Wednesday, April 6, 2011

African Folklore: The Day Baboon Outwitted Leopard

(A Zulu Folk Tale) Long, long ago, Baboon and Leopard were friends.  One day, Leopard had chased Hare until Hare had taken refuge in an anthill.  Leopard called her friend Baboon and asked him to stand guard over the anthill while she went down to the river for a drink.

Baboon agreed and settled down with his back to the side of the anthill, next to the hole where Hare had disappeared. It was a warm day and fairly close to noon. After a while, Baboon started to doze off and was soon snoring gently.

Hare heard the snores and crept quietly out.  As he was leaping away to safety, Leopard came back.  She saw Hare disappearing over the hill and, in a rage, she charged up to sleeping Baboon and slapped him awake.

"O worthless monkey!" she roared. (This is a terrible insult, as baboons just hate being called 'monkey.') "You have let that fine fat Hare escape. That's my lunch you have lost, you foolish ape!" And her eyes blazed in anger.

Now an angry, hungry leopard is not a very reassuring sight and Baboon started to back away in fear. Leopard however, had not finished with him. She grabbed the frightened Baboon and was about to scold him even harder, when the warm flesh between her paws suddenly made her stop in mid-sentence. Her eyes gleamed, and she licked her lips.  "Hmm... As you have lost me my meal, I think that you will do very nicely instead!"  And, forgetting their past friendship, she opened her jaws to take a bite.



"Eee!" screamed Baboon.  "Wait, O beautiful one! Let me at least pay for my crime in a proper manner. Did you know, most lovely of beasts, that the best way to kill a baboon is to drop it from a height? We break into many small pieces, making an easy and tender meal for the hunter."

Leopard was amazed. She paused to think. But, seeing her hesitate, Baboon chattered on, leaving her no time to reflcct. "Just throw me up into this tree!" he jabbered, "You'll see - I will fall and split open just like a ripe calabash melon!

Leopard couldn't resist the thought, so she tossed Baboon high into the branches above.

Quick as a flash, Baboon climbed up into the safety of the thickest thorns at the top. He started to laugh. He sat there screaming loud and long abuse at Leopard, calling her every name he could think of and at the top of his voice. He even called her a mangy cat - and this made her yellow eyes blaze with rage. Other animals were beginning to gather around, attracted by the commotion. Leopard's pride could not stand it and she bounded off, lashing her tail in fury.

But she never forgot the insults and she never forgave them. To this day, the leopard hunts the baboon in preference to all other food.  And the baboon screams with fear at the very sight of his deadliest enemy. (Adapted from: When the Hippo was Hairy: And other Tales from Africa.  By Nick Greaves, Rod Clement)

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