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|Tricky Rabbit gets big
meal for hungry Lion
TALKING ANIMALS: For many Africans, animals in their folklore have the power to take part in conversations. They could take part in conversations either with other animals or with human beings. In most folk tales, human beings have been depicted as having the power to talk animals out of causing harm to them or even negotiating with them so that they are left unharmed.
It is not human beings that have the power to negotiate with vicious animals like lions and leopards but even smaller animals like the hare and tortoise which otherwise would have been easy meat for their bigger brother.
It is from Africa that the lion was always referred to as the king. It is not surprising that out own King Mswati III is always referred to as the Lion of Swaziland.
We know that when white people came to Africa, they realized that a lion was a very powerful animal and tried to reduce its power by calling it the King of the Jungle. In Africa folk tales, the lion rules over every living thing because of its passion and power.
Although known to be very vicious, a lion is known to have some charm and kindness which extends to weaker animals that he is supposed to rule over. It is because of this benevolence that a story like the one below is told:
One day, a long time ago, Lion went hunting and caught little Rabbit. Lion was very hungry and was about to eat him when Rabbit, unafraid, spoke up. "Why does your mouth water?" Rabbit asked. Lion was confused. "Are you not meat?" he asked in return.
"Well, yes I am, but I am so thin and tiny that you would immediately be hungry as soon as you had finished. Why don't we go hunting and see if we can find something bigger?"Lion found this very amusing. "You... go hunting? You are such a tiny little speck of an animal. How could you possibly catch anything?"
Rabbit ignored the laughter and said, "We shall go to the village of Man. If we cannot catch a bigger animal, then I will gladly let you eat me.
So off they went. In the village, they sat by the fence until they were satisfied that there were no human beings moving about. The rabbit jumped over the fence of the cattle byre and touched the cattle in a way that they started to run around.
Small as he was, the cattle were not able to see what was disturbing them and each time they could try to settle for a good nights sleep, the rabbit could go back to its mischief.
Eventually they could not hold themselves any more and started to jump around as if they had been bitten by rabid dogs.
The owners of the cows came out of their huts with their spears to see what was disturbing their cattle but clever rabbit could not be seen. While all this was happening, King Lion was seated safely somewhere in the fence waiting for his time to strike.
After checking and satisfying themselves that there was nothing wrong, the men went back to their huts to sleep. The rabbit disturbed them again, sending them into frenzy but the men did not bother to come out.
Rabbit then beckoned the lion to come over and without being afraid of anything; the king took the fattest bull and took off with it. The following morning the men discovered too late that their fattest bull had been killed and that they could not even trace or find out who had killed it.
The rabbit once again proved that he was the master of conversation but also put it beyond doubt that it was not the size that mattered by the brains.
In many African tales, the hare and the rabbit are regarded very highly because of their power of deception. They are have been portrayed as having been able to sweet talk human beings to give them their precious belongings.
While it may be possible that animals regarded as wild had a close relationship with man, the case is so different today. It is only domestic animals that have close relationship with man. The way a dog or a cat can take care of its master, shows the same closeness that existed between man and wild animals before the relationship was messed up.
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