In this volume you will find forty-four uniquely South African tales. Stories of The Lost Message, The Monkey's Fiddle, The Leopard, The Ram and the Jackal, The Lion the Jackal and the Man, Tink-Tinkje, The Lioness and the Ostrich, Crocodile's Treason, The White Man and Snake, Tortoise Hunting Ostriches, The Judgment Of Baboon, When Lion Could Fly, The Origin Of Death and many more.It is with great thanks to James A. Honey that this volume was ever compiled. For there are few volumes currently available with these old and forgotten tales from across South Africa.In the days before the many languages of South Africa were first recorded and written, these are stories that were used by the Sangomas (medicine women) and the Umxoxi Wendaba (story tellers) to teach their children the moral lessons of life and orally pass their knowledge on to the next generation.So gather around the campfire and share the many stories in this book to the delight of young and old alike. Then when the hour grows late, when sparks from the fire have stopped ascending into the black night and young heads and eyelids have grown heavy; when the dying fire is making long shadows dance across the veld, close the book with the promise that another African story will be told on another day.
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South African Folk Tales
Typographical arrangement of this edition
© Abela Publishing 2009
This book may not be reproduced in its current format in any manner in any media, or transmitted by any means whatsoever, electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, or mechanical ( including photocopy, file or video recording, internet web sites, blogs, wikis, or any other information storage and retrieval system) except as permitted by law without the prior written permission of the publisher.
This book is dedicated to the teachers and storytellers
who keep folklore and history alive
through the telling and re-telling
of these tales
33% percentage of the net
from the sale of this book
will be donated towards the education
of those South African children
most in need
The Publisher acknowledges the
work that James A. Honey did
in compiling this volume of
unique South African Folk Tales
in a time well before any
electronic media was in use
ORIGIN OF THE DIFFERENCE IN MODES OF LIFE BETWEEN
HOTTENTOTS AND BUSHMEN
THE LOST MESSAGE
THE MONKEY'S FIDDLE
THE LEOPARD, THE RAM, AND THE JACKAL
THE JACKAL AND THE HYENA
A JACKAL AND A HYENA
THE LION, THE JACKAL, AND THE MAN
THE WORLD'S REWARD
THE LION AND THE JACKAL
THE LION AND JACKAL
LION AND JACKAL
THE HUNT OF LION AND JACKAL
THE STORY OF LION AND LITTLE JACKAL
THE LIONESS AND THE OSTRICH
THE STORY OF A DAM
THE DANCE FOR WATER OR RABBITS' TRIUMPH
JACKAL AND MONKEY
THE STORY OF HARE
THE WHITE MAN AND SNAKE
ANOTHER VERSION OF THE SAME FABLE
JACKAL, DOVE, AND HERON
COCK AND JACKAL
ELEPHANT AND TORTOISE
ANOTHER VERSION OF THE SAME FABLE
TORTOISE HUNTING OSTRICHES
THE JUDGMENT OF BABOON
LION AND BABOON
THE ZEBRA STALLION
WHEN LION COULD FLY
LION WHO THOUGHT HIMSELF WISER THAN HIS MOTHER
LION WHO TOOK A WOMAN'S SHAPE
WHY HAS JACKAL A LONG BLACK STRIPE ON HIS BACK?
HORSE CURSED BY SUN
THE ORIGIN OF DEATH
ANOTHER VERSION OF THE SAME FABLE
A THIRD VERSION OF THE SAME FABLE
A FOURTH VERSION OF THE SAME FABLE
A ZULU VERSION OF THE LEGEND OF THE
IN presenting these stories, which are of deep interest and value to South Africans, I hope they may prove of some value to those Americans, and people from other countries, who have either an interest in animals or who appreciate the folklore of other countries.
Many of these tales have appeared among English collections previous to 1880, others have been translated from the Dutch, and a few have been written from childhood remembrance. Consequently they do not pretend to be original or unique. Care has been taken not to spoil the ethnological value for the sake of form or structure; and in all cases they are as nearly like the original as a translation from one tongue to another will allow. They are all South-African folklore tales and mainly from the Bushmen. Some are perverted types from what were originally Bushmen tales, but have been taken over by Hottentots or Zulus; a few are from the Dutch. Most of these last named will show a European influence, especially French.
Some of the animal stories have appeared in American magazines under the author's name, but this is the first time that a complete collection has appeared since Dr. Bleek published his stories in 1864. The object has been to keep the stories apart from those which have a mythological or religious significance, and especially to keep it an animal collection free from those in which man appears to take a part.
There will be found several versions of the same story, and as far as possible these will be put in the order of their importance in relation to the original. The author does not pretend to be an authority on South-African folklore, but has only a South-African-born interest in what springs from that country of sunshine. It is a difficult task to attempt to trace the origin of these stories, as there is no country where there have been so many distinct and primitive races dwelling together.
The Bushmen seem to trace back to the earliest Egyptian days, when dwarfs were pictured on the tombs of the kings and were a distinct race. From then until now it has been their pride to say that before men were men, they were; or, to put it clearer, before Africa was inhabited by other races, they were there. As represented by some of these stories of the Bushmen, what races have not, then, had their influence on the folklore? According to Stow, they were a wandering primitive race of small men, painters and sculptors, hunters and herdsmen, and withal a race showing traces of wonderful reasoning and adaptability, with a keen sense of justice and a store of pride. Mythological some of their stories are, but whether this is due to the influence of the Hottentots, a later race, it is difficult to say. And, lastly, there are the Bantu spread over the whole of South Africa. The varied influences which may have affected these stories before they reached us show what enormous possibilities there are for error in tracing the origin of the animal tales here presented. Bleek finds that a greater congeniality exists between the Hottentot and European mind than is found between the latter and any other of the black races of Africa. Whether he means that this indicates a European origin of the fables, I cannot say. There is no doubt in my mind that the Bushmen came from the north and were the primitive race of south and tropical Africa, the dwarfs of Livingstone, Stanley, and other explorers. Considering, then, the great antiquity of this race, it naturally follows that if these stories are not original with the Bushmen, they are at least so modified as to bear no resemblance to Egyptian, Plicenician, or any other ancient race which the Bushmen may have come in contact with. Herodotus described a race on the upper Nile which corresponds with later descriptions of the Bushmen in tropical and southern Africa.
I agree with what the South-African Folklore Journal stated twenty years or more ago, that with the "vast strides South Africa is making in the progress of civilization, the native races will either be swept away or so altered as to lose many of their ancient habits, customs, traditions, or at least greatly to modify them."
Knowing that by a collection of this kind these stories could best be preserved, and feeling that others had not read them, I began this collection ten years ago. There is so much done now to preserve what is still
Bushmen folklore that I feel this small volume is indeed only a small addition to the folklore world.
"South-African folklore is," the South-African Folklore Journal says, "in its very nature plain, and primitive in its simplicity; not adorned with the wealth of palaces and precious stones to be met with in the folklore of more civilized nations, but descriptive in great measure of the events of everyday life, among those in a low state of civilization; and with the exception of evidences of moral qualities, and of such imagery as is connected with the phenomena of nature, very little that is grand or magnificent must be looked for in it."
Bain gives a story related by a Bantu which shows " the distribution of animals after the creation." This story could not become typically Bantu until after the Bantu came in contact with the European in the last two or three hundred years. However, the story will serve to illustrate the people whose stories appear in this volume and to close the Introduction.
Teco, in Bantu, is the Supreme Being. Teco had every description of stock and property.
There were three nations created, viz., the Whites, the Amakosa, or Bantu, and the Amalouw, or Hottentots. A day was appointed for them to appear before the Teco to receive whatever he might apportion to each tribe. While they were assembling, a honey bird, or honey guide, came fluttering by, and all the Hottentots ran after it, whistling and making the peculiar noise they generally do while following this wonderful little bird. The Teco remonstrated with them about their behaviour, but to no purpose. He thereupon denounced them as a vagrant race that would have to exist on wild roots and honey beer, and possess no stock whatever.
When the fine herds of cattle were brought, the Bantus became very much excited-the one exclaiming, "That black and white cow is mine!" and another, "That red cow and black bull are mine!" and so on, till at last the Teco, whose patience had been severely taxed by their shouts and unruly behaviour, denounced them as a restless people, who would only possess cattle.
The Whites patiently waited until they received cattle, horses, sheep, and all sorts of property. Hence,
the old Bantu observed, "You Whites have got everything. We Bantu have only cattle, while the Amalouw, or Hottentots, have nothing."
JAMES A. HONEŸ.
CAMBRIDGE, MASS., June, 1910.
It is with great thanks to James A. Honey that this volume was ever compiled.
I remember as a child attending Infant and Junior School at Westville in the 1960’s and being told some of these stories in class.
For millennia these are the teaching stories that were passed from mouth to mouth to help young Africans navigate through the uncertain journey of life that lay ahead. It is therefore only fitting that this volume of South African Folk Tales be given new life a century after they were first published so that they can benefit those young South Africans who, for a myriad of reasons, would not normally receive a full education.
It is doubtful that Westville Infant School or Westville Junior school (now Westville Junior Primary and Westville Senior Primary) still have an original volume and it is unknown if these stories are still told in schools around South Africa.
IN the beginning there were two. One was blind, the other was always hunting. This hunter found at last a hole in the earth from which game proceeded and killed the young. The blind man, feeling and smelling them, said, "They are not game, but cattle."
The blind man afterwards recovered his sight, and going with the hunter to this hole, saw that they were cows with their calves. He then quickly built a kraal1 round them, and anointed himself, just as Hottentots (in their native state) are still wont to do.
When the other, who now with great trouble had to seek his game, came and saw this, he wanted to anoint himself also. "Look here!" said the other, "you must throw the ointment into the fire, and afterwards use it." He followed this advice, and the flames flaring up into his face, burnt him most miserably; so that he was glad to make his escape. The other, however, called to him: "Here, take the kirri2, and run to the hills to hunt there for honey."
Hence sprung the race of Bushmen.
THE ant has had from time immemorial many enemies, and because he is small and destructive, there have been a great many slaughters among them. Not only were most of the birds their enemies, but Anteater lived almost wholly from them, and Centipede beset them every time and at all places when he had the chance.
So now there were a few among them who thought it would be well to hold council together and see if they could not come to some arrangement whereby they could retreat to some place of safety when attacked by robber birds and animals.
But at the gathering their opinions were most discordant, and they could come to no decision.
There was Red-ant, Rice-ant, Black-ant, Wagtail-ant, Gray-ant, Shining-ant, and many other varieties. The discussion was a true babel of diversity, which continued for a long time and came to nothing.
A part desired that they should all go into a small hole in the ground, and live there; another part wanted to have a large and strong dwelling built on the ground, where nobody could enter but an ant; still another wanted to dwell in trees, so as to get rid of Anteater, forgetting entirely that there they would be the prey of birds; another part seemed inclined to have wings and fly.
And, as has already been said, this deliberation amounted to nothing, and each party resolved to go to work in its own way, and on its own responsibility.
Greater unity than that which existed in each separate faction could be seen nowhere in the world; each had his appointed task, each did his work regularly and well. And all worked together in the same way. From among them they chose a king-that is to say some of the groups did-and they divided the labour so that all went as smoothly as it possibly could.
But each group did it in its own way, and not one of them thought of protecting themselves against the onslaught of birds or Anteater.
The Red-ants built their house on the ground and lived under it, but Anteater levelled to the ground in a minute what had cost them many days of precious labour. The Rice-ants lived under the ground, and with them it went no better. For whenever they came out, Anteater visited them and took them out sack and pack. The Wagtail-ants fled to the trees, but there on many occasions sat Centipede waiting for them, or the birds gobbled them up. The Gray-ants had intended to save themselves from extermination by taking to flight, but this also availed them nothing, because the Lizard, the Hunting-spider, and the birds went a great deal faster than they.
When the Insect-king heard that they could come to no agreement he sent them the secret of unity, and the message of Work-together. But unfortunately he chose for his messenger the Beetle, and he has never yet arrived at the Ants, so that they are still to-day the embodiment of discord and consequently the prey of enemies.
HUNGER and want forced Monkey one day to forsake his land and to seek elsewhere among strangers for much-needed work. Bulbs, earth beans, scorpions, insects, and such things were completely exhausted in his own land. But fortunately he received, for the time being, shelter with a great uncle of his, OrangOutang, who lived in another part of the country.
When he had worked for quite a while he wanted to return home, and as recompense his great uncle gave him a fiddle and a bow and arrow and told him that with the bow and arrow he could hit and kill anything he desired, and with the fiddle he could force anything to dance.
The first he met upon his return to his own land was (Brer) Hyena. This old fellow told him all the news and also that he had since early morning been attempting to stalk a deer, but all in vain.
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