Hausa Folklore by Maalam Shaihu and translated By R. Sutherland Rattray


This is a story about a certain chief. A tale, a tale. Let it go and let it return.

A certain chief, by name Kurunguthe-bad-fish, grew old in his kingdom, and when he was near to death-he had many children-he called them together and said, 'If I were to die what would you all do to observe my funeral?'

His eldest child said, 'When you are dead I shall mourn for you by (slaughtering) a lion.' Each one said what he would do. His youngest said, 'When you are dead I shall mourn for you by killing a hyena.' And it came to pass that not long after he died, and each brought what he said; only the eldest and the youngest remained (to fulfil the promise).

Then the youngest went to the bush, he was walking, and he came across a cow and brought it back. They slaughtered it and made a skin bag of it, and they took the cow's head and feet and pushed them into the bag. Then he went and called the hyena. She came (and) he (the man) said, 'We divided up the meat (when) you were not there, (and) we set aside your share.'

They showed her (lit. him) the bag, they said, 'There it is, go in and lift (the meat).' Then the hyena put in her head and entered. Then the youngest son immediately closed the mouth of the bag (and) they tied it up, the hyena inside, and they dragged the hyena and brought her above their father's grave. And they kept flogging her until the skin burst. The hyena found an exit, got out, and ran off. Then the youngest son got angry and said, 'I shall catch her again.'

And so another day he found a cow, he brought it back and killed (it), he searched for porridge and covered his eye with it and went off to the forest. He saw the hyena and said, 'Hyena, we have divided up the meat in your absence, we looked for you until we were tired. And as for us, we are a people who keep a promise to our parents, and when they were about to die they said we must continually give (gifts), and whoever found anything let him seek his brother (to share with him).'

The hyena said, 'That is quite true, but someone has come here and deceived me. It was thus he enticed me away and he was wanting to kill me.' Then the youngest son said, 'Come now, hyena, would a man call his brother to kill (him)?' The hyena answered, 'Let us go.'

They took the road, they were coming, when the hyena stood still and said, 'No, yesterday he who came to call me, like you was he, let me hear it was not you.' The youngest son said, 'This man, had he one eye?' The hyena said, 'Let us go on.'

They took the road and were going on (and) they reached the house. Then the youngest son showed him (her) where the cow's hide was, and he said, 'Enter, your (share) is within.' Then the hyena, when he (she) was about to push in his (her) head, came out and said, 'No, friend, do not come and do to me as your brother did to me.'
The youngest son was standing by, and he said, 'Come then, hyena, if it is that you do not want the meat, leave it, and go about your business. Does a man call his brother in order that he may do him harm? The meat I show you if you do not eat, leave it, and get out.' Then the hyena said, 'No, I am (going) to eat it.'

So he (she) put his (her) head in and entered. As he (she) was going to lift the meat and then come out, then the youngest son seized the mouth of the bag and closed it. And they all came up and tied up the hyena and dragged it and brought it over their father's grave. They kept beating it, they beat it till the skin burst, and the hyena found an exit, and came out, and ran off.

But the youngest son said, 'I will find and bring her back again.' Then sometime passed and the hyena forgot. And the youngest son found a very large cow and brought it back. They slaughtered it, flayed it, and made a skin bag; they lifted a hind leg and put (it) in the bag, and made a trap. Then the youngest son got some porridge, went to the bush, came near the hole where the hyena was, then took the (dawo) porridge, and covered up his eyes; then he could not see. Then he called, 'Where is the hyena's den? Look at this, a cow has been slaughtered since yesterday, they put on one side a leg for him (her), and he (she) is not to be seen.' Then the hyena heard, he (she) was in the hole, so out he (she) came and said, 'Here I am.' And the hyena said, 'Where is the meat?' Then the youngest son held out to her a large piece of meat and said, 'You see the sign (that what I say is true).' Then the hyena took it and swallowed it right off, and the hyena said, 'Let us go at once.' Then the hyena remembered, and he (she) pulled up, and said, 'My friend, some one of your kindred, it was just thus he deceived me; he took me away and he wanted to kill me.'

Then the youngest son said, 'Come now, hyena, how can a blind man manage to kill another person?' And the hyena said, 'Let us go on.' They took the road, they were coming, until they got to where the trap was. Then the youngest son said, 'Hyena, look at the meat there.' Then the hyena saw a very fat hind-quarter. The hyena, without a thought, leaped and went in, in order to lift the meat out; he (she) did not know it was a trap, till the trap caught him (her). Then the hyena began to shout, and the youngest son ran off and went home and called his brothers, (and) they flogged the hyena until the hyena became insensible. (And) they bound him (her) and dragged him (her), and brought him (her) to their father's grave, and (there) they cut (her throat), and skinned (her), and divided up the meat, and ate.

Then they said, 'Each one has observed the funeral rites of our parent with the exception of our eldest brother.' Then their eldest brother lifted up an anvil, and took it to the bush; he was forging metal, Then the lion came, and said, 'Friend smith, let me come and work the bellows for you.' He said, 'Yes.' So the lion came and worked the bellows.

Now of a truth the smith had done something, he had sought leaves of a certain kind and put (them) between his legs. Then he lifted the tongs and put (them) in the fire, and he told the lion to blow the bellows; and the lion blew them until the tongs were red hot. Then the smith got up and bent down and said to the lion, 'Friend, my anus is itching'; (and) he lifted the tongs and pushed them among the leaves, (and) the leaves were set on fire. The lion thought it was the smith's anus. The smith too left them there until the tongs were cold.

After this the lion said, 'An insignificant person like you, you have strength of mind to do this?' Then the lion put the tongs into the fire, he was blowing the bellows until the tongs were red hot. Then the lion said, I Friend, lift (them) and place them for me.' So the smith lifted the tongs, he worked them up and down the lion's anus until the lion fainted.

Then the smith with all speed went home and summoned his younger brothers, (and) they came (and) they pulled (the lion) (and) brought it home. Then he entered the house to get some water to bring for the young men-the lion is lying still. Then the smith drew the water (and) came, (and) the people gathered round and looked on, then the lion came round from his faint and said, 'My friend, what are you doing to me?' And the smith said, 'I have seen you were weary, and so I brought you home to pour water on you.' But the lion said, 'You are a liar.'

And the lion leaped and trampled him and tore (him). That was the origin of the spider; when he (the lion) trampled on him (the smith), he broke up, and made many feet. That was the beginning of the spider; formerly he was a smith.

Off with the rat's head.

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