How the Human Race
Separated from the Animals

(Tumbuka [Nyasaland])

Collected by T. Cullen Young, early 20th century

A Man (lit., person) was travelling on a path and there came a Honey-Guide calling him to extract honey. When the man was following the Honey-Guide he met a Cock who asked him where he was going. “I am going,” said he, “with the Honey-Guide; I am going to extract the combs of honey.” (Said the Cock), “Let us all go; I too will sup honey along with you.” (Said the man), “Let us go,” and both proceeded on the way. When a bit farther on they met with a Bush-Cat who also asked them to tell him where they were going, the two of them, and on hearing that it was honey, the Bush-Cat also came in so that he might sup with them.

Then they found a Duiker nipping off the fresh leaves of the Dema shrub, and the Duiker also asked them where they were going. “We are going for honey combs,” (said they). “I forsake the young leaves,” (said the Duiker), “let us all go.” Further on the Honey-Guide lost touch with them and they crowded together each shouting according to his own fashion until the noise they made aroused a Leopard who also came where they were, asking, “What are you discussing? (Why all this talk?) when I your fellow am wakened from sleep?” They told him the whole story, but while (they were) still speaking the Honey-Guide came again—

Che! Che! Cheke! Cheke! Che!

and they said, “It has come back!” and they all followed on, including the Leopard.

On in front they met an Eland who, when he too heard that it was honey that they were going for, also joided in. On ahead an Ele- phant and a Lion came in and they were quite a small crowd. The Honey-Guide pointed out the honey and the man did the extracting. He divided the combs on four platters of tree-bark: one for the Bush-Cat and the Cock, another for the Leopard and the Duiker, another for the Lion and the Eland, and, as to the last, he said, “You and I, Elephant, who are important men, will eat this of ours. Then they began to eat.

Anger arose when it was found that the Bush-Cat had begun to miscall the Cock for eating indecently because it scraped, but the Cock told off the Bush-Cat thus: “Are you not the one who spoils it putting saliva on it?” Then the Bush-Cat said, “I’ll smack you, you youngster!” and in a burst of anger the Cock was caught by the neck and died. The Leopard also put up trouble with the Duiker, saying, “You eat like the Cock!” and before it had time to answer it was throttled and died. Also the Lion said, “I shall eat this honey by myself,” and so it killed and ate the Eland. The Elephant too, when it had a look at the man, despised him, not taking into account the gun. So the Elephant said (to the man), “Why have you brought the Cock and the Duiker and the Eland to their deaths through arranging them together? Your blood will be set against theirs.”

Man—“Who will kill me?”
Elephant—“Did you not hear what I said?”
Man—“Do you imagine that you could get me if I stood at a distance?”

The Elephant danced from foot to foot.

Elephant—“Go now and stand at a distance! You saw dawn but you won’t see sunset!”

The man took his gun and loaded it hurriedly, ran off, and when he stood he said, “Come on! you’ll see all right! this very day the good things of life will be denied you, Elephant!” The Elephant dashed at the man thinking to get him with outstretched trunk, when crash! the gun has him in the forehead! down he fell and the man climbed on top. Said the Lion, “Now the land is spoiled; we have killed one another here and shall give ourselves to deadly enmity from now on.” Then all ran off and the Man remained with the dead.

*

Return to African List

Return to Main Index of Tales