Kikuyu - Fables and Legends

The Hare's Practical Jokes

From Rose Mwangi's "Kikuyu Folktales: their Nature and Value" (1970, reprinted 1983: Kenya Literature Bureau, PO Box 30022 Nairobi, Kenya). See the copyright notice for textual extracts.

The Hare's Practical Jokes, collected by Rose Mwangi

A long, long time ago, there were two people who were very good friends. One was Mr. Hare and the other Mr. Hyena. They used to visit each other and on each of these visits, the Hare used to carry in his bag some honey and sweetened meat. He used to put his little finger in the bag and give it to his friend to lick. Said the Hare: 'Brother, I have something very, very sweet in my bag here, take it and see for yourself'. The Hyena liked it very much.
   'Hi, Hi, Brother Hare, give me some more, more I say. It is very, very...'
   'No, no, this is a sweetness that you must have a little at a time.'
   And the same thing happened day after day for many days. One day, the Hare came on as usual and said:
   'Brother Hyena, may I give you something very, very sweet, sweeter than sweetness itself?'
   'Yes, my good friend, I'd love some very, very much.' And the Hare gave his sweetened finger to the Hyena to lick.
   'Oh, Hare, my very good friend do give me more.'
   'No, no, old man, you cannot eat much of this sweetness. It is a sweetness that must be eaten sparingly.'
   'But brother, where do you get much much sweetness?'
   'I get it from those mountains you see above our head,' pointing at the white clouds. 'Once you eat this sweetness you should never pass piss or shit because then the sweetness gets lost.'
   'Then what do people do so that they de not pass out piss or shit after they have eaten this sweetness?'
   'Ah, Mr. Hyena, that is very simple, they have their bottoms sewn up and if you want, I can do the sewing for you.'
   'Yes, yes, do sew it up for me.' And the Hare sewed the Hyena's bottom.
   They took three bags each and the Hare led the way to a sweetness that never passes. Now the Hyena ate the honey, the honeycombs and the dead bees. Then the Hare said 'Now that we have filled our stomachs and our bags let us go home.' Now when they were on the way, the Hyena went down to the stream to drink some water. And when he drank, he just dropped down like a stump of a tree. He stayed and stayed and stayed there; his eyes popping out like sweet potatoes. He stayed there for so many days, until he thought he was going to die.
   One day he saw the Eagle coming down to drink some water - said he:
   'Good Brother Eagle, help me.'
   'Hi, brother, how shall I help you?'
   'Come round behind me at my bottom end. You will see string going right through it, prick it and pull carefully because I feel pain. I was sewn up by the Hare and he did a very bad thing.'
   Now as soon as the Eagle touched this string a flood of piss and shit rushed out and covered the Eagle and the piss was like a mountain with the Eagle as the chore.
   One day there was a heavy rain which washed away the piss and shit, slowly by slowly the Eagle emerged with a scratch on the neck. He flew away swearing revenge on the Hyena. For many days, he and the Hyena played hide and seek until one day the Hyena, being the foolish person, forgot that he was the sworn enemy of the Eagle. The Eagle being clever did not want a physical contact with the Hyena. He knew very well that the Hyena was stronger than him. Now he started to show the Hyena the choice pieces of meat that he carried in his bag and every day he gave a little to the Hyena saying: Brother, I carry this kind of meat, have a bite and the Hyena found it was very good. This same thing was repeated for many days. One day the Hyena said: 'Brother Eagle, these delicacies, this choice meat you give me, where does it come from?'
   'Now, Brother Hyena, these delicacies, the choice meats are very, very many. If you like, I can take you where they come from. 'But,' continued the Eagle, 'it is impossible to get that meat alone. You must come too. Now go and collect all your people. Let them bring bags, tins and drums. Then we shall bring as much meat as will last for three years.'
   The Hyena was very happy and he ran to collect all his people. Panting: 'Do you see all that meat above? My friend brings it to me every day. Now this friend has told me to collect all my people so that we can go and fetch this meat. Let each one of you bring tins, bags or drums and I, with your permission, will ask the Eagle to mention the day on which we can go.'
   Said all Hyenas: 'Hi, we also would like to eat the white choice meat.'
   All the Hyenas of that country had gathered together and when they saw the Eagle coming towards them they said: 'Now, Brother Eagle, let us go to get this meat. Tell us when we can go.'
   The Eagle said, 'We shall go on the third day from today. Be ready.'
   On that day the Hyena gathered and the Eagle arranged them in a line according to age, the smallest one being put at the back. The Eagle was right in front. He said to the Hyena behind him: 'Now, Brother, hold tight to the feathers of my tail,' and the Hyena held tight. 'Everybody hold each other's tail,' he shouted and then he flew up, up, up and heading to the choice meats in the sky. Now when they had gone very high, the Eagle asked:
   'Are you all clear off the ground?'
   'No, no, some are still touching the ground.' He flew, flew and flew.
   'Can you see the earth?'
   'Yes, yes, we can see it.' The Eagle was waiting to hear that all the Hyenas could no longer see the earth.
   'Can you see the earth?'
   'We see it dimly now.' The Eagle flew and flew.
   "Do you still see the earth?'
   'We see only black, black darkness, we cannot tell where the earth is.'
   The Eagle knew then that the distance from the earth was very, very great. Then he said to the Hyena behind him:
   'Hi, hi, my friend, a scratch, a scratch on my back wing,' and the Hyena behind let go the tail feathers of the Eagle.

Suddenly the whole line of Hyenas went tumbling down. Kuru Kuru Kuru like the sound of thunder. Some Hyenas crushed their limbs, their bones and died instantly. Some died before they reached the earth. Only the last Hyena was left, but she acquired a limp in the leg which she carries up to this day.


Traditional Music & Cultures of Kenya
Copyright Jens Finke, 2000-2003

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