The Hare, the Bushbuck and the Cruel People

Here is a story:

There was a Hare and a Bushbuck who lived together and each one of them had their own wife. A cruel famine took hold of their village and so, they had nowhere to get groundnuts. Finally, they found some groundnuts and beans in someone’s field. Everyday they would go and crunch the beans found on other people’s fields.

One day, the owner of the field said: I am going to watch the beans more closely! He noticed the Hare was eating the leaves off of all of his beanstalks and the Bushbuck ate an enormous amount of beans. The man said: When famine comes to my field, what will my children eat? He returned to the village and told the people: My friends, in my field the Hare and the Bushbuck made a terrible mess of my food. The people who were there replied: You are not alone. Our situation is miserable. They said: Bring some iron and we will do some forging. They forged some axes and some arrows out of the iron.

At the home of the Hare and the Bushbuck, the Bushbuck said: Man, since we do not know how to farm, let’s watch the farmers and see how they live. The Hare replied: You have not seen them because you live quite far from them, but I live very near to them and I’ve seen them. They have two legs, two arms, a small head on top, and they stand erect. When they begin to run no one can beat them. The Bushbuck said: Oh yes, they are the ones I would like to see and check if they are farmers. The Hare said: Going there, I will cover you in grass so they don’t notice you. Do you understand? He answered: Yes. Then the Hare took some grass and completely covered the Bushbuck with it. He left a small part uncovered for the Bushbuck to see and then put him over his shoulder.

They travelled for a long time and went straight to the public hut where the people were forging iron. The people said: Good morning, Hare. The Hare said: Yes, hello, how are you? They answered: Well, thank you! He took the bundle of grass he had with him and put it upright. When they finished, they complained: We will never forgive the Bushbuck for what he has done. The Hare took his bundle of grass and left. When they were already quite far, the Hare asked the Bushbuck: Did you see the people? The Bushbuck replied: Yes, they are cruel, they are very cruel. The Hare said: Those are the farmers and they are the ones who can spear me and you too. So we must be careful! Then the Hare continued and asked the Bushbuck: Where do you want to go tomorrow? The Bushbuck replied: I don’t want to go anywhere. After some time went by and they had stayed home, the Bushbuck said: Truly, I miss the people. So after one week they decided to go. Not very far from the place they left, the Hare cut some grass, covered the Bushbuck and put him over his shoulder. They noticed the people were still forging. Then the people said: If we see the Bushbuck again, he will regret it. The Bushbuck said to himself: I am never coming back here.

After some days went by the Bushbuck said to the Hare: I miss the people and want to know them well, so if I see them, I could run knowing that: ‘this is a man’. The Hare wrapped him well in grass and covered him thoroughly. When the Hare arrived to meet the people, they said: Put your bundle down here because it is not resting well. The Hare said: All right, just show me where to put it. He took it and put the bundle close to where the people were working. He went to the bellows and started blowing them and said: Let us eat them, let us eat them, let us eat you, let us eat them, let us eat you. When he finished, all the people shouted: This little fellow is very clever at blowing the bellows! One of the people of the village said: I will open the Hare’s bundle. As he opened the bundle, he saw the Bushbuck which jumped out and ran away. All they said was: Wow, it’s the Bushbuck! When the Bushbuck ran away, the Hare was left all alone saying to himself: What can I do? As the Hare sat for a while, he thought to himself: If the Bushbuck goes again to eat the food of these people, will they forgive me that? The Hare said: No, they will kill me. So he said: Let me go and look for work. And so he went.

The Hare found work from the Lion who he told him: Your job will be to dry the meat I will bring you. The Lion went to the bush in the morning and killed something. When he brought it, the Hare asked: Sir, there is a lot of meat. Can I take some of it? The Lion refused to give him any. So, the Hare went away somewhere to stay. In the morning, the Lion went hunting and the Hare ripped open the animal as if it was a book. He cut some inner parts of the meat so when the Lion came back he didn’t notice anything was torn out from inside, otherwise there could be a problem. The Hare stayed there for some time and said to himself: Now I am not hungry, but what will I do in the future?

At the time the Hare went to the bush, the Lion brought meat which filled up the granary. The Hare went to the Wood Dove and said: Wood Dove, what kind of voice do you have? The Wood Dove sung: Vee, vee, vee! The Hare said: That’s nothing. He went to the Turtle Dove, saying to himself: This one is bigger than the Wood Dove. Its call should scare him so I could stay and eat. So he said: You Turtle Dove, what kind of a voice do you have? The Turtle Dove said: Why do you ask? The Hare said: If I hear you sing, I am going to reward you. The Turtle Dove said: This is how I sing: ‘Pele pele pele. The Hare said: There is nothing that I can learn from you. He went to the home of the Francolin whose call was hopeless, and the Guinea Fowl turned out the same. The singing was terrible. The Hare asked himself: Where could I go and find a bird so that when the Lion hears its call he would say to himself: ‘I am in big trouble’?

The Hare went to the home of the Hornbills and said to himself: These ones are really big! Whenhe arrived, he greeted them and they asked: What do you want? The Hare said: Please help me. I began working for the king Lion but he never gives me anything to eat from what he catches. Simply put, he is cheating me. Then the Hare asked: What kind of voice do you have? So he heard: Tutu tutu nkakoca*; tutu tutu, nkakoca. At once the Hare said: From what I heard that is a good voice, so let us go. They came close to the king’s place. As it was getting dark, the Hare went to the king Lion’s place in order to quickly prepare some food. When they started to eat, the Hare told the Hornbills: Now start yelling! They began calling: Tutu tutu, nkakoca. The Lions inside heard the yelling and said: Have you ever heard these which are coming? The children said: Father, since we live alone in the bush all of us will be eaten. When the noise was heard and thought to be close, all the Lions ran away in different directions. The Hare was very lucky; he and the Hornbills went to the public hut and sat by the fire warming themselves. They said: We suffered so much eating the grasshoppers, but here there are so many good things. The Hare roasted heaps of meat for their meal. When he saw what was going on, he said to himself: There are so many of them, what am I going to do? After they all ate and were full, they went to sleep.

The Hare took a grass torch, and, as the Hornbills were sleeping, he began to run the torch next to their beaks. Then he touched the beaks of the Hornbills and found they were not hot so he said: So their beaks are cool. He took a club and chased them: vupu, vupu, and they went away, straight away.

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: sooner or later cheating leads to misfortune and the one who claims to be very clever (a sly dog) will turn out badly. We should remember that God hates thievery, therefore we should not cheat each other.

The Mambwe proverbs say: Anyone who wants to be cleverer than his companion is stupid (Ukucenjela apa yacenjele yauzo, ukutumpa); Intelligence makes a fool of itself (Amano, yakatumfya).

Subjects: cheating – misfortune – over-wise – punishment – slyness – regret – thieving – God’s commandments


* This onomatopoeic expression could be translated as: tutu, tutu, I going to burn you.


Told by Bernard Kungula from Kapufi village (recorded).