|Bukusu Folktales (Kenya Literature Bureau, 1986, 134 p.)|
There was once a hare who lived on the outskirts of a mountain forest. He was very famous for his exotic cooking. His fame spread far and wide in the animal world. It was not uncommon, for instance, for many animals to come in at his house, just to have a taste of his sweet delicacies. One day, a buffalo dropped in and expressed a desire to have some food.
My friend Hare, he said, I feel hungry and I will be very obliged to have a bite.
Very well, said Hare. You sit here a moment while I go to the kitchen to prepare something; I won't be long.
While Hare was busy in the kitchen, Buffalo had a good time dreaming about how privileged he was to be in a position where he was going to make his own judgement about Hare's exotic cooking. He had heard so much about this and now he was going to see things for himself!
What a clever chap I am, he laughed to himself. Hare will never guess my real reasons for stopping by!
He closed his eyes and imagined that the famed juicy meat was passing down his throat. This imaginary act of alimentation was followed by a big gurgle of saliva down his throat. The gurgling sound could have awakened a sleeping child! Buffalo felt that he could just not wait any longer. My friend Hare, he called out, the smell of your food makes my mouth water.
I am coming, my friend, said Hare. Be Patient. Soon Hare emerged from the kitchen with a plate full of food.
Here you are, my friend, said Hare as he handed it to Buffalo. Buffalo ate it so greedily that one would think he had not tasted a morsel for weeks! By the motion of his eating, it appeared as though he was merely licking the plate. Then he asked for a second helping. He could not speak a word while eating.
Meanwhile Hare sat in a corner watching him. Whenever he said something, Buffalo simply nodded his head rapidly as if he understood or approved of everything in the world. After eating through the second helping he began to talk.
My friend Hare, he said, can you tell me where you get this juicy meat?
It is gorgeous, I can assure you.
Hare smiled and said, I get my meat in this world. Nowhere else.
But you must show me where, please?
Hare nodded his head and said, O yes, if you are prepared to come with me.
Buffalo scratched his throat and said, How far is that place?
Right up in the mountain, said Hare.
The two friends agreed to go hunting on that day. When they came to a convenient spot on a steep slope Hare told Buffalo, You stay here and waylay the quarry which I am going to hunt higher up in the mountain. You know, animals in this area are very huge and fat. When they run the earth trembles, and one feels as if the whole world is sinking under one's feet. So, when you hear a little sound and light movement, just ignore it, for it will be a small and worthless prey. But when you hear a rumbling noise and see trees crumbling down, close your eyes and stick out your hind leg so that the prey will crash on it and die. As simple as that. You see my friend?
Yes, said Buffalo. No wonder the meat was extraordinarily sweet, he thought. The quarry is not caught in the usual way! I must learn Hare's technique of hunting and then I will insist that he teaches me what goes on in the kitchen as well. After that I will be an accomplished cook. Wait and see. Soon everyone will be talking about my cooking.
While these thoughts were fleeting through his mind, Buffalo took his position as instructed, whilst Hare climbed up the mountain to go and start the quarry.
After a short while, Hare hurled downhill a small rock which made a little noise as it rolled down towards Buffalo. The latter, knowing that it was a worthless animal, closed his eyes and let it pass. Now, Hare pushed a huge rock which tumbled downhill thunderously.
That, thought Buffalo, must be the type of animal that yielded Hare's famous stew. So he closed his eyes and stuck out his hind leg with all accuracy. The huge rock crushed his hind leg into pieces and came to rest on him.
Help! help! he yelled, help! my leg! My head! Oh! My back! Help! I am dying!
Buffalo thus groaned, helpless under the weight of the huge rock, but Hare simply watched the drama with amusement and shook with glee. Look at the fool, he said to himself amid mirthful laughter; don't you know that I am Hare the genius, son of omukhaye? You only know how to carry about your crooked horns thinking that you are king of the whole world. Come on! die quickly so that I may chop up my meat and retire home.
Hopping about gaily, Hare came down to the dead buffalo and examined the carcass to make sure that the beast was absolutely dead. So, he flayed him and carried the meat home.
On the following day, Elephant visited Hare and also expressed desire to taste the famous delicacies. Hare procured a meal and after eating, Elephant insisted that he should go with Hare on a hunt.
Hare agreed and so the two friends went up the mountain. Elephant was told to waylay the quarry half-way down the mountain slope. Hare told him that he should not bother if he heard the movement of a small animal but that if he heard a big noise and felt the earth trembling he should put out his trunk so as to get hold of the animal.
When a small rock tumbled down the hill, Elephant kept guard without moving. However, soon Elephant heard a big noise and hastened to lay his trunk across the way the rock was coming. The rock smashed his head and trunk, killing him instantly. Hare came and chopped up the meat for his next meal.
On the third day, Lion came. Hare felt very confident that he was going to wipe out all the kings of the forest. Lion asked for some food to eat and Hare graciously obliged him with a plateful of meat. After Lion had eaten, he insisted that he too should be taken to the reputable hunting grounds so that he might discover for himself the source of Hare's rare stew. As usual, Hare consented to the request and the two friends went up the mountain. And, sure enough, you can guess what happened! Through the same, old tricks, Hare bagged the king of animals, and returned home feeling quite elated. This was the greatest moment of his hunting escapades.
Due to his victorious encounter with the king of animals, Hare was puffed up with pride.
There is none other than me, the son of omukhaye, who is master of the animal kingdom, he said to himself as he strutted about like a peacock. He was, indeed, confident that hunting of the remaining animal species would be no more than a child's play.
On the fourth day, Leopard visited Hare. My friend Hare, he said, I have been walking down day and night, crossing river upon river, and do you know why?
Why? asked Hare, not quite inquisitively, since he could certainly guess the answer.
Just to have a taste of your famous dish!
You are most welcome, my friend Leopard, said Hare as he rose smiling and went to the kitchen. While Hare was away, Leopard asked himself a host of questions. What makes Hare so famous for his culinary skills? Where does he obtain provisions? For such a small fellow, how does he manage to overcome big game that he has been boasting about? Really, I must ask him about everything that goes on in here.
Leopard was so engrossed in these thoughts that even when Hare emerged from the kitchen with food, he did not notice him until Hare attracted his attention by depositing the dish at his feet. That was the moment he yawned hungrily and came back to his senses. My friend Hare, he said, collecting himself together on seeing the juicy dish, tell me everything; how do you kill your game in this area?
Simple, said Hare, I will explain it to you when we are on the way. You finish your food first.
Leopard smiled and said nothing further. He did not devour the long cherished dish greedily, the way his predecessors had done. Instead he ate slowly and thoughtfully as one who was merely executing a duty.
After he had finished eating, he took up his hunting kit and so the two friends set off for the mountain. The route they took was none other than the hardbeaten path that had only the other day led the kings of the forest to their final doom. There was very little talking between Hare and Leopard until they had scaled the mountain halfway. All of a sudden, Hare turned to Leopard and said, You will stay here while I go up to look for the animals. Leopard stood there, listening as Hare gave his routine instructions.
Moments later, a small stone tumbled down the hill. Leopard did not close his eyes! He watched it pass by. Then Hare heaved and pushed down a huge rock, which crushed everything in its way as it rolled and tumbled with increasing momentum towards Leopard. Leopard watched it with amazement. As it approached him, be neither closed his eyes nor stuck out his hind leg as he had been instructed. Instead, he jerked out of the way. After the rock had rolled down and disappeared at the foot of the mountain, Leopard lay still in the path along which it had passed and pretended he was dead.
Soon Hare came hopping about merrily and looking quite satisfied with himself. He stopped from time to time and pinched his big ears to listen. On drawing closer to Leopard, who appeared stone-dead, a sudden thrill ran through his whole body.
I, son of Omukhaye, am the cleverest of all the animals, he said laughing heartily to himself. Whether big or small they all succumb to my tricks. Who can dare challenge me?
Only the immense silence that had enwrapped the entire place following the crashing of the rock downhill seemed to offer a challenge to Hare. He scrutinized Leopard wistfully and said, Even this cunning cat can just die in my hands like a silly fly! Come on you spotted cat, what is left of your vicious claws? Wake up, if you dare! You think I will skin you here? I will carry you home and dump you in boiling water so that your ghost may not come back after I have eaten you.
All this time Leopard lay still pondering over the answers to the multitude of questions he had asked himself while waiting for the famous dish in Hare's house.
Hare made ropes and strapped up the presumed carcass of his friend Leopard. He thrust the bundle on his back and walked home whistling melodiously.
When he had gone half-way, he felt a scratch on his back. Considering that Leopard was dead he did not wish to entertain the idea of being scratched by the carcass. After walking another few paces, however, Leopard scratched him again. He unloaded the bundle and made sure that Leopard was securely strapped. And so he continued his homeward journey with enhanced confidence. No sooner had he set foot into his courtyard than Leopard pinched him so hard that he was obliged to throw his load down and keep a distance to see what was happening.
I have been hunting game, Hare said to himself, but I have never come across such weird behaviour. Is this meat or a ghost?
While Hare was carefully surveying the bundle in amazement, Leopard glanced at him mischievously and said, My friend, you wait until I have disentangled myself and then I will teach you a lesson you will never forget.
Aaah! Hare said to himself, if meat can speak then the game is up! He spun round and took to his heels: poop! and disappeared into the bush, leaving Leopard still struggling with the fetters.