|Bukusu Folktales (Kenya Literature Bureau, 1986, 134 p.)|
A long time ago Hyena married many wives and begot many many children. When famine broke out in the country poor Hyena found himself facing an enormous task of feeding his extraordinarily large family. One day he lay down and pondered, What shall I do now? Food is scarce and nobody seems to be prepared to cast away even a morsel for a poor person to console himself with. This is just terrible.
It so happened in the evening that children crowded around him and started crying, Father, father, please father, what shall we eat? We are feeling hungry.
Hyena did not know what to tell his children. Could he tell them the truth that he himself wouldn't mind eating one of them if he had a chance to do so? Well, well, he said as he pushed the children aside and turned to his wives, Come here my women. I am going out hunting and I want you to take care of these children as best as you can. See what you can prepare for them tomorrow when I will be away.
In the morning Hyena set out to look for some game in distant places. He walked, and walked, and then came to an uncultivated farmland where people used to dig pit-falls for ensnaring game. He looked this way and that way and suddenly he saw spoors of various animals around. Wondering where the diverse spoors led to he put out his vicious snout and sniffed that air hungrily thinking aloud I won't miss bagging prey for my family today. Then he stooped down and screamed hungrily, Hmmmmh!
All of a sudden he made a quick turnabout and trotted to the other end of the field. He stopped a bit, and when he looked around again, he saw to his delight a buck trying to hide himself from his sight. Hyena made a fast leap at the buck but the buck bolted and raced for his life. Hyena ran, and ran, and ran, but he could not catch up with the nimble buck. Accidentally he tripped and fell headlong into a pit giving such a yell that one would have thought that the world was coming to an end. He kept on yelling and screaming for help: Wooooi..woi..woi! Waaai;.. wai.. wai! Brother Buck come back....please come back and help me out! I assure you I did not mean to eat you...please come back.....come back! What will my children eat today, please heee..eelp! I am dying. Heeeeii, heeeeii! Heeeeeeeelp.
The more Hyena shouted the faster the buck ran. Thus Hyena remained there howling and screaming the whole day and night with nobody around to pull him out of the pit. The following morning he felt very hungry and thirsty. The whole farmland was enwrapped in such a thick blanket of mist that one could not see where to step one's foot next; as the Babukusu say visibility conditions were such that one could easily push one's hand into a hyena's mouth.
A baboon came by tiptoeing stealthily. On hearing continuous screams he hurried to the snare to see who was shouting for help. He peeped into the pit and lo! he saw Hyena trapped below. As soon as Hyena saw him he screamed louder, Brother Baboon, heelp! Hee..eelp...please heelp! I am trapped here please pull me out.
Baboon turned round and squatted on the edge of the pit letting his tail dangle below to Hyena and said, Brother Hyena, you hold tight onto my tail now and I will pull you out. Hyena got hold of the tail and Baboon tugged and tugged, and tugged until he managed to tow him out of the pit-fall. But as soon as Hyena came to the surface he turned to Baboon and said, Brother Baboon, I have finished one whole day in this hole without eating anything at all. This was going to be my second day. I have no way out but to eat you so as to survive.
Baboon was really puzzled. He started struggling frantically with Hyena pleading: Please, Brother Hyena show mercy on me. Please let me go my way, can't you show gratitude for the help I have given you? Hyena said firmly, No!
And when Baboon insisted on talking to him Hyena warned, Each moment that passes while we talk makes me hungrier, I have said No and I won't let you go!
All right, said Baboon, I will let you eat me on condition that by doing so you do not endanger your own life. You may care to know that unless you take me by the tail and smash me against a tree I will scream so hard and loud that the whole Baboon world will be alarmed and come to my aid before you eat me, in which case you would be the loser! Brother Hyena, take my word for it! We baboon-folk cannot be killed the way other animals are killed!
Hyena thought about Baboon's words for a moment and then said sarcastically, All right I agree with your suggestion. In any case, whichever way I eat you, you would still go down my throat. Come on then bring your tail so that I may smash your shaggy head against the tree.
Baboon turned round and Hyena grabbed him by the tail. No sooner was he swung high in the air than he slipped out of Hyena's hand and leapt onto the tree climbing high up to the top. By that time the mist was clearing away. Looking down below, Baboon said to Hyena, Now you can tell me where is your gratitude, Brother Hyena?
Hyena got very angry and gnashed his teeth saying: If you cannot come down voluntarily so that I may eat you, I will cut down this tree with my teeth!
Luckily, Baboon saw a tortoise walking past and shouted, Brother Hyena, behold, there comes the great judge of the animal kingdom! Please call him here so that he may come and give his opinion on our case.
Thereupon Hyena hailed Tortoise to come to settle the dispute between himself and Baboon. When Tortoise came, Baboon said to him: I found Brother Hyena stranded in a pit-fall over there then when I asked him what was wrong he told me that he had been trapped in the snare for one full day. I gave him my tail to hold onto and I managed to pull him out of the hole. Now, tell me, Your Worship, is it a sign of gratitude for him to say that he will eat me by all means even if it would mean cutting down this tree with his teeth?
Tortoise considered Baboon's story for a while and then said, Come with me, Brother Hyena. Let us go and see the pit-fall in which you were trapped when Baboon found you.
Thus, Hyena led Tortoise to the pit-fall and when they got there Tortoise said, Brother Hyena, put your head into the hole so that I can see how difficult it must have been for you to come out.
As soon as Hyena stopped into the mouth of the pit-fall Tortoise pushed him down and he plunged headlong right to the bottom. Leaving Hyena still struggling frantically in the pit-fall Tortoise went to Baboon and said, Brother Baboon you can come down and go your way; Hyena will help himself out of that pit-fall.