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Home :  African Legends :  The elephant and his slaves

The elephant and his slaves

Bura Folktales Legend (Nigeria)

The elephant went for a walk and a hyena and a dog and a ram followed him because they wanted to become his slaves. The elephant said, "We shall go for six days without drinking water." They went on, and when they saw a pond the hyena said, "I am going to drink." The ram said, "We dare not drink until he tells us that it is time to drink." They went on and, after a little, they came to a large body of water with many fish in it. The elephant said, "Let us drink the water." First they said to the dog, "Go and drink." The dog went and drank. Then they said to the hyena, "Go and drink." The hyena went and drank. Then they said to the ram, "Go and drink." The ram went and drank. Then they said to the elephant, "Go and drink." The elephant went and drank. When the elephant realized that all of his slaves had drunk, he drank all of the large body of water. When he had drunk all of the water, there was nothing left but many fish.

The elephant sent his slaves to get wood, and they went and brought wood. There was not enough wood, however, to roast the fish, so the elephant went himself and pulled up a large tree. They roasted the fish, and then the elephant said to the dog, "Go and eat fish." The dog went and ate. He said to the hyena, "Go and eat." The hyena went and ate. He said to "Go and eat." The ram went and ate. Then the the elephant went and ate. The elephant ate all of the fish that were left.

The slaves thanked the elephant and said that they would now be going. After they had gone a little distance, the hyena said, "I will be your master. Let the dog and the ram be my slaves, and we will go three days without drinking water." They started off. When the hyena got hungry, he said to himself, "Look here, I am hungry and there is food back of me." Then they came to a place where they saw some water in a gourd with a few fish in it. The hyena said, "Go, dog, and drink." The dog began to drink, and the hyena said, "You, are you going to drink all of it?" The dog stopped drinking and came back. The hyena said to the ram, "Go and drink." When the ram had drunk but a very little, the hyena said sharply, "Do you want to finish this?" The ram stopped drinking. Then the master went and drank the rest of the water and took out the few fish. He said to the dog, "Go and get us wood and let us roast the fish with it." The dog went and got a lot of wood. The hyena said, "You have brought a lot of wood, what are you going to roast with it?" Then they roasted the fish, and the hyena said to his slaves, "Go and eat fish and leave some for me." They went and started to eat, and the hyena said, "Do you want to finish them all?" The dog and the ram stopped eating fish because they feared the hyena. The hyena went and finished the rest of the fish.

They started off again and they came to a place where some men had been eating honey. The ram had a little gourd which he put honey in. The dog found sandals, and he took them. As they went on, the hyena was ahead, the dog behind, and the ram was behind the dog. When they had gone a short distance, the hyena got hungry. He wanted to catch the dog, so he turned and said to the dog, "Why are you going so fast like this? Or do you want to run over me?" They went a little farther, and the hyena still wanted to catch either the dog or the ram, and eat him. When he' whirled to catch one of them, they ran and came to a tree. Behold! there was a lion lying under that tree. The lion jumped up to catch them. They dipped a shoe into the honey and gave it to the lion, and he ate it. When he tasted the sweet, he said, "Give me some more," and they gave him more. But after a little, the honey was finished, and the lion said, "Where did you get a sweet thing like this?" The dog said, "From the hyena." The lion said to the hyena, "Give me some honey." The hyena gave the lion some honey, but it was not sweet. The dog said, "The sweet honey is still in the hyena's stomach." The lion jumped onto and hurt him so that he would give him some of the sweet honey. While the lion was arguing with the hyena, the ram and the dog slipped away and ran. Before the lion looked around, they were out of sight. In this way the dog and the ram were able to get away.


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