Oral Literature: Hare and the Corn Bins

In the old days, all the animals used to make farms like men do today. They hoed the ground, planted the seed, harvested the grain and stored it in corn bins which looked like little round huts, only instead of having a door in front they had a circular hole at the top under the thatch.

Once upon a time, Hare and the other animals worked hard on their farms all through the rainy season, and when the corn was harvested they put it all together into a row of beautifully made little corn bins. “Now where shall we all spend the dry season?” the animals asked each other as they sat round the fire one night, tired with their weeks of farm work. Hare’s eyes glittered cunningly as he answered: “I am going far away to some of my relations. It is a place called ‘Sittincawnbin’,  and I shall go alone.”

The other animals discussed the merits of other places they knew and at last each had decided where he would spend the dry season.
Next morning they rounded up their cattle and went away to different places, each hoping that he had chosen somewhere where there would be enough pasture to feed his herds.

“Goodbye! Goodbye! –  Called Hare -. When we return we shall have plenty to eat and enough seed left over to plant on our farms next season.”

He pretended to go away too, but as soon as all the other animals were out of sight, Hare came back to the corn bins, climbed inside the first one and began to have a feast. When he could eat no more, he slept, and when he awoke he began on the corn again. At last, Hare found that the first corn bin was completely empty.

“Well, I shall have to move – he exclaimed. But first of all he filled the empty bin with gravel. Then he began on the second bin and lived a life of ease and plenty until that was finished, when he filled it with gravel as before. So the wicked animal continued all through the dry season, eating the corn which really belonged to the other animals, and by the time the first rains began to fall, Hare had emptied every corn bin and refilled them all with gravel.

A few days later the other animals began to return from their dry season grazing grounds until all were assembled except Hare.

“Where can he be? – they asked one another – Hare is always the first back in the rains.”

“He went a very long way this time -,’ said one of them -. Some place called Sittincawnbin, I think he said. “Let’s all call loudly and see whether he is on his way,” suggested another. So all the animals shouted “Hare! Hare! Where are you?”

Now the cunning hare was not far away, indeed he had not been out of sight of the corn bins all the time the other animals had been gone, but he hid behind a bush and answered in a very faint voice, as from a distance: “I’m coming.”

“Listen! – said the animals – He is far away, but he heard us”.  And they began shouting again: “Hare! Hare! Where are you?” This time Hare’s answer sounded a little louder. “I’m coming,” he said, still hiding close by, and splashing some water over his body so that it looked like perspiration.

So they went on calling Hare while he answered louder each time, and then suddenly dashing out from behind his bush, he arrived in the middle of the group, panting ‘Ehhel Ehhe! Ehhe!’ as though he had run for miles. “Now we are all here – said one of the animals – let us look into the corn bins to see whether the grain has kept well.”

“You look – puffed Hare – . I’ve come too far today to do anything else except lie and rest.” What shouting and crying arose when the animals looked in the bins, one by one, and discovered that everyone was empty of corn but full of gravel.

“Who can have stolen it? –  They asked – . How can we plant crops this season when we have no grain?” they sobbed. “It must be one of us – they said – because nobody else ever comes here.” Then they began to quarrel and snap and growl and bite, until at last they lay exhausted on the ground, and night came. “Let us all go to sleep now, – suggested the jackal – and the animal on whom the moon first shines will be the guilty one.”

They all agreed to this, for they knew that the moon sees everything that happens on the earth, so they left it for her to decide. “Come and lie down beside me, Squirrel – begged Hare – . I am so tired with my long journey that I shall get cramp if I do not have somebody close beside me to turn me over from time to time.” The good-natured squirrel lay close to Hare, and very soon all the animals were fast asleep, worn out after their long journey.

All except Hare, of course. He was not at all tired, for he had scarcely moved from the spot for several months, so he was able to keep his eyes open for the moon since he had an uncomfortable feeling that she was going to shine on him. The night was cloudy and the moon was slow in rising, but suddenly her beams shot out like an arrow, and landed on Hare. They landed on Squirrel too, since the two animals were so close together, and very carefully, so as not to wake Squirrel, Hare rolled quietly a few feet away.

Then he began to sing, softly at first, but getting louder and louder so that several of the animals woke up. Then Hare, rubbing his eyes and pretending to have only just wakened, pointed to where Squirrel slept, with the moon shining full on him. “There’s the thief! – Shouted Hare -. It was Squirrel who ate all our corn. The moon knows, you can be sure.”

Before poor Squirrel could utter a word in his own defence the animals had leapt upon him and torn him to pieces, so nobody ever knew it was Hare. But when any of the animals were heard to mutter: “Sittincawnbin; Sittincawnbin; I wonder where that is?” Hare always crept quietly away and waited until he heard them talking about something else. (Folktale from Fulani People, Northern Nigeria)

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