The Hare is the Strongest Person

Here is a story:

In a certain village there were many people. But soon the village became very empty because the Lion killed all of the people, all of the people he ruled. The Lion left the village and moved to another place in order to rule other people. At the place where he went to live he had a beautiful daughter. He made an announcement: He who wants to marry my daughter must bring me the fresh tooth of a Leopard.

Hearing this the Duiker antelope said: I don’t care what I have to do, I must get a fresh tooth of a Leopard because the girl is very beautiful. Very early in the morning he went in the direction of where the Leopard lived – in a thicket by the river. When the Leopard saw the Duiker, he said: I am lucky today, and jumped on him and killed him. The other animals then said: The Duiker should be back by now. They waited for him till sunset. Then the Bushbuck began to court the girl and she agreed but she said: When you bring me the tooth of a Leopard from which blood is still dripping you can have me, that is my price . The Bushbuck said to himself: Since she is so beautiful, I will try. He went to the thicket near the river and he met the Leopard. The Leopard said: Today I will eat very well. The Bushbuck said to the Leopard: I came specially to you to tell you that the people in the village want to see you. The Leopard said: I live here alone so I am not going to the village. Finally, he jumped at the Bushbuck and killed him. This happened to all the big animals.

The Hare was the only one left and so he went: Good morning! The Leopard answered: Good morning! Then the Hare said to himself: What am I going to do? The Leopard had many children so the Hare said: O.K. I know what to do! Immediately after greeting the Leopard’s wife, the Hare left the place. He went to the bush to gather firewood and collected loads of it and put it in a huge heap. As dusk fell he lit a huge bonfire. When the Leopard’s children saw it, they and the wife of the Leopard ran very fast to warm themselves at the fire and the noise of their footsteps was clearly heard: lipa lipa. The Hare asked himself: How am I going to get a fresh Leopard’s tooth? Then he said: O.K. I know! At this very moment the Hare got a very big log of a tree, still fresh. When there was a large amount of smoke coming from the fire, the Leopard began to show his teeth and he said: There is too much smoke. At this very moment the Hare took a wooden club and lashed out with it in the direction of the teeth. The club hit them with a loud noise, and how many? two teeth fell on the ground. The Leopard said: Hare, what are you doing? The Hare said: I’m sorry, but due to all of the smoke I could not see you. I did not know where to put the wood. The Leopard picked up the teeth and said: I will put them in my pocket. The Hare said: Please give me those teeth so that I will remember never to do that again. The Leopard said: You said that very well! The Leopard took the teeth and gave them to the Hare saying: You boy, don’t let it happen again, you should always be contrite. If you were rebellious today something very bad could fall on you as what you have done was not good, but now go away!

The Hare, upon leaving the thickets where the Leopard lived ran and jumped until he arrived at the village of the Lion. Then he sang:

The bigger ones could not do it, come and look at it,
The bigger ones could not do it, come and look at it.
The bigger ones could not do it, come and look at it.
It was possible for the babies, come and look at it.
It was possible for the babies, come and look at it.

When the king’s daughter heard this song, she said: Whatever happens, this one will bring it. The Hare sent word in the evening saying: Go and tell the girl to come here! The girl went. When she saw the teeth she was perplexed. The Hare said to the girl: My friend! I was very lucky to be able to do the work which my father-in-law gave me to do! So take these two teeth! She looked at them and noticed blood was still dripping from the teeth. The girl was very happy and said: This is what my dad wanted. The girl went to her father and said: These are the things you were looking for as my marriage gifts! The king looked at the teeth closely and noticed there was still blood on them. He said: Can the Hare have things belonging to an animal that ate all the other animals? Then the king just said: He has done well.O.K. My daughter, you may go to your husband, as he is the one I give to you, I don’t need another. The Hare took the girl home and took good care of her.

After three days of having the girl at home with him, the daughter of the King said: My father said that I would marry the strongest man. The Hare said: I am the strongest, and I did what the King wanted me to do. The girl said: Oh no! I want to marry someone stronger than you. The Hare said: So is that what this is about? O.K., so go and find someone whom you would marry. She found some who were stronger than the others, a Hippopotamus and an Elephant.

When the Hare heard this, he went up to the Elephant and said: The Hippopotamus said: ‘I could drag the Elephant and he would fall in the river’. The Elephant said: Go tell the Hippopotamus I could drag him out of the river and throw him on the shore. The Hare said to the Hippopotamus: To find out who is the stronger I will make a big rope, and you can play tug-of-war. The Hare prepared a big, strong rope. He went to the shore and said to the Elephant: Today I want to see which one of you is stronger. He left the Elephant on the shore and said: Here is the rope. Then he gave it to the Hippopotamus and said: This is the one who challenges you, so take this rope. When you feel me hit the rope you must start pulling as hard as possible. The Hare went to the girl and said: You will see for yourself, but don’t show yourself to them. If you do, they will leave the rope and come to start a fight for you saying: ‘The other one will take away my fiancée’. So the Hare hit the rope with a mbi sound (giving them the signal) and the two began to pull from both sides. The Hippopotamus pulled from one side and the Elephant pulled the other side. Both of them got very tired, and they both lay down on the ground completely exhausted. Neither of them was stronger than the other, so nobody was able to take and marry this girl. The Hare went to the Hippopotamus and cut off his head; then he went to the Elephant and cut off his head as well. He went to the girl and said: You can see for yourself, there is no one stronger than me. She said: You are right, you are very strong! The Hare said: There is no one stronger then me. From that moment on, the Hare lived with the Lion’s daughter.

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: nobody should interfere in the marriage of young or poor people and it should be considered as a big injustice when elders break up such a marriage in order to marry somebody’s wife. Secondly, do not judge by appearances, because honesty, wisdom or goodness cannot be recognised by somebody’s appearance, age or sex.

The Mambwe proverbs say: The little person you despised is the one who marries your mother (Kano usuzile, akakatwala nyoko); Important people haven’t got big feet (Amalumba, yasikula ngazo).

Subjects: Appearances – judging – wisdom – honesty – goodness – injustice – breaking up a marriage – marriage – interfere

Told by Bernard Kungula from Kapufi village (recorded).