Certain Good is Repaid in Evil: The Hare and the Python

Here is a story:

Early in the morning, the Hare went rambling in the bush. While he was strolling, he found a Python which had been pinned down on his back by a (fallen) tree; therefore he could not pull himself free. As the Python saw the Hare, he yelled: You Hare, I beg you, please help to pull myself out from under this tree! The Hare replied: If I pull you out from under the tree, you will catch me and eat me. The Python replied: My friend, I promise, if you pull me out from under this tree I will do nothing to you. Immediately, the Hare pulled on the tree and it slipped off.

When the tree was pulled off, the Python quickly caught the Hare and coiled itself around its whole body. As this happened, the Hare said: You honourable Python, you just said: ‘if you pull me out from under this tree I will do nothing to you’. The Python answered: At that time I was under the tree. Now I am in the bush and here every good thing is repaid with evil. When the Hare heard these words, he said: What you said is not true, it is not true that every good thing is repaid with evil. Let’s go and ask three friends who live close by about what you just said and let us hear what they say. When the Python heard this, he said: Let’s go.

When they arrived at a massive tree, the Hare asked:Listen to me, honourable Tree, is it true that every good thing is repaid with evil in the bush? The Big Tree replied: What you just said is very true. Look at me: I give people shade which they enjoy, but one day they will come with their axes and cut me down and burn me completely.

The Hare said: Let’s go and ask the Stream over there. They went. He asked: Is it true, you Honourable Stream, that every good thing is repaid with evil? The Stream said: That is the truth. I give people water to drink and they throw their garbage in me. All the while the Python was coiled around the whole body of the Hare.

Then the Hare said: Let’s go and talk to the Tortoise. They went, and the Hare asked the Tortoise the question he put to the others they had met. The Tortoise answered him: You, Hare, you saved the Python when he was trapped. You, Python, you want to kill him, don’t you, because every good thing is repaid with evil? This is a hard thing to understand. Then the Hare said: Let’s go and we will show you what happened and how the Python was trapped under the huge tree. Python, let’s go and show him what happened. So they went. The Python then went on the tree which had pinned him down and the Hare immediately threw the tree onto the Python’s back. The Hare then ran off, yelling: In this bush every good thing is repaid with evil, and the Python remained in pain under the tree.

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: a person can bring down misfortune upon himself by being ungrateful to a person who has pardoned him. One should not make somebody angry by ridiculing his good points. It teaches also that good always triumphs over evil and harming others is a bad thing to do and the culprit is punished eventually. The other thing is: we should be well disposed towards our enemies and we may punish them if they are ungrateful. People often repay with bad for good. Also: we must not expect this world to be just.

The Mambwe proverbs say: In former times the leopard did not bite (attack) man: it was man who showed him how to do it (Nangu itali ya kuluma muntu, umuntu uwailanjilile); Ill will is what makes a person bite a louse (Icikalumisya inda, icilakali); Anyone who wants to be cleverer than his companion is stupid (Ukucenjela apa yacenjele yauzo, ukutumpa).

Subjects: friendship – helping each other – goodness – ingratitude – inevitability– punishment – misfortune – ungratefulness – ridiculing – revenge


Written by Francis Katao Silwamba, Cikunta 9th of April 1984. Cf. in second version 15 (No Mercy: The Viper and the Man) written by an unknown author.