Oral Literature: The Hare and the Crown Bird

One day the hare and his friend the crown bird went together on a journey. They were going to visit the house of hare’s uncle.

The travelled over hills and valleys, until they came to a river. Beside the river there was an old woman washing herself. “Please,” the old woman asked the hare, “help me to wash my back.” “I will not,” the hare replied. Then the old woman saw the crownbird. “Please,” the old woman asked the crown bird, “help me to wash my back.”

“Yes, I will,” the crown bird replied and began to help the old woman. “Why do you bother yourself on such a task?” the hare said to the crownbird. “I will leave you to do this unrewarding job.” After the crown bird had finished helping the old woman, she said to him, “Dip your wings and your legs into the water of this river.”

The crown bird did so. When he withdrew them, r on his legs he discovered bracelets of great value and on the tips of his wings there were precious rings. “Dip your beak into the water of this river,” said the old woman.

The crown bird did so, and when the old woman told him to bring out his beak, he brought out beautiful clothing. “Now once again,” the old woman said. “Dip your wings into the water of this river.” Again the crown bird did as he was told, and bringing out his wings at the old woman’s command, he found a very beautiful horse standing beside him.

“The bracelets, the rings, the clothing, the horse — all are for you,” said the old woman to the crown bird. “I am grateful for the way you behaved when I asked you for help.” The happy crown bird mounted his new horse. It was a fast one and they soon caught up with hare. “How amazing,” cried the hare. “You have bracelets, rings and fine clothes and you are riding a beautiful horse.” “Yes,” replied the crown bird, “all this because of the old woman by the river.”

Then he told the hare what happened. “Continue on your journey,” the hare cried. “I’m going back to that old woman.” When the hare reached the river, the old woman was still there. “Please let me help you,” he said smiling at her. “Shall I ask you again if you will help wash my back?”

“Yes, yes,” cried the hare. “I will very willingly help you.” At first the old woman refused to be helped, but then the hare continued to beg her to let him help, she agreed. When the hare had finished helping her, she told him to put his legs and paws in the water of the river. The hare did so. When he withdrew them, they were covered with old and dirty bracelets and broken rings. “Try again,” said the old woman. “But when the hare again with drew his paws from the water of the river he held old and dirty clothing. “Try again,” repeated the old woman. But when for the third time the hare withdrew his paws from the water, he brought out the worst of all, a horse which was very ugly, short and thin. The hare, with his dirty old bracelets, rings and clothing mounted on his worthless horse and continued on his journey. The horse moved very slowly. Night had fallen by the time the hare reached his friend the crown bird at the house of hare’s uncle. “I have learnt my lesson,” the hare admitted. “It is better to give help than to refuse.” (Folktale from Uganda)

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