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.

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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

The Two Cowards

Tapper harvesting palm wine
Tapper harvesting palm wine

Two cowards were banished from their village. They met and walked together into the deepest forest. Once there, they decided to start a home outside of God’s care. They lived there until winter (rainy season from July to October). They then decided to find some handles for their hoes. For that, they walked a long time until they arrived under the shadow of a raat (combretum glutinosum – tree with medicinal properties). One of them said:

  • You will climb on top of the tree to keep an eye out on the forest, while I will dig deep to find some good roots. If you see someone, let me know.
  • Sure, but you too, if you see something, do not forget to let me know.

The watchman climbed up the tree, while the other started digging at once. Soon, he finds two straight and long roots so beautiful that he can’t stop himself from shouting:

  • Ah! Here are two at last!

At these words, the watchman tumbled from the tree and, taking to his heels, dashed as an arrow. The other one, seeing his colleague running, throws away his shovel and runs after him.

running-iconThey run, they run losing their breaths and, when they think themselves safe, they stop. One of them asks:

  • What did you see?
  • No, I should be the one asking you that question, because I started running when I heard your warning!
  • But no, I did not raise the alarm! I was just cutting two beautiful roots that I had dug up. I only made a sigh of joy.
  • It is precisely your sigh that scared me.
  • And I, I ran away as soon as I saw you dash like an arrow!

Which of the two is the most coward?

According to the public, it is the one up in the tree, since the one digging only saw his roots.

Told by Khady Diouf, Contes Wolof du Baol, J. Copans and P. Couty, Ed. Karthala, 1988, p. 79. Translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com

Eight Little Girls and Hyena

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8 little girls

Eight little girls liked to play in the surrounding fields. One day, while out picking flowers, it started to rain. They sought a shelter, and found a cave. They got in. It was the house of Surukuba, the Hyena.

A few moments later, Hyena arrived galloping.

Hyena
Hyene

As soon as she got near the cave, she stopped and exclaimed:

  • Hum ! It smells like a little girl here !

Then she got close to the the cave, and looking inside, exclaimed:

  • How many are you, little girls ?

The eight girls answered with a single voice singing:

  • Eight little girls !
  • We are indeed eight little girls, to fill Hyena’s mouth !

Overjoyed, Hyena jumped up, and galloped away. She wanted to tell another hyena. If she ate them right away, and then told that one day she had found eight little girls in her house, nobody would believe her ! She had to find a witness.

She galloped away, repeating the the little girls’ song:

  • Eight little girls, to fill Hyena’s mouth .

She found a comrade and invited her to come see what she had found in her cave. In her very own house : eight little chubby girls ! But before their arrival, two little girls ran out of the cave and went back to the village.

Girls_6
The remaining 6 little girls

The remaining six answered:

  • Yes, we are really eight little girls to amuse the fangs of eight hyenas !

The two hyenas went away galloping. They needed to find a third one ? Why not a fourth one ? Then a fifth one ? Then … after all, there were really eight little girls.

But when the hyenas got back and asked:

  • How many are you ? Girls ?
Hyena_2
2 hyenas

Only one voice replied. And when the hyenas ran into the cave, they only found a small ring that the oldest of the little girls had put down. It was this little ring which had replied.

Furious, they ran after the little girls. They arrived in the village, as the oldest of the little girls was climbing the fence. A hyena grabbed her foot:

  • I got you, little cunning one. And I am going to eat you !

The oldest of the little girls burst out laughing :

  • Oh! Big moron ! It is not my foot that you hold there, but a wood on the fence .

The hyena let go of the girl’s foot and grabbed the wood. The little girl then jumped into the village and alerted the hunters.

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

The Story of Three Friends

Vulture1
Vulture

A long long time ago, yes it was at the beginning of the world, there were three friends: the vulture, the hornbill, and the hen who became sick. The first one was suffering from baldness, the second from an anomaly on the beak, and the third from cramps on its legs. To make themselves heard, they started singing.

hornbill2
Hornbill feeding another

Adaunia Nomba
Dauni Nomba yôyé
Dauni Nomba
Inden sanga nomba kôyé
Life here
what life here !
Life is in auction !

God did not answer, so they decided to go see Him directly so that He would heal them. The hen challenged:

poule
Hen

My friends let’s not go beyond protocol, God will not delay. By acting as you intend to, we will make Him angry. Why the hurry?

The vulture and the hornbill did not listen to the hen and went up the sky flying as hard as possible. As they rose higher and higher, God arrived and healed the hen. Since then, the vulture has remained bald, and the hornbill has a crooked beak. To this day, they keep hovering in the air in search of God.

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

The Lion’s Whiskers (and Marriage)

marriage_senegal
Senegalese couple (au-senegal.com, Bade 1996)

Many years ago, there lived a young married couple in a small village in Africa. In the beginning, the husband and the wife were very happy in their marriage and loved spending time with each other. However, of late, things had changed a lot. The husband started staying a little unhappy and never returned home on time, unlike before. The wife loved her husband very much and thought that he was the most wonderful man in the world, but of late, the husband’s behavior made the wife really sad and miserable.

One day, she decided to visit a wise old man in the village, to get some advice about her marriage. The old man had got this couple married just a few years back and had thought that it would last forever. He was very sad to hear that they were unhappy in their marriage.

The old man said that he could end their marriage, but he asked the wife for one last time, if she really wanted to end this marriage and marry someone else.

Lion
Lion

I want my husband to be loving and caring like before and even I want to be like that,” the wife replied sadly. The old man replied, “If that is what you really want then I think I can help you. I can make a secret potion. Once your husband has the potion, he will turn into a very loving and caring man.” “Really?” the wife exclaimed. “Then please prepare it and give it to me at once,” she said impatiently.

I can make the potion but you have to get me a very special ingredient for it,” the old man said to the wife.
I will get you whatever you want,” the wife said.
Alright then, please get me a single whisker from the body of a living lion.”
The wife was shocked to hear about the ingredient. But she wanted to save her marriage so badly that she promised the old man that she would get the whisker.

The next day, the wife bought a huge chunk of meat and waited near the river where the lions often came to drink water. As she saw a lion approaching from a distance, she dropped the meat on the ground and hid behind a tree. The lion saw the meat on the ground and finished it in one single bite. The lion knew that the wife was there. She was shivering with fear, waiting for the lion to leave.

After a while, the lion left quietly.

PirogueThe next day the wife did the same thing. Only this time the lion came quickly to eat the meat. This continued for about a month and every day the woman kept moving closer and closer to the lion.
After a month, the wife decided to move really close to the lion and one day, she actually went and sat beside the lion while he was eating the piece of meat. Shaking with fear the wife slowly pulled out a whisker from the lion’s chin. The lion turned its huge head and took a look at her. She almost froze with fear. But the lion turned back its head and continued to eat.

The wife waited for the lion to leave and then ran to the old man with the lion’s whisker. The old man was awestruck to hear the story of the wife. He said, “It requires immense courage, patience and perseverance to accomplish a task like that. If you can show even half the amount of patience and courage in your marriage, I am sure you can change your husband with that.”

marriage
African couple (Wikimedia Commons)

What about the potion?” The wife asked eagerly.
The old man replied, “I can certainly make the potion. But that wouldn’t last forever. But if you try, you can change your husband into a loving man with the help of your love, understanding and patience. Make him feel loved and wanted and share all his problems. I am sure he will change into a better man.”

The wife followed the advice of the old man and within a month the husband’s behavior changed towards her. He became more caring and loving and was never late from work. Thus, they lived a happily married life forever.

A Traditional San story

The Hare, The Princess, and the Hot Chili Sauce

Tis’ the season of blessing, joy, happiness, and merry-ness. I would like to share with you a book which will make you all laugh to tears. A king, a beautiful princess, and a pot of hot chili sauce… the combination is bound to make you laugh. Enjoy this book, an African Children’s book, for young and young at heart, perfect for Christmas and to spice it up the African way! It is on kindle e-book. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

cover-image