The Proud Woman and her Suitors

A proud, beautiful woman refused all suitors,
Then a handsome stranger came; she chose him. Her father sent servants with chickens, sheep, and cows to accompany the couple to the husband's village.
But..... the husband was a snake! He devoured the animals one by one, the attendants, even the bride. Then he plunged into a pool.
Parrot watched and flew back to the bride's village. "Bring gourds," he said, "and follow me." They used the gourds to drain the pool, catching the snake and cutting him open. Parrot revived the people with medicine.
In gratitude, they painted Parrot's tail red.


Inspired by: "Chosen Suitor: Serpent Husband" in Tales in Pidgin English from Ashanti (in Journal of American Folklore) by Melville and Jean Herskovits, 1937.
Notes: You can read the original story online.




The Human Crocodiles

Human crocodiles lived in the Nile, and they would raid the riverbank villages. The people called them by the name "mashur."
A certain villager saw his cucumbers were disappearing, so he hid that night in his garden and watched. He caught a mashur and began to beat it. 
"Spare me!" shouted the human crocodile. "I'll never steal again."
The villager let him go. The mashur kept his promise, and even told other human crocodiles to stop their raids. He also brought fish to the villager every night, leaving it in the man's garden where he found the fish each morning.


Inspired by: "The Human Crocodiles" in Cairene and Upper Egyptian Folk-Lore by A. H. Sayce, in Folklore, 1920 
Notes: You can read the original story online. The story does not give any specific details about the difference between the human crocodile and the regular kind.

The Dung-Thief

The animals lived in their kraal, keeping warm in the dung.
At night, though, a thief was eating the dung.
Monkey stood guard, but the thief shot Monkey and escaped in the dark.
Hyena stood guard, but the thief shot him too.
Elephant stood guard. The thief didn't come, and Elephant fell asleep. When Elephant awoke, the thief had come and gone. In the distance, Elephant saw someone escaping; he didn't know Tortoise was the thief.
Tortoise hid in a hole, driving Rabbit out.
Elephant chased Rabbit and caught him. "I'm innocent!" shouted Rabbit. "It was Tortoise."
So Tortoise escaped.


Inspired by: "Sankhambi and the Elephant"  in The Bavenda by Hugh Arthur Stayt, 1931.
Notes: You can read the original story online. Sankhambi the trickster is most likely a tortoise (that's the possible Stayt endorses), so I have used the name Tortoise in the Sankhambi stories. Elephant doesn't give up; here's what happens next: The Elephant Chases the Tortoise.

The Elephant Chases the Tortoise

Elephant was tired of Tortoise's tricks. "I'm going to get you, Tortoise!"
Tortoise ran and jumped in the river, but the Elephant used his trunk to search the riverbed. He grabbed Tortoise.
"That's just a root sticking out in the water!" laughed Tortoise. "You can't catch me."
Elephant believed Tortoise; he let go and reached around again. He caught Tortoise a second time.
"Root!" shouted Tortoise.
Then when Elephant grabbed a root, Tortoise screamed, "Oh! Let me go! You've got me!" But it was only a root.
Elephant got so tired and confused that he gave up.
Tortoise just laughed.


Inspired by: "Sankhambi and the Elephant"  in The Bavenda by Hugh Arthur Stayt, 1931.
Notes: You can read the original story online. Here's how the story started: The Dung-Thief.

The Monkey, the Cat, the Dog, and the Hyena

Monkey chased Cat.
Dog chased Monkey.
Hyena chased Dog.
They were all running in a circle, faster and faster.
Jackal came out of the bush and said, "What's going on?"
"Monkey's chasing me!" meowed Cat.
"Dog's chasing me!" howled Monkey.
"Hyena's chasing me!" barked Dog.
"I'll be the judge of all that!" said Jackal. "Stand still and close your eyes."
They obeyed.
"Cat, scram!" said Jackal. Cat ran. 
"Get out of here, Monkey!" Monkey ran. 
"Dog, be gone!" Dog ran. 
Jackal then went back into the bush.
When Hyena opened her eyes, there was nobody left; Hyena was all alone.



Inspired by: "The Jackal and The Dog, the Monkey, the Hyena and the Cat" in Hausa Tales and Traditions, volume 1, by Neil Skinner, 1969.
Notes: You can read the original story online. The chain in the original story was tangled (Dog chasing both Monkey and Cat, and nobody chasing Monkey), so I changed it so they all connected. 

The Farmer and the Deer

A farmer cleared land by the deer trail, and a deer kept eating her crops.
She told a man to trap the deer, so he made a trap.
The deer came and got caught. When the woman saw the deer, she called to the man, "Come kill the deer!" 
Then she placed a mat on the ground, took off her clothes, and lay down by the deer. The man came, saw her, and they made love.
Meanwhile, the deer escaped.
"It's your fault the deer escaped!" the woman shouted.
"No," the man shouted, "it's your fault!"
Whose fault was it?


Inspired by: "The Deer in Woman's Farm" in Tribes of the Liberian hinterland by George Schwab, 1947.
Notes: You can read the original story online. Schwab heard this dilemma tale from a Mano schoolboy in Liberia.




The Jackal and the Women's Clothes

Jackal saw the village women bathing; they had left their clothes on the river bank. Jackal crept up quietly and stole some clothes. "Disguised as a woman," he thought to himself, "I'll be able to enjoy the food at the village feast."
So Jackal put on the clothes and entered the village. The plan was working! But when he started devouring food, the people said, "You look like a woman, but you act like an animal!"
Then a woman shouted, "Those are my clothes!'
"It's Jackal!" another woman shouted, and Jackal ran, leaving both the clothes and the food behind. 



Inspired by: "The Greedy Jackal" in The stolen water and other stories: traditional tales from Namibia by Jennifer Davis, 1993.
Notes: You can read the original story online. This is a Khoekhoe story from Namibia. The end of the story says that this is why the jackal prowls at night, but that makes him sound more like hyena than jackal. Perhaps there are versions of this story about hyena too...?

The Buffalo Who Boasted

Every morning Buffalo woke up feeling proud. He stood outside his house, shouting, "I'm the biggest! I'm the strongest!"
"Don't boast," his wife warned.
But Buffalo kept boasting.
His wife went to Hunter. "Please shame my husband," she said. "Don't kill him; just frighten him. You'll find him outside our house in the morning."
The next morning as Buffalo boasted, Hunter fired a shot in his direction.
Buffalo was so scared he broke down the door of his own house with his horns, hurrying to get in.
"I told you!" said his wife. "The strong never say they are strong."


Inspired by: "Hunter Cures Boastfulness" in Dahomean Narrative by Melville and Frances Herskovits, 1958.
Notes: You can read the original story online. The name for the buffalo is Agbo. 



Nzambi's Drum

Goddess Nzambi left her town to visit another town.
Then she heard someone beating her drum. "Who is beating the drum in my town?" she asked. "Pig, go see."
Pig went and returned. "I saw nobody."
Again the drum sounded.
"Antelope, go see."
Antelope saw nobody.
The third time, Nzambi went.
She saw nobody, so she hid and watched.
Crab came out of the water and beat Nzambi's drum, singing, "Nzambi abandoned me, leaving me here all alone."
"Thoughtless creature!" the goddess shouted. "Because you don't use your head to think, you will be headless, and people will eat you."


Inspired by: "Who Beats Nzambi's Drum? (Kongo-fiote)" in A treasury of African folklore by Harold Courlander, 1975.
Notes: You can read the original story online; this is is a Bakongo story (published in Dennett).



The Lion's Share

Lion, Fox, and Hyena went hunting and caught a donkey, a deer, and a rabbit. 
"How shall we divide it?" asked Lion.
"You take the donkey," said Hyena, "I'll take the deer, and Fox takes the rabbit."
Lion then hit Hyena, splitting his skull open. Next he asked Fox, "How shall we divide it?"
"You eat the donkey for lunch," replied Fox, "the deer for dinner, and use the rabbit as a toothpick."
"Excellent!" exclaimed Lion. "How did you learn such wisdom?"
"From Hyena's broken skull," replied Fox.
So Lion ate all he wanted, and Fox ate what was left.



Inspired by: "The Stupidity of the Hyena" in Wisdom from the Nile by Ahmed Al-Shahi, Ahmed and F. C. T. Moore, 1978.
Notes: You can read the original story online.