Ethiopian Tale : The Dog, the Goat, and the Donkey

Dog

Once there was a dog, a goat and a donkey who wanted to travel to another country. So they got on the bus. The dog had ten birr (the main unit of currency in Ethiopia). The donkey had five birr, but the goat had no money.

The bus ticket cost five birr. But when the dog gave ten birr to the conductor, he didn’t get any change. Because the goat had no money, she tried to hide herself in the bus. But the donkey paid his five birr. When the bus arrived at its destination they all got off.

Une Chevre / A Goat

The dog always runs after the bus shouting, “Give me my five birr! My five birr!” The goat runs away from the bus, saying, “The conductor will ask me for my money.” But the donkey doesn’t move. He’s already paid his five birr and he feels quite safe and happy.

This tale was narrated by Abdul Amin Ahmed in Ethiopian Folktales

Being Complicated is Incurable

tall and short

There were once two friends. One was tall, and the other short.

One day, they decided to go to the market. Since they were going through a narrow path, the tall one left the short one behind.

  • It is because you underestimate me that you leave me behind you, complained the short one.

A bit further, the tall one, trying to satisfy his friend, made him move in front.

  • It is, to better look at me, and laugh at my short height, growled the other.

They reached the market. The place was full of people. The tall one wanting to correct the errors which had been reproached him, brought his friend back to his sides and the two of them walked hand in hand.

  • You put us side by side now to show everyone that you are taller than I, growled the short one.
  • My friend, I think that it is impossible to satisfy a dwarf. You are complicated and it is an incurable disease.

Fables des Montagnes de Patrice Kayo, Collection Les CLES de l’avenir, Editions CLE, Yaounde, p. 38 (1998). Translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com

Spider and the Magic Calabash

spider-5-coloring-pageOnce upon a time there was a village where famine was raging; the king was very worried because the children were dying and the villagers no longer had enough strength to go and cultivate the land. This was where Kaku Ananze, the spider lived. Despite all his cunning, he too was suffering from hunger. Every day he went into the bush in search of roots or seeds that could feed his family. One day, Kaku Ananze was wandering among the bushes. Exhausted with fatigue, he stopped to rest. So he hears a little voice coming out of a thicket which tells him, “Papa Ananze! Papa Ananze!” A bit scared and very curious to know who is calling him, Kaku Ananze enters amidst the thorns and discovers a calabash placed on the ground.

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The calabash all dried up… almost ready to be made into a bowl

As he takes a closer look, the kitchen utensil speaks to him in these terms, “Take me out of this thorn bush and take me to your hut. As a reward, I will make your life happy.”

Spider picks up the calabash and takes it home. Once home, he calls his wife and children. He shows them the utensil and tells them his story. While everyone is amazed, Kaku Ananze leans over the calabash and says to it, “Dear friend, I did everything you wanted. It’s up to you to keep your promise. My people and I are starving and have no food; can you help us?” No sooner does he finish these words than the calabash is filled with all kinds of food: fried yams, beignets, plantains, bananas, chicken, sauce,… They all thank their new friend, eat until they are full. Then Kaku Ananze speaks in these terms, « children, listen to me, and you too, wife ! I am going to carefully hide this magic calabash. Do not tell anyone, under any circumstances, because people will be jealous of our luck and could come and steal the calabash from us. » All family members swear to remain silent. For a few days everything goes well. In the evening, Spider takes the calabash from its hiding place, and politely asks for food, and after the family has eaten, he returns the utensil back.

Beignets
Beignets

But, Kaku Ananze’s wife is very greedy. She hid a few bean fritters in her loincloth as provision for the day. In the afternoon, she goes out of the concession, sits under a mango tree and begins to eat. But her hungry neighbor sees her. The neighbor quietly approaches and starts screaming, “how can you have bean fritters, when everybody is dying of hunger, and that there is no food in the village? Besides, I did not see you pounding the dough or cooking. Who did you steal this from?”

Mrs. Spider is bothered. She immediately gives her remaining beignets to the neighbor, begging her to shut up. This one devours everything then starts making noise again. “Thief! Thief ! Who did you take this from?”  Scared, Mrs. Spider tells her the whole story of the magic calabash found by her husband, and swears to her, that from now on, she will bring her a little food every day if she keeps the secret.

During the night, the neighbor who cannot hold her tongue, tells her husband everything; the husband immediately goes to the king to denounce Kaku Ananze’s selfishness.

The king sends soldiers to search the entire concession of Kaku Ananze, but they do not find anything. The magic calabash has disappeared. And no one ever saw it again.

Adea, kue

The tongue is death.

Contes des Lagunes et des Savanes, Edicef (1975). Translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com

Somali Tale: How the Cat became the Woman’s Friend

Cat

At the beginning of the world, the cat was the friend of the antelope in the bush. But once the lion came to the bush and fought and killed the antelope. So the cat thought the lion was better, and became a friend of the lion. But then a group of elephants fought the lion and the lion was killed, so it became the friend of the elephants. Then it saw a man kill an elephant.

Oh, this is better than the elephant,” and the cat became the friend of man.

African Venus, a sculpture by Charles-Henri Joseph Cordier 1851 (Source: Walters Art Museum)
African Venus, a sculpture by Charles-Henri Joseph Cordier 1851 (Source: Walters Art Museum)

As soon as the man went into his house there was a quarrel with his wife, and his wife ran at him with a stick, shouting, “Where have you been?”

And she shouted many bad things to him. So the man ran away.

Oh,” said the cat,the woman is stronger than the man.”

So the cat became the friend of the woman.

This tale was narrated by Abdul Hakim Abdulahi Jibril on Ethiopian Folktales.

When Silence is Strength

Silence

An eminent nobleman found one morning that his house had been broken into and all his belongings stolen.

Instead of sounding alarms, he gathered his wives and children in the courtyard, and without saying anything, took place in their midst, calmly smoking his pipe.

Towards the middle of the morning, two young men arrived. They found the family gathered in silence, and thinking that they were mourning the theft that they had perpetrated the night before, they spread in compassion:

  • We were out of the village for several days, said one to the nobleman. Back this morning, we were informed of what has happened to you, and we could not leave without coming to commiserate with you.

For all answer, he had them arrested and tied, before telling them what he had been victim of. The young men confessed.

It is since this story that there is an adage which says that we catch the animal by the paw and the man by the word.

Fables des Montagnes de Patrice Kayo, Collection Les CLES de l’avenir, Editions CLE, Yaounde, p. 39 (1998). Translated to English by Dr. Y.Afrolegends.com

The Taro and Its Neighbors

Dotted taro leaf

From its large leaves, the taro collected water and without gathering any for itself, or absorbing enough, watered its neighbors who bloomed and produced abundantly. For the benefit of others, generous taro forgot itself.

When the dry season came, it was the first to suffer from the lack of water. Turning to its neighbors who had great reserves, it begged them to share enough to survive until the rainy season. Everyone closed their door to its face and fell back on their complacency.

It is while dying that he understood that forgetting oneself for the benefit of others is a failure and that one must always be satisfied before adding to others.

Fables des Montagnes de Patrice Kayo, Collection Les CLES de l’avenir, Editions CLE, Yaounde, p. 59 (1998). Translated to English by Dr. Y.Afrolegends.com

The Safou and Hazel Trees

The storm was doing her frequent incursions in the forest and, like a raptor that rushes on from the sky and only leaves each time with a chick, she uprooted a tree. Each victim was left to his fate. For the survivors, the attack was only the business of the one who had succumbed.  Each closed his door on his blissful quietude.

The safou tree

One morning, the insatiable grim reaper [the storm] stopped in front of the safou tree and started ruffling his hair. Then she [the grim reaper] shook him in all directions to make him understand that his time had come.

The safou tree tried to organize his defense. The storm rushed, retreated to regain strength, came back with more violence, snatched off and dispersed under her breath the hair of the assaulted. Not being able to take it anymore, the safou tree sent out a distress call in the direction of the hazel tree, his neighbor.

  • Here is, he said, the brigand who for many years, depopulates our country. Come help me get out of his claws. I am out of strength.
  • I never get involved in anything that doesn’t concern me, said the hazel tree. I do not deal with either the storm or the wind. Give back to the brigands what you owe them.

This said, the hazel tree closed his door to find the softness and calm of his home.

Turkish hazel tree (Source: Chicago Botanic Garden)

Under the storm’s assaults, the safou tree collapsed. In his last breath, he grumbled that what was happening to him will not miss the hazel tree.

And two days later , it was the turn of the hazel tree to pay the storm the ransom of weakness and individualism of the people of the forest.

Fables des Montagnes de Patrice Kayo, Collection Les CLES de l’avenir, Editions CLE, Yaounde, p. 9 (1998). Translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com

Malagasy Tale: Rakoto and His Bull

Madagascar_map1
Map of Madagascar (WorldAtlas)

In a village not too far from Antsirabe, lived a man named Rakoto who grew katrony (hashish) in big quantity. Since he liked the katrony too much, he smoked a lot of it every day. He also made clothes (rongony) from it, and made a lot of money that way.

He stacked the grains of katrony and ate them with rice and meat. Every day when he went to his farm to milk his cows, he first smoked 5 stems of katrony and ate a bowl of rice mixed with katrony powder. One day after he had smoked too much before milking the cow, he got the wrong cow and tied the bull. But the bull charged him and cut his left leg.

cow

Since then, all his descendants, the Antsirabe people, are prohibited from touching or smoking the katrony.

Malagasy tale translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com

Malagasy Tale: Trimobe and the Little Girl

Madagascar conte_Trimobe-12-créatures-légendaires-qui-hantent-Madagascar-1
Trimobe (Source: La Mozeration @Tokikycity, Mada-Actus Info)

A little girl who has been abandoned in the woods by her two evil sisters, meets the monster Trimobe, who tells her, “You will be my daughter, Rafara.” He takes her home, locks her in his den and feeds her with food. His plan is to “eat her when she will be well-fed and plump.”… Days go by.

One night, a small hungry mouse asks Rafara for food. Rafara, listening only to her good heart, gives the mouse food. To thank her, the mouse gives her a staff, a rock, and one egg, while advising her to flee as quickly as possible.

Bird_1
The bird

Rafara runs away. The monster pursues the little girl and quickly catches up to her. Rafara throws her staff while saying, “Dear staff, gift of the mouse, turn into a lake,” and the staff becomes a lake. But Trimobe in a few sips drinks it all. The little girl then throws the rock while saying, “Dear rock, gift of the mouse, turn into a forest,” and instantly the rock turns into a forest. Trimobe, thanks to his powerful and sharp tail, cuts all the trees down. Rafara then throws the egg while saying, “Dear little egg, gift of the mouse, turn into a mountain!” She finds herself at the top of the mountain. The bird Vovondreo who was passing by, agrees to take her with him in exchange for colorful rocks.

Her father welcomes her with joy. He wants to punish the two evil sisters but Rafara, so kind, intercedes on their behalf in front of her father. Rafara grows up to be so beautiful that the king’s son asks for her hand in marriage.

This is a short version of the tale on Contes a Rever, translated to English by Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com

The African Crow: The Crow with a Nike Collar

Nike Crow_1
A crow snacking on some bread

A few years back, my father was visiting Melbourne in Australia, when he heard a bird crowing around. So he asked an Australian lady nearby what bird that was, and she answered the crow… and my dad went on to tell her that in his country, the crow had a white collar, and sounded just like that… so the lady chuckled and said, “so you have a Nike-collar crow in your country.” So meet the Nike-collared Crow.

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Crows in Rwanda

When I first moved to the West, I never understood why people taught of the crow as a bad bird, or rather a bird of bad omen. When I asked, they told me because of its black coat, and black feathers, and because of its cry. This sounded totally weird to me… why? Because in African culture, the crow is not a bad bird, or a bird bringing ominous news. It is actually a good bird. Not only that, but the crow is not an all-black bird, but it has a white collar. I was surprised to find this white-collared bird in Cameroon, in Rwanda, and in other places, thus telling me that the white-collared crow is indigenous to Africa.

With the white collar, isn’t your perception of the crow changed?

Nike Crow_Cameroon_2
Crows in Cameroon