Oral Literature: Why the Bat Flies at Night

0nce upon a time, the bat and the bush-rat were great friends. All day long they would go hunting in the bush together, dodging between the tall grasses and the stunted trees, and finding good things to eat. When evening came, they would take turns to cook the meal and then eat it together.

But in spite of their apparent friendship, the bat did not like the bush-rat; in fact, he hated him. One evening while they were eating their supper, the bush-rat asked: “Why is your soup always so much nicer than mine? Will you show me how you make it?” “I’ll show you tomorrow”, replied the bat, his evil plan already forming in his mind.

The next day the bat prepared the soup as usual. It was delicious, for he was certainly a very good cook. Then he hid the pot and found another one exactly like it which he filled with warm water. A few minutes later the bush-rat appeared and greeted the bat cheerfully.

“Good evening. Are you going to show me how you make your soup?”

“Watch me – said the wicked bat -, and I will explain how it is done. You see, I always boil myself in the soup-pot just before the meal is served, and because my flesh is so sweet, it flavours the soup.”

The bush-rat was amazed as the bat brought out the pot of warm water and jumped inside crying: “See. This is the boiling soup.”

After a few moments the bat climbed out again, and then quickly changed over the cooking-pots while the bush-rat was not looking. Then he served out the soup, which was as tasty as usual, and explained to the bush-rat that if he would only jump into his own cooking-pot of boiling soup the flavour would be much improved.

The bush-rat decided to try it and, since it was his turn to provide the supper the next evening, he sent his wife away from the fire just as the soup was nearly ready, telling her that he was going to finish it himself in the way the bat had taught him.

The bush-rat leapt into the pot and, of course, was soon quite dead. His poor wife found him there when she returned, and went weeping and wailing to the chief telling him that it was all the bat’s fault.

The chief was very angry at the way in which the bat had tricked the stupid bush-rat, and immediately gave orders that he should be arrested. But although everyone searched high and low, they could not find him, for he had been flying over the chief’s house when the order to capture him had been given, and so had quickly hidden himself in the bush.

The next day, and all the following days, the people searched for the bat to arrest him, but he kept quite high up in a hollow tree where nobody could find him. However, he had to hunt for food sometimes, and so flew out of his hiding-place each night. That is why you never see a bat in the day-time. (Folktale from Nigeria)

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