How the Hare Died Because of his Cheating

Here is a story:

The Hare befriended the Bushbuck and they began to live together. During the time they were staying together, a famine came. The food which the Hare and the Bushbuck ate was all gone. There was nothing else to do so the Hare said to the Bushbuck: Let’s go for a walk in the bush or we will die of hunger. The Bushbuck replied: Oh no, man! Even if I would like to go, I don’t have the strength. My legs are weak. The Hare said: Is that how it is? The Bushbuck said: Yes. The Hare went off by himself, and he went very far. Finally, he found a tree called ‘musongwa’ with very ripe and tasty fruits. He found some of the fruits were on the ground and some of them on the tree. The Hare collected the ones on the ground and ate and ate; he put some of the fruit in his bag and returned to the village. He gave them to his wife and children and they ate them. They said: Father, bring some of the tusongwe fruit tomorrow. They are very tasty. He said: Very well, I will go and bring some more. In the evening he went to the Bushbuck and told him: You, my friend, if you just sit here, you will die of hunger. First thing in the morning we should go where I came back from very late this evening, because there is an enormous amount of food. In fact, the Hare wanted the Bushbuck to die because he was very jealous and wanted to marry the Bushbuck’s wife whom he coveted. He planned to marry her after the Bushbuck died. Right now, there was no way the Hare could take the Bushbuck’s wife.

One day, the Hare and the Bushbuck went to the bush. The went very far and finally they arrived at the place with the umusongwa tree. The Hare said: You old man, now you can see for yourself. Didn’t I tell you? The Bushbuck said: Go up there and get some of the fruit so we can eat. He answered: You man, you want me to climb up there? I am too small to clasp such a big tree! So you climb up there! The Bushbuck began to climb the tree, holding it with his hands and walking up with his legs until he reached the top. Then the Bushbuck cheated and started to eat the ripe fruit, throwing those that were not ripe down to the Hare. The Hare said: So that’s the way it is with you?

The Hare went and took off all of his skin and was completely naked. Then he went and got some thorn-bush twigs. The Hare then climbed after him and began to whip him and beat him for a long time. The Bushbuck yelled: I am dying, you Hare, something red is trying to kill me; something red is trying to kill me! He beat him for some time, and then he took the bag where the Bushbuck put the nsongwa fruit and threw it on the ground. He climbed down the tree and went behind the termite hill to put on his skin. After doing so, he came back from another side. He said: You idiot, why didn’t you yell? You are so badly beaten that you are as swollen as a cow. He answered: I was yelling loudly enough. Then he added: You weren’t trying to hear me, if you did we would have beat him up. They took the nsongwa fruits, put them in their bags and went back to the village.

The Bushbuck’s children were very happy and said: Father! You did a very good thing today, going and searching in the bush! Otherwise we would have died, but now we are lucky and will always have food. He answered: My children, what I saw there I cannot tell you. I must keep it for myself. This should not bother you! The Hare went home and gave his children the food and they ate a lot.

The next day in the morning, the Hare said to the Bushbuck: My friend, Let’s go back there. The Bushbuck said: Oh no, my friend, today I will not go there, the beating was too much for me! I will go to eat another time. The memory of the beatings should not be so vivid.

The hunger began to eat at the Bushbuck and none of the drinks could appease it. He could not resist any longer. So he got up and they went to the very place. When they arrived at the tree, the Bushbuck said to the Hare: My friend climb up there. He answered: How terrible! Oh my stomach! How terrible! Oh my belly! The Bushbuck said: Get out of here and don’t ruin the air! When you are back I will be climbing up. The Hare went behind the termite hill to prepare a whip out of the muntalembe tree. Then he went with full speed. He left his skin and was naked. When he came to the tree, he said: Hey you big man! Do you still not know how to behave? I told you: do not come back here or you will be dead. He gave him a terrible thrashing and the Bushbuck yelled and yelled. When the Hare noticed that the Bushbuck intended to slide down the tree and was yelling too much, he ran away. He went to the place he used at the termite hill and put on his skin. He went back to the tree and said: How terrible! My friend, I heard some yelling from you, but I had a terrible stomach ache and very bad diarrhoea. Had I felt better I would have come to help you immediately and save you. Then the Bushbuck said: Look at how swollen I am. I do not know what to think about this man! They gathered the lusongwa fruits and went back to the village. When the Bushbuck’s wife saw her husband, she said: Are you grown up? How come you keep returning home so swollen? What about your friend whom you are going with, how is he? The Bushbuck replied: I don’t know what’s going on; is an Evil Spirit following me? I have no idea. They didn’t speak about it anymore.

After two days, hunger defeated them again as they had no food. They ended up going back to the nsongwa tree. The Bushbuck said to himself: This friend of mine is not all that good. So today I will watch him carefully. The Bushbuck said to the Hare: Go up there. He answered: Oh my stomach, oh my belly! and at that time, he crouched and began pretending to fart with his mouth. Then he said: Oh man! Oh Man! I have to go to the toilet! The Hare ran off behind the termite hill and the Bushbuck followed him. He saw that he was taking off his skin and looking for some big twigs with which he would cut the skin. He went back to the tree. The Bushbuck took the Hare’s skin and ripped it up into little pieces throwing the pieces far away. The Hare said to himself: Let me go back this way! The Bushbuck took another way. The Hare came and saw that there was no Bushbuck up in the tree. So he went back to the termite hill to take his skin. He searched the whole termite hill in vain. He said: Oh man! My friend has discovered who I am. The Hare went crying: You Bushbuck, I beg you, if it was you who took my skin, give it back to me. The Bushbuck said: I didn’t do this to you, I was only eating the lusongwa fruits.

When the sun began to burn his back, the Hare got scorched severely. He yelled: You will cause me to burst into pieces, I will burst into pieces! The Bushbuck did not pay any attention to him. Then the Hare hid in the shade and all his wounds gave him terrible pain and the blisters began to break. The Bushbuck picked up the lusongwa fruits and said: Let us go! He took a piece of tree bark, put the Hare on it and lifted him. They went back to the village and arrived before dark.

Immediately, the Bushbuck said to the Hare’s wife: I took care of my friend because I noticed he is very sick. The Hare’s wife said: You men, you know how to care for other men. The Bushbuck made him sit by the fire so he would suffer even more. The Hare hissed and said: You Bushbuck, I am dying. Take me from here so I can rest. The Bushbuck said: If it hurts you that only means your skin which stuck to the tree bark is growing in. So, if you feel something hot, do not say: ‘I’m getting burned’, because it is how the skin grows. When your skin stops being sticky, then you will be well.

At the end, the Hare was oozing all over, his heart stopped pounding, and he died. When the Hare died, his wife heard screams of sorrow and she went to the Bushbuck who said: Your husband has died. She replied: Woe! Is it what has happened? The Bushbuck said: Do not say much about it! Your husband wanted to kill me and take my wife so now I will take you as my wife. Then I will treat you as a slave. This, then, is how the Hare died and his wife was taken away.

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: this story says that the Hare died and lost his wife because of his cheating. This encourages us to be true friends, not hypocrites. A false friendship is good for nothing and cheating is the best way to destroy it. If we love each other we should do it wholeheartedly in full sincerity.

The Mambwe proverbs say: Show yam to a monkey, then show him melon (Kolwe umulangu mungu, ngu wiz’umulangu lutanga); Give yam to a monkey, then give him melon (Upele kolwe umungu, apa cisila umupelu lutanga); If you give a pumpkin to a monkey, can you give it a melon tomorrow? (Ndi wapela kolwe umungu, uzye mutondo ungamupel’ulutanga alye?).

Subjects: cheating – punishment – friendship – hypocrisy – love – sincerity


Told by Bernard Kungula from Kapufi village (recorded).