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Home :  African Legends :  The Squirrel and the Hyena Were Neighbours

The Squirrel and the Hyena Were Neighbours

Bura Folktales Legend (Nigeria)

Every day the squirrel would walk in the bush and hunt food. One day he saw a roan antelope with its calf eating grass. The squirrel said, "Will you accept a challenge?" The roan replied, "What can you do that I cannot do?" The squirrel said, "Are you able to make a hole through this baobab tree?" -"Are you?" countered the roan. The squirrel said, "Watch me, and see what I can do."

Then the squirrel went to the baobab tree and ate into this side, and then went around and ate into the other side. He called for the roan to come and see what he had done. The roan came up and saw the two holes, and she said, "Well, I can do that, too." The roan backed away and came with a rush, sinking her horns deep into the tree. When she went to back away, her horns stuck fast.

The squirrel decided to let the roan stick and to use her as his milk cow. Every day the squirrel came to milk her. His wife would make the milk into cheese and then put the cheese in the bottom of the soup gourd and pour the soup over it.

Being close neighbours, the squirrel and the hyena often ate together. When the wife of the squirrel brought the food, the squirrel would say to the hyena, "Reach in deep, cousin, and get some of the good food." The hyena would answer, "You little friend of the grass, do you want me to burn my hand?" Every day the squirrel would tell him to reach in deep, and every day he would say, "No, I do not want to." One day the hyena pushed his hand in deep and be got a taste of the cheese. The hyena said to the squirrel, "Why did you not tell me about this long ago?" The squirrel answered, "Why, I told you every day about it."

The hyena was eager to know how to make the cheese and where the squirrel got it. The squirrel, desiring to deceive the hyena, said, "Come with your family on tomorrow morning, and I will show you where to get it." In the morning, the hyena told his wife and children to get large gourds and come with him. When they came, the squirrel showed them palm trees and said, "We get that food from the palm fruit." Quickly the hyena filled all the gourds with palm fruit and the wife and children carried them home. Before the hyena went home he asked the squirrel how to fix it. The squirrel said, "Put it on the fire and make it hot."

Then the hyena went home and filled two pots with palm fruit. He told the children to fix the fire. Nothing seemed to happen to the palm fruit, it just lay there and steamed. The hyena.told one of the children to build more fire. When the child came near the palm fumes, it dropped down dead. The hyena thought the first child was just playing. He sent a second child, and he dropped down dead, just like the first one. All four children were sent, and all dropped dead from the palm fumes. Finally, the hyena said to his wife, "Pana, those children will not fix the fire, they are just playing. You go and fix it." Pana went, and she dropped down dead, too. The hyena looked up and saw all of them lying near the fire and said, "You good-for-nothing lot, I will have to fix the fire myself." He went, and as soon as he got the fumes, he fell dead, too.

After a while the squirrel came and found all of them dead. He said, "Arise, and they all arose. The hyena said, "We came to fix the fire, and we all fell asleep."

On another day an old woman called the hyena, and said, "If you want to know where the squirrel gets his milk, you will have to be clever. You sew a little cloth and tie it on his back so that it drags, and then you can see where he goes." The hyena sewed a big blanket and put ashes in it and tied it on the squirrel's back. In the morning, the squirrel got up, but he could not walk because of this heavy thing which had been tied to him. The old woman called the hyena and said to him, "You are dumb. Why did you make such a big thing that the squirrel could not drag? Do you think a squirrel is big? Well, why did you make something bigger than he is? Go and make a small cloth and tie it on his back. Do not make it so big that he cannot drag it." The hyena made a small cloth and tied it on the back of the squirrel.

In the morning, the squirrel was off for his milk. He did not know that the hyena had tied a piece of cloth on his back. The squirrel went straight to the roan. Behind him followed the hyena and his family. Before the hyena got there, the squirrel had finished milking and was starting home. He lifted his eyes and saw the hyena. The hyena said, "Are you going home and leave that roan there?" The squirrel said, "I do not want to kill her, for I get milk from her every day." The hyena said, "If you do not want to kill her, than I will kill her."

In an instant the hyena was onto the roan. He quickly killed her and skinned her and cut up the meat. He cut off a very small piece of meat and gave it to the squirrel. He carried the bulk of the meat to his own home.

The squirrel went home and his wife cooked his small piece of meat for him. The squirrel ate his bit of meat and then sat down to study how he could get more from the hyena. He decided to have his wife cook mush and to enclose himself with a razor in a ball of mush. He told his plan to his wife, and she soon had the mush ready. She enclosed the squirrel with his razor in the ball of mush and took it to the hyena.

The wife of the squirrel said to the hyena, "The squirrel remembered about your grandfather's sacrifice mush and said that I should bring it to you. He said that you should not chew it, but just swallow it as it is." The hyena said, "Thanks, my cousin, for remembering for me." He took the ball of mush and swallowed it. He had swallowed the squirrel, and did not know it until the squirrel began to cut his insides with the razor. The hyena cried out, "My stomach, my stomach, oh how it hurts." The squirrel in his stomach said, "If you want your stomach to stop hurting, gather up all meat in your house and take it over to the squirrel's house." The hyena called to his wife, "Gather up all the meat and take it to the squirrel's house. Pana, do not be dumb, leave some for us, too." The squirrel heard everything that was said and began to cut again. The hyena howled with pain and said, "Pana, take it all, or do you want me to die?" They took all of the meat over to the squirrel's house.

Then the hyena said, "Squirrel, when are you going to come out of my stomach?" The squirrel said, "When you feel a little pain, I am not coming out. But when you feel a big pain, then I am coming out." The hyena called his children and told them to cut clubs with which to kill the squirrel when he came out. After a while the hyena felt a little pain and the squirrel ran out, but the hyena did not see him. Presently the hyena had a big pain, and he called his children to come and kill the squirrel, but it had gone and they had missed seeing it.

The hyena decided to be clever like the squirrel. He told his wife to enclose him in mush and take it to the squirrel. His wife soon had the mush ready. She enclosed him in a great ball of mush and took it to the squirrel. She said, "My husband reminded me that this was the time for your grandfather's sacrifice. He told me to bring this mush to you, and to tell you not to chew it, but to swallow it whole." The squirrel said, Pana, can I swallow a ball of mush like that? I have never eaten that much mush at one time, let alone swallowing it all at once. Would my stomach be big enough to hold it? What did Pana put inside the mush?" The hyena said, "My cousin, I climbed into this big gourd to get my snuff-box, and Pana put the mush on top of me." Shamefacedly he climbed out of the mush. The squirrel cut him a piece of meat to eat, and he went home.


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