62. The Birds’ Fasting Contest

“Let’s see who can live longest without food!” Turaco said to Coucal.
“I accept your challenge!” said Coucal. “I promise not to eat if you promise not to eat. We will see who lives longest!”
Coucal did not eat, and he grew thinner and thinner, weaker and weaker.
Turaco pretended not to eat, but secretly he went to eat every night. He did not grow thin. He did not grow weak.
Seven days passed.
Coucal died!
“Who killed Coucal?” asked the other birds.
“It’s his own fault,” squawked Turaco. “He didn’t eat, he got thin, he got weak, he died.”

[an Edo story from southern Nigeria] 

Inspired by: "The Plantain Eater" in Anthropological report on the Edo-speaking peoples of Nigeria by Northcote W. Thomas, 1910.
Notes: You can read the original story online. You can read about the plantain-eater bird and about the coucal bird at Wikipedia. The "deceptive contest in fasting" shows up in African American folktales also, for example: Wise Bird and Foolish Bird, one of the Gullah stories collected by Joel Chandler Harris.

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