26. The Men Who Went Fishing

Some men and their sons went fishing, even though it was a holiday.
On their way to the river, they met an old man. 
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"We're going fishing," they replied.
"But you can't go fishing today," said the old man. "Today is a holiday. The fish are praying to God."
But the men and their sons didn't listen. They didn't respect the holiday.
As they cast their nets into the river, thunder rang out and a voice boomed, "Are you equal to me?"
Then the boys turned into pelicans, and the men turned into monkeys.
[a Hausa story from northern Nigeria]

Inspired by: "The Punishment of the Sabbath-Breakers" in Hausa Superstitions and Customs  by A. J. N. Tremearne, 1913.
Notes: You can read the original story online. It contains a baffling little detail about a hedgehog that I have not included here ("Soon the Hedgehog made a noise like thunder, and said: Are you equal to me?"). There are many versions of this folktale about a prohibition against fishing on a particular day of the week, and it eventually shows up in African American folklore too, as in this song collected by Thomas Talley: Fishing Simon. In many versions the fish brings about the fisherman's death, unlike the metamorphosis in this story. 

(yes, baboons eat fish)

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