The Orphan and the Wicked Villagers

Troupeau de vaches
Boys leading a herd of cows

There was once, in a village, a very rich man who owned many herds of cows, goats, and sheep. He had only one child, a son, still very young whose mother had passed away after giving him life!
When the old man felt his own death coming, he worried: who was going to advise his son so that he would not get devoured by the man-eating worms, the man-eating worms that migrated between the two great rivers where every day he went to water his flocks? The villagers could not do it. On the contrary, they would be jubilant at the idea of seeing his son devoured by the man-eating worms. They would happily split his herds among themselves!

Cailcedrat1
Cailcedrat (Source: paysdelaTeranga blog)

He was going to entrust his son to a tree, an old cailcedrat :

  • I am going to die, he said. I entrust my son to you so that you counsel him.

Then he passed away.

In the morning, before taking his flocks to pasture, the young boy would sing to the tree.

  • My father entrusted me to you, great cailcedrat. Should I take my flocks to Toubalitou? Or should I lead them to Diabalidia?

The tree shook its heavy branches laden with leaves three times, and said:

  • Go to Toubalitou. Do not go to Diabalida. The man-eating works will be at Diabalida today!

The young boy led his flocks to Toubalitou, and in the evening came back safe and sound to the village. The villagers were astonished and furious. Someone must be advising the boy for him not to be eaten by the worms! They were going to find out who was counseling him. They hired a hunter for that task, who brought back the secret. They cut down the tree, burnt it, and threw the ashes in the river.

Turtledove Cameroon
A turtledove at dusk

When the orphan came for counsel, he found nothing. He cried, and still sang his song. One never knew. It was a turtledove who answered him. And once again he got home safe and sound. People were once again surprised. They were furious at the hunter, he had lied to them.

The hunter once again told them the new secret, and promised them that he would kill the turtledove. However, he never could. He became insane, and still runs to this day firing shots at the sky taking it for his turtledove.

Since that day, wise men and women tell their children never to kill a turtledove.

The French original can be found on Ouologuem Blog. Translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com

Never Cry Croc

Children_2
4 Children

One day there lived a family with 4 children, 3 girls and 1 boy. All the children were good except one – you guessed it was the boy. But he wasn’t just unruly – he was also funny. He wanted to spend the whole day playing jokes on people.

One day the boy was sent to get water from a river that was full of crocodiles. After he had collected his water he put the pot safety on the back. Then he started to call out at the top of his voice, “Help! Help! The crocodiles! The crocodiles!

When they heard his screams, everyone was in a panic. They all came running as fast as they could down to the river bank to help him. When they got there they found him laughing his head off. He’d fooled them all! He thought he was hilarious.

Crocodile_1
Crocodile

Of course everyone was very cross. “You called us for nothing. You interrupted our work for nothing. You stupid, bad boy.

Another day the boy was given the same job to go down to the river to collect water. This time though he really was caught by the leg by a crocodile. He pulled all he could and yelled and screamed – “Help! Help! The crocodile the crocodile!

Everyone in the village heard, and rolled their eyes. “Yeah yeah yeah,” they said. “He does that all the times. Take no notice.” When his screams got really loud and panicky, they all shook their heads. “He doesn’t give up, that boy, does he? But he’s not fooling us twice!

No one realized that they were really listening to the boy being attacked and then eaten by a huge crocodile, until they went down to the riverbank later on and found nothing but a pile of clothes and some bloodied mud.

And what is the moral of the story? Simple: you must never lie. You must always tell the truth. Even when you want to make a joke.

This is a Congolese tale from Melvin Burgess blog.

Why the Warthog goes about on his knees

Jackal
Jackal

Oh, Gogo,” little Sipho asked one evening, “could you tell us the story of clever Jackal again?” Sipho, whose nickname was Mpungushe “jackal,” never tired of hearing tales of his beloved namesake.
Hawu, Sipho,” moaned several of his siblings, “Not again, little Jackal! You will wear out our ears with stories of Mpungushe!

Gogo laughed her deep, round laugh. Soon each of her grandchildren were laughing along with her.

I, too, love the stories of the Jackal!” Gogo looked at Sipho. “But we do not want to cause your brothers and sisters to become deaf. I think there is another tale that I can tell you of an animal who tried to be as clever as Jackal!

Kwasuka sukela …

Warthog_1
Warthog

WartHog had made himself a lovely, spacious home in an old termite mound that an aardvark had cleared out. He had built it up and made a wide entrance. He thought it was the most magnificent home in Africa and would often stand at the entrance of his dwelling with his snout in the air as the giraffe, wildebeest and zebra passed on their way to the watering hole. “Hah,” he thought to himself, “no one has such a fine home!

One day as he looked out from the entrance of his cave he was horrified to see a huge lion stealthily stalking toward him. He started to back away, but because he had made the entrance to his place so grand, the lion would have no difficulty in following WartHog right in. “Ahhhh,” panicked WartHog, “Bhubesi will eat me in my own lounge! What will I do?

WartHog decided to use an old trick he’d heard Jackal bragging about. WartHog pretended to be supporting the roof of his hole with his strong back, pushing up with his tusks. “Help!” he cried to the lion, “I am going to be crushed! The roof is caving in! Flee, oh, mighty Bhubesi, before you are crushed along with me!

Now Lion is no fool. He recognized Jackal’s old ploy straight away (“Do you remember that story, children?”), and he wasn’t going to be caught out again. He roared so fiercely that WartHog dropped to his knees, trembling. WartHog begged for mercy. Luckily for him, Lion was not too hungry. So he pardoned WartHog and left, saying,

Lion
Lion

Stay on your knees, you foolish beast!

Lion laughed to himself and shook his shaggy head as he walked away. Imagine, slow-witted WartHog trying to copy Jackal’s trick! WartHog took Lion’s order to heart. That is why, to this day, you will see Wart Hog feeding on his knees, in a very undignified position, with his bottom up in the air and his snout snuffling in the dust.

A Traditional Zulu Story

Why Monkey Looks Like Man

Monkey1In the old days, monkey went to see God and asked him to be like man. God asked him:

  • Awô, but can you stay locked 100 days in a cage?
  • Awô answered monkey, I can, I swear !

God locked him up in a box as agreed.
On the morning of the 99th day, monkey looked through a small hole and saw wonders: flowers, ripe mangoes, bananas, a blue sky, expanse of water, a golden light, branches swinging.
Then, with all his strength, monkey broke the door and said:

  • The world gets beautiful while I am locked up! No way, all these movements outside invite me to the party, I go, I go !!!
Régime de banane plantain
Régime de banane plantain

He does not finish his monologue and he jumps outside in the open air to live freely like everyone.

That’s why he stayed half-way between man and animal.

The French original can be found on Ouologuem Blog. Translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com

Short Parents

tallvshort2
Short parents, tall child

A short father and a short mother gave birth to 4 tall children. But these children weren’t just tall – they were vain. When they got old enough to think for themselves, they looked down their noses at their parents and said, “These people cannot be our parents. We are too big to have come from such little things.”

So they left their parents and went to ask the King to provide them with a new set. They knew he would never give them new parents if he knew they already had some, no matter how short they were; so they lied, and told him that they were orphans.

You should know that these children were planning on making a living by baking.

The King listened carefully, and then he said; “I will give you parents. But in return you must give me 2 sacks of charcoal. But this charcoal must not come from wood. You must make it out of pure fire.”

Charcoal
Charcoal

The tall children had no idea how to do this, so they went back to ask their short parents for advice. Of course, they did not want to tell them how they were trying to get new parents, more befitting to their tall stature; so they lied again, and told them they went to the King only to ask for food.

We asked him nicely, but he told us to make some charcoal from nothing but fire! How do we do it?”

Of course the parents wanted to help their children, so they agreed. “Okay. Go back and tell him that the charcoal is cooking, but that in order to prepare it properly you need to have jars filled with the King’s tears.”

feu3
Fire

They went back to the king and did as their parents had asked. The King said, “I have no tears. But I now know you have not been telling the truth. You are being too clever. Someone must have told you to play this trick. The only people who would help you in this way must be your parents.”

And so the tall children had to go back and live with their short parents.

So what is the lesson of this story? Whether they are rich or poor, or tall or short, strong or weak, you must love your parents as they are. They are irreplaceable in your life. You can search the whole world but you will never find anyone else who will be parents for you.

This is a Congolese tale from Melvin Burgess blog.

The Bad Friends

crocodileCrocodile and Dog are good friends. They meet and help each other. On a party day, Dog invites Crocodile to share a good meal of beans.

  • Beans! I will gladly accept to share them with you, says the crocodile.

The female Dog, the spouse of Dog, presents the host with a good plate well garnished. But before eating the dog says:

  • It is a custom where I come from: to eat, the guest must sit down.

But Crocodile cannot sit down. He tries, but unfortunately, tired, and humiliated, he goes home to his place, leaving Dog and his wife, very happy, eating the beans without him.

Chien1
Dog

Crocodile, then, prepares a good couscous for his birthday and invites his friend Dog. Dog arrives early with his wife. The smell of the sauce fills the entire household.

  • It smells good, says the dog.
  • Yes, very soon we will sit down, but start by drying your noses, because to eat this birthday meal, you must be clean!

Unfortunately, Dog always has a wet nose. Dog and female Dog go outside to dry their noses under the sun. But nothing changes. In the evening, they still have a wet nose. Then Crocodile enjoys his delicious meal alone.

Angry, Dog leaves his friend swearing: « Beware if I ever find you outside the water! »

Crocodile answers Dog: « Beware if I ever meet you near my waters! »

« Are we friends, or are we enemies? »

The French original can be found on Ouologuem Blog. Translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com

Adzanumee and Her Mother

baby doll2
African baby

THERE once lived a woman who had one great desire. She longed to have a daughter—but alas! she was childless. She could never feel happy, because of this unfulfilled wish. Even in the midst of a feast the thought would be in her mind—”Ah! if only I had a daughter to share this with me!

One day she was gathering yams in the field, and it chanced that she pulled out one which was very straight and well shaped. “Ah!” she thought to herself, “if only this fine yam were a daughter, how happy I should be!” To her astonishment the yam answered, “If I were to become your daughter, would you promise never to reproach me with having been a yam?” She eagerly gave her promise, and at once the yam changed into a beautiful, well-made girl. The woman was overjoyed and was very kind to the girl. She named her Adzanumee. The latter was exceedingly useful to her mother. She would make the bread, gather the yams, and sell them at the market-place.

L'igname (yam)
L’igname (yam)

She had been detained, one day, longer than usual. Her mother became impatient at her non-appearance and angrily said, “Where can Adzanumee be? She does not deserve that beautiful name. She is only a yam.

A bird singing nearby heard the mother’s words and immediately flew off to the tree under which Adzanumee sat. There he began to sing:

Adzanumee! Adzanumee!
Your mother is unkind—she says you are only a yam,
You do not deserve your name!
Adzanumee! Adzanumee!

The girl heard him and returned home weeping. When the woman saw her she said, “My daughter, my daughter! What is the matter?” Adzanumee replied:

O my mother! my mother!
You have reproached me with being a yam.
You said I did not deserve my name.
O my mother! my mother!”

yams1
Yams

With these words she made her way toward the yam-field. Her mother, filled with fear, followed her, wailing:

Nay, Adzanumee! Adzanumee!
Do not believe it—do not believe it.
You are my daughter, my dear daughter
Adzanumee!

But she was too late. Her daughter, still singing her sad little song, quickly changed back into a yam. When the woman arrived at the field there lay the yam on the ground, and nothing she could do or say would give her back the daughter she had desired so earnestly and treated so inconsiderately.

Source: Barker, William H. and Cecilia Sinclair. West African Folk-tales. Lagos, Africa: Bookshop, 1917.

Old Clothes, a Kikongo Tale

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Illustration from ‘Mataya, Les Vieux Vetements’, ContAfrica.org

There once was a woman who loved to keep her old clothes while sometimes buying new ones which she never wore because she preferred the old ones.

One day, she received the news of her mother’s passing. To attend the funerals, she decided to change her look. She wore new clothes, and took great care of herself, and carefully folded the old ones away.

When she started to go to the funerals, the old clothes thought and said: “We have always been together. Now, for your mother’s funerals, you want to leave us behind? No. We will follow you.”

When she stepped out, the clothes followed her and started to sing: “You did not leave us before, but today, you leave your old clothes at home; we will follow you to your mother’s funerals (2 bis).”

Congo_bust of a Kongo girl ca 1910
Bust from a Kongo woman, ca 1910

The lady walked, walked, walked, and once at her mother’s funerals, she entered. The people did not like what they saw and said: “You are very elegant, but what is that bunch of clothes doing here?”

But those who knew her said: “No. She dressed this way and the old clothes followed her because she never used to wear new clothes. She always dressed in old clothes. She never changed because she did not like new clothes.”

Ashamed to hear this, the lady decided to change. She stopped wearing, exclusively old clothes, and started to vary, wearing sometimes old, sometimes new clothes.

Morale: Attachment to old habits leads to spiritual and material poverty.

This is a Kikongo tale from the Uíge province of Angola. The original in Kikongo, as well as the first image, can be found on CONTAFRICA. The English translation is by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com.

The Quest for a Fiancée

African princess
African princess

One day, two young men went looking for their future wife. They went towards the village and found a young girl. They were well received by her family who killed a chicken and offered it to them in a good meal.

While eating, one of them, thinking himself more clever, while the other was distracted, put his chicken bones in the other’s plate.

pouleFor desert, they were given peanuts (jinguba), the young man who thought himself more clever, did it again. After eating his peanuts, he would throw the peelings under the legs of his friend when he was distracted. Once the meal finished, the father of the young girl said:

My daughter will marry the one who ate and left the chicken bones and peanuts peelings. I do not want for in-law the one who has swallowed everything.

Thus, the young girl was given to the one who had been trapped by his friend.

Morale of the tale: Caution, do not try to trap your neighbor, for it could turn against you!

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Sera de Leba in Huíla province, Angola (source: Panoramio.com)

This is an Olunyaneka tale from Lubango in the Huíla province of Angola. The original in Portuguese can be found on CONTAFRICA. The English translation is by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com.

The Eagle and the Tortoise

Eagle
Eagle

Eagle and Tortoise were the very best of friends – so much so that every single day, the eagle flew down from the high mountain where he had his eerie, across the steep cliffs, down past the stony slopes, over the trees, across the river, and past the meadows until he came the scrubby wilderness where tortoise made his home.

Tortoise was always there to meet him and make him welcome, and the two friends would have lunch together.

This went day after day, year after year, and the friendship between the two never wavered, until one day, Tortoise noticed that his friend was quieter than usual. He asked him why.

Have you ever noticed that it’s always me who comes to visit you?” Eagle said. “In all these years, I don’t think you’ve ever come to my house even once.”

Tortue
Tortoise

But you live so far away!” replied Tortoise. “There are mountains to climb, ravines to get over, rivers to cross. The forest is full of tangled roots, the way is littered with boulders and stones. It would take me forever, if I got there at all.”

“Still,” said Eagle. “ I think you might have managed it just once, if you cared for me as much as I care for you.”

Tortoise was hurt and shocked that his friend felt this way, but the journey was far, too difficult and dangerous for a stumpy legged little thing like him to ever attempt.

Don’t be like that,” he begged.  “I’m sorry you feel let down. Give me time. Let me try find some other way of proving my loyalty to you.”

Months passed and Eagle sadly thought that Tortoise had forgotten his promise. But then came his birthday, and he forgot about his doubts, looking forward to the big day. Every year, Tortoise prepared a special lunch for his friend and always began the meal with a splendid present.

table1
Table

On the day, Eagle excitedly made the flight down from the mountain to the desert in double quick time, he was so excited. But when he got there – what’s this? No table spread with goodies, no group of friends – no Tortoise. All there was, was a package and a card.

Eagle opened the card and read. “My friend, I’ve tried for months to think of a way to repay you for all the visits you’ve made to me over the years, but I’ve failed. So today, on your birthday, I’ve decided to come to visit you at your house. It’s a long journey for me, so I’ve decided to take several days to get there, to make sure I’m on time. As you can see, I was unable to carry your present as well. I hope you won’t object to carrying it yourself to your house – where I shall be ready to greet you and help you celebrate this special day!”

Wow,” thought Eagle. “Finally – he’s actually doing it!” He took the present in his talons and set off – over the desert, across the meadow, over the river, which he noticed today was very full and strong … Above the forest that was as Tortoise had said, full of tangled roots breaking up the ground, as well as sharp thorns in the twigs and branches. Then up, up he soared, up the slopes of the mountain, beyond the stony slopes and towering cliffs back to his eerie home.

Tortoise wasn’t there.

Never mind,” said Eagle. “It IS a long way for someone who can’t fly.  He’s probably still walking. I can wait

Eagle waited … and waited … and waited.

After a bit he began to worry. The mountain certainly was very steep. Tortoise had such tiny legs – there were a million places where he could slip and fall to his death.

field_champ
landscape

I’ll find him and give him a lift,” Eagle thought. He flew off over the mountain, up and down, up and down. But there was no sign of Tortoise. He asked his friends the other eagles to help, and they all flew to and fro, but none of them saw anything.

Maybe he fell into a ravine,” one of the other eagles said.

Unless he’s crept past us and is waiting for you at your place, ” said someone else. Eagle dashed home, full of hope, but the tortoise still wasn’t there.

Maybe he’s still at the river. But that’s ludicrous – he can’t swim with that shell. He’ll drown! How stupid I’ve been! I must stop him,” thought Eagle.

He flew off down the mountain side to to river and searched and searched – he even got one of the crocs that lived there to help him … But no one found anything

Maybe one of my cousins found him first,” suggested Crocodile.

Off Eagle flew, in a panic now .. back home , then to the forest, then to the desert, then to mountain again, then back home, then off again … back and forth and to and fro, until his wings ached. But of the tortoise, there was no trace …

It was getting late now. Eagle realized that what for him was a simple journey on the wings of the wind, was a terrible ordeal for his little friend – an ordeal that had surely killed him. He flew wearily back home, full of guilt. He had lost the best friend in the world, and it was no one’s fault but his own.

He got back and – who should be there to greet him, but Tortoise himself,  looking comfortable and rested as he raised a glass to his friend.
Eagle took one look and said…

Baby_stork_delivery1HOW!!??

Can’t you guess?” said the Tortoise. “You gave me a lift! I was hiding … inside the parcel you so kindly carried here for me. I AM your birthday present!

When he realized he had been tricked, Eagle was at first angry … then relieved … then angry again … and then at last he began to see the funny side and started to laugh … and laugh … and laugh.

Finally, they had their party.  At the end of the day, Eagle carried Tortoise safely back home and dropped him gently  at his front door.

Just promise me one thing,” he said.

What’s that?

Don’t EVER come to visit me again! I don’t think I could stand the stress!

This is a Congolese tale from Melvin Burgess blog