Oral Literature. The mysteries of the forest

Many years ago, peace reigned in the forest under the rule of the leopard, the ruler of all animals.

But one day news spread that a monster was lurking in a corner of the forest, terrorizing all who ventured that way. In fact, a menacing voice came out from among the plants, shouting at every intruder: “Stop! Woe to you if you dare enter my kingdom! If you take one more step, I will tear you to pieces and devour you.”

Faced with such a threat, the animals fled. The leopard, concerned to preserve the tranquillity of his kingdom, and offended at the idea of someone usurping a corner of his territory, called the strongest of his soldiers, the elephant, and sent him to fight the mysterious invader. “Go”, he told him, “and destroy the monster who dares to claim rights in my kingdom. Fear not. There is no monster bigger and more powerful than you.”

The elephant set off full of confidence in the power of his tusks and trunk. But as soon as he had set foot in the contested area, the mysterious voice paralysed him. Nevertheless, he took courage and moved a few more steps. But the voice boomed in his ears again and froze the blood in his veins. “No”, he said to himself, “I still need to live. Who will protect my elephants? I don’t want to die so soon!” And he ran away.

When the leopard saw him come back still trembling with fear, he became alarmed and summoned the strongest animals in his kingdom. He promised a big prize to the one who defeated the mysterious monster. Then the buffalo offered to attempt the feat. But he too, on hearing the threatening voice, panicked and turned back to confirm the elephant’s testimony.

Then others tried, lured by the promised prize, but always with the same result. The terrible voice was enough to put the strongest inhabitants of the forest to flight. In the meantime, however, no one had seen the mysterious enemy.

Some time passed. And then the hare appeared at the king’s assembly. “If you allow me,” he said to the leopard, “I will go and unseat the overbearing usurper of your kingdom.”  “You?” – said the leopard to her – “do you pretend to drive out of the forest the monster who drove away the elephant, the buffalo and the lion? Go ahead. But do not call for help if you get into trouble, for no one will hear you.”

“Let me try,” said the hare, “perhaps a grain of intelligence is worth more than strength.” So, saying, he departed.

When he arrived on the scene he was also greeted by a threatening voice: “Stop! If you take one more step, I will kill you”. The hare felt fear, but remained motionless, turning his head to guess where the voice was coming from. He took one more step and the voice doubled in violence. He decided to flee, but only after he had at least seen the terrible monster.

He advanced another two steps while a hail of insults rained down upon him from the invisible enemy. He took one more step, poking her eyes in all directions, and suddenly spotted a green tree frog crouched on a leaf; it was a frog, swelling its cheeks and making all that noise.

He jumped and grabbed the little beast with one paw, then, swollen with joy, ran quickly to the leopard’s village. The drums rolled and the animals gathered. Then the hare, with solemn stride, advanced and showed everyone the tiny frog that had caused such a fright.

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief that the nightmare was finally over, but felt ashamed that they had not been able to understand what the hare had suddenly realised. The hare received his prize and his fame spread throughout the forest. He had proved that strength is worth nothing without a grain of intelligence. (Folktale from Lena People – Rd Congo) 

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