Jackal and Monkey


EVERY evening Jackal went to the Man’s* kraal.  He crept through the sliding door and stole a fat young lamb.  This, clever Jackal did several times in succession.  Man set a wip for him at the door.  Jackal went again and zip-there he was caught around the body by the noose.  He swung and swayed high in the air and couldn’t touch ground.  The day began to dawn and Jackal became uneasy.

On a stone kopje, Monkey sat.  When it became light he could see the whole affair, and descended hastily for the purpose of mocking Jackal.  He went and sat on the wall. “Ha, ha, good morning. So there you are hanging now, eventually caught.
What? I, caught? I am simply swinging for my pleasure; it is enjoyable.
You fibber. You are caught in the wip.
If you but realized how nice it was to swing and sway like this, you wouldn’t hesitate.  Come, try it a little.  You feel so healthy and strong for the day, and you never tire afterwards.
No, I won’t.  You are caught.


After a while Jackal convinced Monkey.  He sprang from the kraal wall, and freeing Jackal, adjusted the noose around his own body.
Jackal quickly let go and began to laugh, as Monkey was now swinging high in the air.
Ha, ha, ha,” he laughed.  “Now Monkey is in the wip.
Jackal, free me,” he screamed.
There, Man is coming,” shouted Jackal.
Jackal, free me of this, or I’ll break your playthings.
No, there Man is coming with his gun; you rest a while in the noose.
Jackal, quickly make me free.
No, here’s Man already, and he’s got his gun.  Good morning.” And with these parting words he ran away as fast as he could.  Man came and saw Monkey in the wip.
So, so, Monkey, now you are caught.  You are the fellow who has been stealing my lambs, hey?
No, Man, no,” screamed Monkey, ” not I, but Jackal.
No, I know you; you aren’t too good for that.
No, Boer, no, not I, but Jackal,” Monkey stammered.
Oh, I know you.  Just wait a little,” and Man, raising his gun, aimed and shot poor Monkey dead.

South African Folk Tales, by James A. Honey, 1910, Baker & Taylor Company. (* I replaced ‘Boer’ by ‘Man’, for generality).

The Monkey’s Fiddle


Hunger and want forced Monkey one day to forsake his land and to seek elsewhere among strangers for much-needed work.  Bulbs, earth beans, scorpions, insects, and such things were completely exhausted in his own land.  But fortunately he received, for the time being, shelter with a great uncle of his, Orangutan, who lived in another part of the country.

When he had worked for quite a while he wanted to return home, and as recompense his great uncle gave him a fiddle and a bow and arrow and told him that with the bow and arrow he could hit and kill anything he desired, and with the fiddle he could force anything to dance.

The first he met upon his return to his own land was Brer Wolf.  This old fellow told him all the news and also that he had since early morning been attempting to stalk a deer, but all in vain.  Then Monkey laid before him all the wonders of the bow and arrow that he carried on his back and assured him if he could but see the deer he would bring it down for him.  When Wolf showed him the deer, Monkey was ready and down fell the deer.  They made a good meal together, but instead of Wolf being thankful, jealousy overmastered him and he begged for the bow and arrow.

Brer Wolf
Brer Wolf

When Monkey refused to give it to him, he thereupon began to threaten him with his greater strength, and so when Jackal passed by, Wolf told him that Monkey had stolen his bow and arrow.  After Jackal had heard both of them, he declared himself unqualified to settle the case alone, and he proposed that they bring the matter to the court of Lion, Tiger, and the other animals.  In the meantime he declared he would take possession of what had been the cause of their quarrel, so that it would be safe, as he said.  But he immediately brought to earth all that was eatable, so there was a long time of slaughter before Monkey and Wolf agreed to have the affair in court.

Monkey’s evidence was weak, and to make it worse, Jackal’s testimony was against him.  Jackal thought that in this way it would be easier to obtain the bow and arrow from Wolf for himself.  And so fell the sentence against Monkey.  Theft was looked upon as a great wrong; he must hang.  The fiddle was still at his side, and he received as a last favor from the court the right to play a tune on it.

He was a master player of his time, and in addition to this came the wonderful power of his charmed fiddle.  Thus, when he struck the first note of “Cockcrow” upon it, the court began at once to show an unusual and spontaneous liveliness, and before he came to the first waltzing turn of the old tune the whole court was dancing like a whirlwind.  Over and over, quicker and quicker, sounded the tune of “Cockcrow” on the charmed fiddle, until some of the dancers, exhausted, fell down, although still keeping their feet in motion.  But Monkey, musician as he was, heard and saw nothing of what had happened around him.  With his head placed lovingly against the instrument, and his eyes half closed, he played on, keeping time ever with his foot.

African fiddle
African fiddle

Wolf was the first to cry out in pleading tones breathlessly, “Please stop, Cousin Monkey! For love’s sake, please stop!”

But Monkey did not even hear him. Over and over sounded the resistless waltz of “Cockcrow.”

After a while Lion showed signs of fatigue, and when he had gone the round once more with his young lion wife, he growled as he passed Monkey, “My whole kingdom is yours, ape, if you just stop playing.”

I do not want it,” answered Monkey, “but withdraw the sentence and give me my bow and arrow, and you, Wolf, acknowledge that you stole it from me.”

I acknowledge, I acknowledge!” cried Wolf, while Lion cried, at the same instant, that he withdrew the sentence.

Monkey gave them just a few more turns of the “Cockcrow,” gathered up his bow and arrow, and seated himself high up in the nearest camel thorn tree.

The court and other animals were so afraid that he might begin again that they hastily disbanded to new parts of the world.

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