Oral Literature. A Hunter, when the world began

A very long time ago, in the beginning of the world, there lived a famous hunter. He had killed so many wild animals that he had been given the title of King of All Hunters.

The King of All Hunters had two sons. When one of the sons wished to marry a young girl in the town, the King of All Hunters decided to test the strength and cleverness of this son.

“All the wildest, most savage animals I have killed” – he said to his son -, “except one. Go out into the bush. If you are able to kill this one remaining savage creature you will have permission to marry the young girl.”

The young man prepared to go into the bush to hunt the savage creature. “Remember – his father warned him -, what you are going to hunt is the most fearful animal in the world: with many mouths; with fire-like eyes; with enormous strength.”

The young man took some food, then took his gun and his knife, called for his three dogs, and went off into the bush. He walked all day, and in the evening caught a hare for his supper. He walked all the next day and the day after that. At last, he came to the hut of an old woman who lived alone. She was outside her hut by a stream, where she was washing cooking pots. She called out to him.

“I cannot stop” – the young man replied -, “for my business is urgent.”  The old woman called to him again that it was very important for him to speak with her. The young man turned and went to see what she wanted.

“Here is food” – said the old woman. It was good food and the young man enjoyed eating it. “Here is a calabash” – said the old woman, “please wash it.”  The young man went to the stream and started to wash the calabash. But as he washed it, it broke. Inside he found an egg, a round smooth stone, and a small broom of palm raffia.

“You have broken the calabash and I am glad” – said the old woman. “Take with you what you have found inside. In case of danger drop one at a time, first the egg, then the small broom, then the round smooth stone.” The young man thanked her and went on his way.

The next day the young man reached a dark forest. He entered the forest, and at once his dogs started to bark. To his surprise, the young man suddenly saw the fearful creature which he had set out to hunt. The creature had many mouths, fire-like eyes, and enormous strength.

The young man aimed his gun and fired, but the fearful creature only looked at him and grew bigger and bigger. The young man made a sign to his dogs to attack the fearful creature, but having looked into the fire-like eyes, their own eyes were blinded.

The young man took his knife and ran to attack the fearful creature. They fought all that day, all that night, and all the next day, but at last the young man was victorious and killed the fearful creature.

The young man was glad, for he was now certain to marry the young girl in his town, and also, he had destroyed a more fearful creature than any other hunter had done.

The young man put the fearful creature on his back and started on his homeward journey. He left the forest and was walking through some woods when it became dark. He lay down to sleep.

The next morning was bright and clear, but as the young man woke up, he saw coming towards him another animal, far larger than the fearful creature he had killed, far fiercer, and with far more fiery eyes.

The young man jumped up and started to run, with the wild animal following him. He remembered what the old woman had given him, and he dropped the egg.

At once, there was a wide lake behind him, the greatest lake in the world. The wild animal still followed him. He dropped the broom, and at once there was the largest forest in the world behind him.

The wild animal still followed. But the young man was nearing his father’s house. He dropped the round smooth stone, and at once there stood the highest mountain in the world. But the wild animal still followed. At last, the young man reached his father’s house. “Quick, quick!” he cried to his brother who had been left at home, “open the door for me!”

As the young man ran in and the door was closing after him, the wild animal reached out and seized what he could from the young man’s back before the young man escaped. And that is how the young man lost his tail and why no man in the world after that ever had a tail. (Folktale from West Africa)

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