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South-African Folk-Tales, by James A. Honeÿ, [1910], at


SOME Women, it is said, went out to seek roots and herbs and other wild food. On their way home they sat down and said, Let us taste the food of the field." Now they found that the food picked by one of them was sweet, while that of the others was bitter. The latter said to each other, "Look here! this Woman's herbs are sweet." Then they said to the owner of the sweet food, "Throw it away and seek for other." So she threw away the food, and went to gather more. When she had collected a sufficient supply, she returned to join the other Women, but could not find them. She went therefore down to the river, where Hare sat lading water, and said to him, "Hare, give me some water that I may drink." But he replied, "This is the cup out of which my uncle (Lion) and I alone may drink."

She asked again: "Hare, draw water for me that I may drink." But Hare made the same reply. Then she snatched the cup from him and drank, but he ran home to tell his uncle of the outrage which had been committed.

The Woman meanwhile replaced the cup and went away. After she had departed Lion came down, and, seeing her in the distance, pursued her on the road. When she turned round and saw him coming, she sang in the following manner:

"My mother, she would not let me seek herbs,
Herbs of the field, food from the field. Hoo!"

When Lion at last came up with the Woman, they hunted each other round a shrub. She wore many beads and arm-rings, and Lion said, "Let me put them on!" So she lent them to him, but he afterwards refused to return them to her.

They then hunted each other again round the shrub, till Lion fell (town, and the Woman jumped upon him, and kept him there. Lion (uttering a form of conjuration) said:

"My Aunt! it is morning, and time to rise;
Pray, rise from me!"

She then rose from him, and they hunted again after each other round the shrub, till the Woman fell down, and Lion jumped upon her. She then addressed him:

"My Uncle! it is morning, and time to rise;
Pray, rise from me!"

He rose, of course, and they hunted each other again, till Lion fell a second time. When she jumped upon him he said:

My Aunt! it is morning, and time to rise;
Pray, rise from me!"

They rose again and hunted after each other. The Woman at last fell down. But this time when she repeated the above conjuration, Lion said:

"Hè Kha! Is it morning, and time to rise?"

He then ate her, taking care, however, to leave her skin whole, which he put on, together with her dress and ornaments, so that he looked quite like a woman, and then went home to her kraal.

When this counterfeit woman arrived, her little sister, crying, said, "My sister, pour some milk out for me." She answered, "I shall not pour you out any." Then the Child addressed their Mother: "Mama, do pour out some for me." The Mother of the kraal said, "Go to your sister, and let her give it to you!" The little Child said again to her sister, "Please, pour out for me!" She, however, repeated her refusal, saying, "I will not do it." Then the Mother of the kraal said to the little One, "I refused to let her (the elder sister) seek herbs in the field, and I do not know what may have happened; go therefore to Hare, and ask him to pour out for you."

So then Hare gave her some milk; but her elder sister said, "Come and share it with me." The little Child then went to her sister with her bamboo (cup), and they both sucked the milk out of it. Whilst they were doing this, some milk was spilt on the little one's hand, and the elder sister licked it up with her tongue, the roughness of which drew blood; this, too, the Woman licked up.

The little child complained to her Mother:

"Mama, sister pricks holes in me and sucks the blood. The Mother said, "With what Lion's nature your sister went the way that I forbade her, and returned, I do not know."

Now the Cows hurried, and the elder sister cleansed the pails in order to milk them. But when she approached the Cows with a thong (in order to tie their fore-legs), they all refused to be milked by her.

Hare said, "Why do not you sand before the Cow?" She replied, "Hare, call your brother, and do you two stand before the Cow." Her husband said, "What has come over her that the Cows refuse her? These are the same Cows she always milks." The Mother (of the kraal) said, "What has happened this evening? These are Cows that she always milks without assistance. What can have affected her that she comes home a woman with a Lion's nature."

The elder daughter then said to her Mother, I shall not milk the Cows." With these words she sat down. The Mother said therefore to Hare, "Bring me the bamboos, that I may milk. I do not know what has come over the girl."

So the Mother herself milked the cows, and when she had done so, Hare brought the bamboos to the young wife's house, where her husband was, but she (the wife) did not give him (her husband) anything to eat. But when at night time she fell asleep, they saw some of the Lion's hair, which was hanging out where he had slipped on the Woman's skin, and they cried, "Verily! this is quite another being. It is for this reason that the Cows refused to be milked."

Then the people of the kraal began to break up the hut in which Lion lay asleep. When they took off the mats, they said (conjuring them), "If thou art favourably inclined to me, O Mat, give the sound 'sawa'" (meaning, making no noise).

To the poles (on which the but rested) they said, " If thou art favourably inclined to me, O Pole, thou must give the sound 'gara.'

They addressed also the bamboos and the bedskins in a similar manner.

Thus gradually and noiselessly they removed the hut and all its contents. Then they took bunches of grass, put them over the Lion, and lighting them, said, "If thou art favourably inclined to me, O Fire, thou must flare up, 'boo boo,' before thou comest to the heart."

So the Fire flared up when it came towards the heart, and the heart of the Woman jumped upon the ground. The Mother (of the kraal) picked it up, and put it into a calabash.

Lion, from his place in the fire, said to the Mother (of the kraal), "How nicely I have eaten your daughter." The Woman answered, "You have also now a comfortable place!"

Now the Woman took the first milk of as many Cows had calves, and put it into the calabash where her daughter's heart was; the calabash increased in size, and in proportion to this the girl grew again inside it.

One day, when the Mother (of the kraal) went out to fetch wood, she said to Hare, "By the time that I come back you must have everything nice and clean." But during her Mother's absence, the girl crept out of the calabash, and put the hut in good order, as she had been used to do in former days, and said to Hare, "When Mother comes back and asks, 'Who has done these things?' you must say, 'I, Hare, did them.' "After she had done all, she hid herself on the stage.

When the Mother of the kraal came home, she said, "Hare, who has done these things? They look just as they used when my daughter did them." Hare said, "I did the things." But the Mother would not believe it, and looked at the calabash. Seeing it was empty, she searched the stage and found her daughter. Then she embraced and kissed her, and from that day the girl stayed with her Mother, and did every thing as she was wont in former times; but she now remained unmarried.

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