|Bukusu Folktales (Kenya Literature Bureau, 1986, 134 p.)|
The dog and the leopard were once great friends. Their friendship was so strong that leopard contemplated inviting Dog to go and see her ageing parents. Indeed she strongly hoped that this would cement their longstanding friendship.
So one day Leopard said to Dog. My friend Dog, I am thinking that, God willing, we shall go to see my parents. Whenever I visit home and talk to them about our intimate friendship they always ask me. But where is this friend of yours? I think it is high time I took you to my parents really. Don't you think it is a good idea my friend? Dog said. Yes, I am quite flattered by your kind invitation. I am always willing to oblige. So you choose any convenient day and we shall go.
It so happened that when Dog had gone out hunting, Leopard secretly visited her house. Just as she had expected she found Dog's children playing all by themselves. Aah, she said to herself, I agreed with Dog the other day that we go to see my parents on any day I choose. I think today is the best day to fulfill our promise. I have notified my parents about our visit and they must be expecting me to bring them something. So she treacherously bundled up Dog's children and carried them off to her house with a view to conveying them to her mother for consumption.
On her way from hunting Dog decided to check on Leopard, a thing she had almost made a habit. But then Leopard had also just arrived from her mischievous errand. As soon as she saw Dog she started talking endlessly, wandering from subject to subject. She pressed Dog to accompany her to go and see her parents as recently promised but Dog said, My friend, I need to check in at my house before we can leave for I have not been there at all since I left for hunting this morning. Please, let me go there first. It is only prudent that I should go there and see whether everything is in order.
Leopard said, But you will perhaps remember, I said that any day I decide you will have no objection. Let us go, please, if nothing is wrong. After all I visited your house a little while ago when you were away and found your children looking healthy and quite contented. They were in fact eating and when I asked them whether they were all right they all replied cheerfully. Yes mum! So you see? Let us go now please.
Dog agreed rather reluctantly saying, But before we embark on the journey may I please know how far it is? Leopard replied, Ooh, no! It is not that far. We shall make it within no time.
So the two friends set off, Leopard asking Dog to help her with the load she was taking to her parents. Dog agreed saying she would be delighted to carry it all the way. After travelling for a short distance they met Fox. Fox saluted. How are you sister Leopard? Without responding to the salutation in the usual way Leopard said Salute Dog, lousy fellows who convey their own.
When Fox greeted Dog she gave the normal answer, Fine. Leopard kept on applying the same jargon to every animal they met on the way while Dog continued to give the recognised normal answer to greetings. Finally, they met Hare. This time Dog was not in the mood to stick to convention. When Hare saluted her, How are you my sister? she said, You should direct your greeting to the honourable lady (Leopard). So Hare passed on and the two friends continued with their journey.
Meanwhile Dog was getting quite perturbed with Leopard's saucy remarks to the greetings. She analysed the words Leopard was using and became even more suspicious of the insinuation. She was convinced that the words were not only insolent but might be conveying an ominous message. She wondered why Leopard told everyone they met that she Dog, was a lousy fellow carrying her own. If this was a joke, Dog thought, it must be a very rude joke indeed. While Leopard was looking the other way Dog opened the basket and peeped in to see what was concealed in the bundle. To her horror she discovered that she was actually carrying her own children as a gift to Leopard's parents! What can I do now? said Dog to herself. My friend Leopard, I want to attend to nature's call.
Alright sister Dog you can let me have the basket now. Dog said, No, you are an honourable lady and it would be unsightly for you to be seen carrying a load on your head particularly on a journey like this one, when you are visiting home. I will manage everything, please don't worry at all.
When Dog got into the bush she made sure that Leopard would not see her. She ran very fast to her house and deposited her children there telling them, Take care of yourselves until I come.
Then she dashed to Leopard's house and bundled up her children in the basket. She concealed them very neatly so that one would not notice that this was a different bundle. Then she took off racing swiftly until she caught up with Leopard. But sister, Leopard said to her, you have really overstayed in the bush. What happened? Dog who was still panting breathlessly said, You see sister, I found that my stomach was running.
They resumed the journey and walked and walked, and then they met Monkey. How are you sister Leopard? said Monkey. Go and salute Dog, lousy fellows who convey their own replied Leopard. Then Monkey turned to Dog, And how are you sister Dog? Dog replied, Wisdom has been matched with wisdom. So Leopard and Dog behaved like this for the rest of the journey each expressing her own opinion of the other. Dog had at last coined her own catch-phrases to countermatch Leopard's.
When they arrived at Leopard's home Leopard's mother was very delighted welcoming them warmly. Ooh my child, she said hugging Leopard fondly, how nice it is to see you again after such a long time! Turning to Dog she said, Your Mend is most welcome indeed. Please feel at home everybody. Leopard was very mixed up. She first seemed to say something, but then quietly pulled aside her mother and dragged her to the back room. While there she said to her with a peculiar smile, Mother, I have brought you the greatest gift of all. That basket on Dog's head contains all her children, and being mindful of you I thought that you may appreciate such tender meat. I have brought them as a special delicacy. The mother said delightedly, Oh, thank you very much. Please bring the precious basket quickly.
Leopard brought the basket and said to her mother, First boil water, and when it is ready, you may drop in the stew to cook. I will in the meantime beguile my friend Dog, to accompany me so that we can go out and look around the fields. While in the fields Dog complained that her stomach was still running. With Leopard's permission she disappeared behind the bush under the pretext that she was to relieve herself. No sooner had she got out of sight than she took to her heels. She ran home collected her children and escaped to the kingdom of Sheepland.
There she took refuge at the home of King Ram. King Ram was a giant of a fellow. He had long massive horns which curled into spirals like a snail's shell and were as sharp as a spear. His tail was long and thick and when he walked it swayed in the air like a gigantic whip. Nobody would dare stand in his way especially when he was annoyed.
King Ram was highly respected for his pleasant disposition. He was kind to everyone and he liked dancing at beer parties. When Dog narrated the episode that led to her falling out with Leopard he told her not to worry. You are under my full protection, he assured her.
Meanwhile, when Leopard's mother emptied the contents of the basket into the boiling water she heard strange cries peculiar to leopards. There was incessant howling in the cooking pot, Huuuh! huuuh! as the cubs struggled for their lives in vain. These cannot be Dog's children! mother Leopard sighed. Oh dear, oh dear, these are my own grandchildren! Oh dear mee...! When Leopard returned home after waiting for Dog in vain she found her mother weeping. What is wrong mother? Why are you weeping?
Mother Leopard said between sobs, My child, how can you do such a foolish thing? How could you cook me your own children? Leopard could not believe it. She gave one sharp scream and made off for the kitchen to find out the truth. To her horror she found not only that her children were in the cooking pot but that they were completely dead! Incredible! She burst out into a flood of tears. But it was too late; her children had died and there was nothing she could do to revive them. Leopard guessed that it must be Dog who had played her back the trick. How could she avenge herself for the death of her dear children?
To settle old scores with Dog she made a plan to invite all the animals in the country to come and feast at her house. If Dog turned up she would then seize the first opportunity to kill her.
So Leopard brewed beer and invited all animals in the neighbourhood as part of her plan to catch Dog. When Dog heard of the invitation she naturally did not feel happy at all. She told King Ram that she did not want to go to the festival lest Leopard may kill her. Come said King Ram. Cling under my tail and hold tight. Take care of yourself when we get to the festival. I will be sharing beer with you secretly.
Dog did as King Ram advised. King Ram carried with him a long drinking straw in a bamboo staff. When he arrived at the festival he found many animals already drinking and singing joyously. So he joined the festivity straightaway without any ceremony. Each animal family rose and danced in turn to the rhythmic clapping and cheers of the rest. First, it was the foxes, then the elephants followed, then the lions, then the monkeys, and lastly the buffaloes took the floor. Whilst the festivity progressed on, King Ram kept an eye on the fellows who were not dancing. Whenever he was sure that they were not looking he passed the straw to his backside where Dog received it and took quick sips. This went on and on, without anybody observing.
However, as the day began to wear out, Leopard and the other animals urged and rallied the sheep family to jump into the ring. Dance, come on! Dance, good fellows, come out! Why do you feel so lonely? King Ram, come on, dance; don't look so miserable. Although for some time King Ram tried to resist the temptation by and by beer began to get the better of him. As the Babukusu say beer can tickle even a tethered animal into dancing fits; King Ram found himself into the ring without realizing it. Other animals clapped and cheered him jubilantly, and when he was going to sit down they said, Please dance some more. So he danced on, jumping up very wildly to the crescendo of music. His tail swayed and flapped, and swayed and flapped. And then all of a sudden Dog lost her grip and crashed to the floor. Where has she been hiding? other animals started wondering. Throughout the whole day nobody had noticed her presence. There must be something fishy around, some animals guessed.
In the commotion that followed Dog slipped out of the house and with the fastest speed that she could muster raced for her life. Tension spread over the scene. Leopard quarreling with King Ram for concealing Dog. A big fight ensued in which King Ram was killed.