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close this bookBukusu Folktales (Kenya Literature Bureau, 1986, 134 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe Boy Who ate the Elephants' Rumps
View the documentThe Hare and the Leopard
View the documentMwambu and Sella
View the documentThe Story of Apelu
View the documentHare Steals a Hen
View the documentSimbi and Namakanda
View the documentKhole
View the documentWanakhatandi
View the documentA Father and His Son
View the documentAn Old Woman and Her Deformed Son
View the documentThe Dog and the Leopard's Children
View the documentNasio and her Brother
View the documentHare, Hyena and Lizard
View the documentKasawa and his Forbidden Pumpkins
View the documentA Woman and Her Daughter of Clay
View the documentHare leads Leopard to a Hive
View the documentHyena and Baboon
View the documentHare and Elephant Pay a Visit
View the documentLemata and Katamba
View the documentThree Men meet a Strange Old Woman
View the documentA Hyena Ate His Protector
View the documentThe Secret of a Murder
View the documentA Bull Newt Who Refused to heed his wife's advice
View the documentA Dying Old Woman earns Bridewealth for her Sons
View the documentFortuity is like Dew Drops
View the documentA Basket Maker Declares Himself Free from the Burden of Debts
View the documentThe Thirsty Intruder
View the documentBack Cover


Long, long ago, there were herdsboys who went out to graze cattle on a meadow. While the cattle were grazing, the herdsboys preoccupied themselves with eating termites. These were the chisisi, a type that normally emerged at around midday and continued until late in the afternoon. They were smaller in size, compared to other types and darker in colour and more delicious. During the season of the chisisi, children hardly ever ate the evening meal since they were satisfied by eating termites the whole afternoon.

Thus on this occasion, the herdsboys became so preoccupied with termite eating that they completely forgot to check on their cattle. When on very rare occasions a single boy broke off to take sentry, he would nonchalantly report back saying, “I have seen them grazing there...the..e...ere!”

The termites gradually diminished as evening slowly set in. Only at dusk did the boys realise that they had a duty to drive home their respective herds. Finding that what they had been mistaking for cattle were actually low-lying rocks, the boys got really shocked and alarmed. The cattle were nowhere to be seen! In despair they started asking themselves multiple questions. For, had they not neglected their primary duty? What would their parents say? What punishments were in store for each one of them? One boy said, “I will go to my aunt's,” another said, “I will go to my grandfather's,” yet another said “I will go to my brother's.” But there was one boy who lamentingly said, “Since I have no relative to go to, I will simply follow the trail of my father's beloved bull, Khole. My father once told me that in case Khole ever got lost, I should follow his trail until I recovered him. So I have no choice but to follow Khole's trail.”

This boy wept and wept until his eyes got red. He ran about more or less aimlessly singing:

Khole, Khole, Khole wa papa, Khole;
Papa kamboolela, Khole, Khole natibile, Khole
Olonda Khulukele, Khole!

Khole, Khole, my father's bull, Khole; my father once warned me, Khole, that should Khole ever get lost, Khole, I must track him down, Khole!

He walked, and walked and really walked Without knowing exactly where he was going. He walked day and night, singing that song, in the hope that one day he would come upon his father's beloved bull. Whenever he felt hungry, he collected wild fruits and honey from the bush. This became his daily fare. To quench his thirst, he often drank water from the river. He crossed many rivers all the time singing that song of Khole. When sleep overcame him, he climbed up and slept on trees until he felt sufficiently fresh to resume his wanderings again. After walking for many days and nights, he eventually arrived in the land of the ogres. Meanwhile, at home, parents gave up all hope of ever seeing him alive again with the precious Khole.

One day ogres chanced to meet the boy wandering about aimlessly in the wilderness and said, “Yaah, we have got a boy who will look after our cattle now! Heey, boy! Come here, we shall spare your life if you will agree to look after our cattle well.”

And so the boy was engaged to look after the ogre's teeming herd of cattle. Each day, he took the cattle to the pastures, he counted them one by one, noting all the beasts that belonged to his father. He did this day after day until he fully became convinced that all the animals that had been lost were still alive including Khole.

After he had identified all his father's cattle, he began to think of ways of escape, for he wanted to drive away the animals without the ogres's knowledge. Each day he went out grazing he deliberately delayed his return to see how his masters would react. In the end he would drive back the herd at dusk or even a little later. Thus the ogres got used to his delayed errands and they were, on the other hand, beguiled by the fact that the animals were well fed.

One day he went to a very distant place and began to call his father's beasts by their respective names to see how they would react. One after another, the cattle responded by lowing: “Mooooh!” And when he called Khole, the bull bellowed very vigorously as if he were rejoicing to see his familiar herdsboy, or for that matter lamenting the long absence from home. When he called him again he gave a similar response “Buu...buuu!” The boy was thus satisfied that the animals were still used to him.

On this particular occasion the ogres became unusually concerned by his long absence and would have started looking for him had he not reappeared suddenly. They were very pleased to see how well fed the beasts were and soon brushed aside their fears being convinced that the boy's decision to graze the cattle in distant pastures was after all reasonable.

When, however, he went out grazing the following day he made up his mind not to stop anywhere within ogreland. He stuffed Khole's large bell so that it would not make any sound that would undully alert the ogres. Walking ahead of the beast, he called Khole to follow him. The bull bellowed once and began to increase his pace, trotting confidently after the boy. The rest of the animals followed. The boy varied his movements by walking and trotting; stopping briefly only at night to let the cattle graze in the forest. He himself milked the cows and drank their milk.

Following his departure, a thick mist hung over his trails and swarm of bees covered his flight. On the second day of his disappearance the ogres became suspicious of his long absence and set out to pursue him. They believed that he had stolen their cattle. The ogres' movement was hampered by the thick mist, even as it was thwarted by the ferocious swarm of bees. After being attacked by bees on several occasions they gave up chase and returned home.

As the boy approached the old meadowland where he used to graze cattle in an idyllic atmosphere, he removed the grass from Khole's bell, and so the chiming of the bell was heard miles away. The people were really surprised to hear the famous bull, Khole, bellowing from the same old meadow land. The boy's father rejoiced greatly on seeing his son making a triumphant return home with the beloved bull, Khole.