Elephant and Tortoise


TWO powers, Elephant and Rain, had a dispute. Elephant said, “If you say that you nourish me, in what way is it that you do so?” Rain answered, “If you say that I do not nourish you, when I go away, will you not die?” And Rain then departed.

Elephant said, “Vulture! cast lots to make rain for me.”

Vulture said, “I will not cast lots.”

Then Elephant said to Crow, “Cast lots!” who answered, “Give the things with which I may cast lots.” Crow cast lots and rain fell. It rained at the lagoons, but they dried up, and only one lagoon remained.


Elephant went a-hunting. There was, however, Tortoise, to whom Elephant said, “Tortoise, remain at the water!” Thus Tortoise was left behind when Elephant went a-hunting.

There came Giraffe, and said to Tortoise, “Give me water!” Tortoise answered, “The water belongs to Elephant.”

There came Zebra, who said to Tortoise, “Give me water!” Tortoise answered, “The water belongs to Elephant.” Continue reading “Elephant and Tortoise”

The Dance for Water or Rabbit’s Triumph

Chutes de la Lobe (Cameroun) / Lobe Falls (Cameroon) - afrolegends.com
Chutes de la Lobe (Cameroun) / Lobe Falls (Cameroon) – afrolegends.com

THERE was a frightful drought. The rivers after a while dried tip and even the springs gave no water. The animals wandered around seeking drink, but to no avail. Nowhere was water to be found. A great gathering of animals was held: Lion, Tiger, Wolf, Jackal, Elephant, all of them came together. What was to be done? That was the question. One had this plan, and another had that; but no plan seemed of value.

Finally one of them suggested: “Come, let all of us go to the dry river bed and dance; in that way we can tread out the water.”

Good! Everyone was satisfied and ready to begin instantly, excepting Rabbit, who said, “I will not go and dance. All of you are mad to attempt to get water from the ground by dancing.”


The other animals danced and danced, and ultimately danced the water to the surface. How glad they were. Everyone drank as much as he could, but Rabbit did not dance with them. So it was decided that Rabbit should have no water.

He laughed at them: “I will nevertheless drink some of your water.”

That evening he proceeded leisurely to the river bed where the dance had been, and drank as much as he wanted. The following morning the animals saw the footprints of Rabbit in the ground, and Rabbit shouted to them: “Aha! I did have some of the water, and it was most refreshing and tasted fine.” Continue reading “The Dance for Water or Rabbit’s Triumph”

Lion and Baboon


BABOON, it is said, once worked bamboos, sitting on the edge of a precipice, and Lion stole upon him.  Baboon, however, had fixed some round, glistening, eyelike plates on the back of his head.  When, therefore, Lion crept upon him, he thought, when Baboon was looking at him, that he sat with his back towards him, and crept with all his might upon him.  When, however, Baboon turned his back towards him, Lion thought that he was seen, and bid himself.  Thus, when Baboon looked at him, he crept upon him.*  When he was near him Baboon looked up, and Lion continued to creep upon him. Baboon said (aside), “Whilst I am looking at him he steals upon me, whilst my hollow eyes are on him.”
When at last Lion sprung at him, he lay (quickly) down upon his face, and Lion jumped over him, falling down the precipice, and was dashed to pieces.

*Whilst Baboon did this, Lion came close upon him.

South African Folk Tales, by James A. Honey, 1910, Baker & Taylor Company.

The Story of a Dam

Inga Falls on the Congo river
Inga Falls on the Congo river

HERE was a great drought in the land; and Lion called together a number of animals so that they might devise a plan for retaining water when the rains fell.

The animals which attended at Lion’s summons were Baboon, Leopard, Hyena, Jackal, Hare, and Mountain Tortoise.  It was agreed that they should scratch a large hole in some suitable place to hold water; and the next day they all began to work, with the exception of Jackal, who continually hovered about in that locality, and was overheard to mutter that he was not going to scratch his nails off in making water holes.


When the dam was finished the rains fell, and it was soon filled with water, to the great delight of those who had worked so bard at it.  The first one, however, to come and drink there, was Jackal, who not only drank, but filled his clay pot with water, and then proceeded to swim in the rest of the water, making it as muddy and dirty as he could.  This was brought to the knowledge of Lion, who was very angry and ordered Baboon to guard the water the next day, armed with a huge knobkerrie.  Baboon was concealed in a bush close to the water; but Jackal soon became aware of his presence there, and guessed its cause.  Knowing the fondness of baboons for honey, Jackal at once hit upon a plan, and marching to and fro, every now and then dipped his fingers into his clay pot, and licked them with an expression of intense relish, saying, in a low voice to himself, “I don’t want any of their dirty water when I have a pot full of delicious honey.”  This was too much for poor Baboon, whose mouth began to water.  He soon began to beg Jackal to give him a little honey, as he had been watching for several hours, and was very hungry and tired.  After taking no notice of Baboon at first, Jackal looked round, and said, in a patronizing manner, that he pitied such an unfortunate creature, and would give him some honey on certain conditions, viz., that Baboon should give up his knobkerrie and allow himself to be bound by Jackal.  He foolishly agreed; and was soon tied in such a manner that he could not move hand or foot. Continue reading “The Story of a Dam”