has done me to-day, but I’ll go hunting now until I find him.”
So Simba, the lion, set out immediately in search of Soongoora, the hare, and as he went along he inquired of every one he met, “Where is the house of Soongoora?” But each person he asked answered, “I do not know.” For the hare had said to his wife, “Let us remove from this house.” Therefore the folks in that neighborhood had no knowledge of his whereabouts. Simba, however, went along, continuing his inquiries, until presently one answered, “That is his house on the top of the mountain.”
Without loss of time the lion climbed the mountain, and soon arrived at the place indicated, only to find that there was no one at home. This, however, did not trouble him; on the contrary, saying to himself, “I’ll hide myself inside, and when Soongoora and his wife come home I’ll eat them both,” he entered the house and lay down, awaiting their arrival.
Pretty soon along came the hare with his wife, not thinking of any danger; but he very soon discovered the marks of the lion’s paws on the steep path. Stopping at once, he said to Mrs. Soongoora: “You go back, my dear. Simba, the lion, has passed this way, and I think he must be looking for me.”
But she replied, “I will not go back; I will follow you, my husband.”
Although greatly pleased at this proof of his wife’s affection, Soongoora said firmly: “No, no; you have friends to go to. Go back.”
So he persuaded her, and she went back; but he kept on, following the footmarks, and saw—as he had suspected—that they went into his house.
“Ah!” said he to himself, “Mr. Lion is inside, is he?” Then, cautiously going back a little way, he called out: “How d’ye do, house? How d’ye do?” Waiting a moment, he remarked loudly: “Well, this is very strange! Every day, as I pass this place, I say, ‘How d’ye do, house?’ and the house always answers, ‘How d’ye do?’ There must be some one inside to-day.”
When the lion heard this he called out, “How d’ye do?”
Then Soongoora burst out laughing, and shouted: “Oho, Mr. Simba! You’re inside, and I’ll bet you want to eat me; but first tell me where you ever heard of a house talking!”
Upon this the lion, seeing how he had been fooled, replied angrily, “You wait until I get hold of you; that’s all.”
“Oh, I think you’ll have to do the waiting,” cried the hare; and then he ran away, the lion following.
But it was of no use. Soongoora completely tired out old Simba, who, saying, “That rascal has beaten me; I don’t want to have anything more to do with him,” returned to his home under the great calabash tree.