Somali Tale : The Black Crow

A crow snacking on some bread (pied crow)

The crow was once a sheikh or priest, and at that time he was white. But all the other birds made an accusation against him.

They said, “On the one hand he eats meat, and on the other hand he eats fruits.

So all the birds came together and said, “You are a sheikh or a priest! But what you do is wrong. The smallest birds should eat meat. And the biggest ones eat fruit. But you eat from both sides.”

In not only Somali but Cushitic culture in general, it was said that the crow was the representative of the Sun God called Wak. Oromos believed in the Sun God also. People believed that the crow interpreted what Wak, the Sun God, said to the people and people would send their messages to the Sun God through him.

The crow, when he speaks, says “Wak! Wak!

But the crow became dishonest and ate from both things – fruit and meat, and so he was punished. They cursed him and he became black.

This tale was narrated by Pr. Ahmed Mohammed Ali on Ethiopian Folktales.

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

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.

Calebassier_3_2021
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.

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.

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

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

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