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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

Hare leads Leopard to a Hive

An old woman had gone out with her grand-daughter to look for firewood when she came upon a hare lying beside the path and looking as if it were dead. “Oh, how nice! Look at it,” she exclaimed. And the child said, “What is it granny?” And she said, “Don't you see that hare over there? It is a godsend gift; today we will feast.” So the old woman wrapped the hare in the bundle of firewood which she was carrying on her head.

As they were walking home the child cried excitedly, “Look, granny, look! The meat is smiling.” Granny fumed “Rubbish!”

“Silly child, it is taboo to say that food is smiling. Don't say that again. Are you crazy or accursed?” When they got home the old woman started scrapping fleece from the hare, and without chopping him up put him in a cooking pot in which she was warming simsim relish. After cooking it for a little while she removed the pot from the fire and started preparing ugali. When the ugali was ready she emptied the contents of the pot into the plate and went to wash her hands. No sooner had the hare dropped onto the plate than he took to his heels. The girl said, “But granny the meat is running away, granny, granny, look!” The old woman turned round and took after the hare. She stopped from time to time scooping with lumps of ugali the remains of relish which were dotted here and there in the footprints of the hare. But the hare disappeared into the bush.

During his flight, Hare met Leopard. “Brother Hare,” said Leopard, “Why are you licking yourself?” Hare replied, “I am licking honey, Umm, umm, umm! It is really nice.” Leopard swallowed saliva: “Give me some,...please...please, Brother Hare, give me some...” Hare extended his leg and Leopard had a momentary lick. “Umm, umm, umm! It is very, very delicious. May I have some more please? Where do you get such nice honey, Brother Hare?” “If you want to get nice things,” said Hare, “go and kill your mother first. I myself had to remove my mother's eyes before she agreed to let me have what I am licking just now. And to crown it all I am going to throw her into the river tomorrow so that all sweetness in the world can be mine.” Leopard said, “Please, don't leave me when you go to throw your mother into the river tomorrow. I will drag my old mother to the river too and drown her so that I may also enjoy the sweet things of the world.”

In the morning Hare went to the banana grove and cut down a banana stem and carried it to the river pretending that he was carrying his mother. But Leopard carried his real mother to the river. When they got there, Hare said, “Brother Leopard, you go and throw your mother upstream and I will throw mine downstream.” So Leopard went and threw his mother into the upper current of the river while Hare threw the banana stem into the lower current. Leopard's mother drowned and sank to the bottom of the river whereas the banana stem which Hare had plunged into the river merely floated downstream. On seeing the stem float from a distance, Leopard exclaimed, “But Brother Hare why is your mother floating on the water while mine is scooping the bottom of the riverbed?” Hare said, “Because I first killed my mother before throwing her into the river.”

Having done the job of mother-killing the two friends returned home to enjoy nice things. Leopard waited and waited and waited but there was no sign of good things coming as had been promised by Hare. “Hey, Brother Hare,” he said, “my patience is running out. I am beginning to feel more and more hungry but there seems to be nothing forthcoming. If my mother was there she would have cooked me some hotchpotch. But now I am feeling very hungry and there is nothing around for me to eat. Where are those nice things?” “Wait a little, Brother Leopard,” said Hare. “They will come, certainly, they will come. Please, hold back your patience.” Leopard yawned and said indifferently, “And if they don't come, I will eat you. I have reached the end of the rope.”

On hearing Leopard thus sounding an ominous note Hare held his head in his hands and went into a complete trance. He stared blankly and started mumbling to himself unintelligibly, “Indeed, I can see myself in his teeth...yes, the canine teeth. Aah, it is said that to be without knowledge one cannot eat. But who can beat me the son of Omukhaye? This one is definitely standing on a trap and...” He suddenly excused himself and told Leopard that he would be back soon. “Brother Leopard,” he said, “let me go and see whether I can locate a new area of nice things and I will be back shortly. I will fly like the wind.” He went home and filled a colander with ashes, and after adding some water hung it in a tree so that strained water from it dribbed down in thick drops like that liquid which is secreted by cicadas. On his return he said, “Brother Leopard I have seen a beehive somewhere which is full of honey. The honey is flowing out continuously, and unless we make haste we will be too late to salvage anything. Can we please go there this evening?” Leopard said, “Oh, sure, why not! In this case you better go and collect dry elephant grass with which we shall make a torch of fire for flushing out the bees.”

“That is right,” said Hare approvingly. “I shall tie a bundle of elephant grass on your tail and then light it so that when you climb up there the bees will be very scared. But take care that when climbing up the tree you do not look up until you have come close enough, open wide your eyes and honey will flow down your throat sweetly while you keep an eye on stray bees which might try to sting you. If you can follow my advice this honey will really rejuvenate your energy.”

In the evening Leopard and Hare proceeded to the beehive as agreed. Hare tied a bundle of elephant grass on Leopard's tail and then lit it. The fire burnt up slowly as Leopard pulled up step by step. But when he came closer to the colander the flames increased in intensity burning off his tail. He let out a scream: “Eeey.....eey...eey! Brother Hare I am burning!”

Hare shouted back, “Look up now Brother Leopard and open your eyes. Please, open your mouth wide and let the honey trickle down your throat. Do not be frightened with little firebrands. You must be prepared to persevere in order to enjoy the sweet honey! Sweet things are just beginning to come. Please be steady!”

When Leopard opened his eyes the acidic water from the colander trickled into them blinding them completely. In the meantime fire flames spread with fury and suddenly, he lost his grip hurtled down plunging to the ground with a big thud: Booommm!! Hare fled and left Leopard struggling and kicking about helplessly.