Oral Literature. How the Hare Helped the Civet

Lion and Civet were great friends. One day Civet said to Lion: “Look. It is true that we have a very good life. But there’s one thing that we lack.  And that’s cattle! You know very well how important it is to own cattle. So, let’s go out and get some.”  The two of them went out to look for cattle. Lion bought a bull, and Civet bought a cow.

They returned home and started looking after their animals.  Time passed.  The bull mounted the cow, and the cow became pregnant. Time passed. And the cow calved. When this happened, Civet was not around.  Lion removed the calf from where the cow was and placed it where his bull was.

Soon after, Civet, who had gone to fetch water for his cow, came back with the water.  Before Civet had set down his water, Lion ran up to him and with great excitement broke the news to him: “Look!”, he cried, “My animal has a calf!”

This sparked a dispute between the two of them.  Civet maintained that only his cow could have borne the calf and that bulls never calved.  And Lion insisted vehemently that it was his bull that had calved.  Now, as the two were thus quarrelling, Hare passed by.

And though he heard what they were quarrelling about, he just went on his way, feeling pity for Civet.  When he came home, Hare began thinking about how he could help Civet out of his predicament.  At long last, he got an idea.  He took his gourds and tied one at each end of a staff, and he promptly set off, carrying the staff on his shoulder.

On the way, he met Lion. Lion asked, “How, now, Hare; where could you be going?” Hare said, “Oh, I’m just going down to the river nearby to fetch water for my father who is weak and in bed.  He just gave birth to a baby.”

Hearing this, Lion roared with laughter and told Hare to stop being foolish. “How”, Lion asked, “could your father have a baby?”  Hare promptly answered, “but you yourself are claiming that your bull calved!”  Suddenly enraged, Lion flew at Hare, and Hare threw away his gourds and took to his heels. With Lion chasing him, it was a matter of life and death for Hare, and he ran as he had never run in all his life.

At length, Hare saw a cave in the distance and decided to head towards it.  Immediately he shot into the cave, he jumped up and held the roof of the cave, howling: “Help! The cave is collapsing!”  And that same instant, Lion was already in the cave, and he, too, jumped up and helped to hold up the roof with all his strength. “Now”, Hare said, “hold on, otherwise the cave is going to crush both of us to death.  I have an idea to lighten this task for both of us. I’ll go and get some props to help us hold up the cave.  Hold on tight!”

Lion stretched his muscles and pushed the roof of the cave up more firmly.  Hare left Lion there, never to return. For a whole week, Lion held up that rock, and, in the end, he died from exhaustion. Hare came along and saw that Lion was dead. He set out looking for Civet, and when he met him, he invited him to see what had happened to Lion.

When Civet saw that Lion was dead, he rejoiced with all his heart and thanked Hare very lavishly.  And Hare told Civet to go his way and take the cattle with him, for they were now all his.  And that is how the tale ended. (Folktale from Tanzania – Photo 123rf)

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