81. The Mouse-Deer and the Medicine-Man

Mouse-Deer told Medicine-Man, "Give me wisdom!"
"First, bring me a Leopard's tooth," said Medicine-Man.
So Mouse-Deer went to visit Leopard. "Smile for me, Leopard!" he said.
"Why should I smile for you?" snarled Leopard.
"Because Medicine-Man said Elephant's teeth are whiter than yours," Mouse-Deer replied. "I wanted to see for myself."
"My teeth are the whitest," insisted Leopard. "Just look!" 
When he opened his mouth, Mouse-Deer grabbed a big stick and knocked out one of Leopard's teeth.
Then he ran to Medicine-Man with the tooth.
"This proves you're wise already," said Medicine-Man. "It would be dangerous to make you wiser."
[a story from Liberia]

Inspired by: "Nymo Seeks Wisdom" in Folktales from Liberia (Journal of American Folklore) by Richard C. Bundy, 1919.
Notes: You can read the original story online. This is the traditional cycle where the trickster must accomplish three tasks (sometimes labeled by anthropologists as "trickster seeks endowments"), but I included only the third task as it is the most distinctive of the three. 

No comments:

Post a Comment