How Hyena Got Her Limp
Long, long ago somewhere in Africa… When the earth and all the people and animals were new… My Gran would often tell me stories, repeating the ones from her own childhood. Some belonged to European tradition and some belonged to African folktales but they shared common goals and that was to explain or teach; and answer the endless “but why” questions, parents everywhere know all too well.
Most of these African folktales have appeared in early (pre-1880) English collections and a few have been gathered from childhood memories. As a result they are not new or unique but as close to the original as a translation from one tongue to another will allow. They are all African folk tales, mostly Khoisan (Bushmen) or Khoikhoi (Hottentot) in origin but similar stories occur in the oral tradition of many tribes throughout the continent…
First Up Was Jackal
Jackal and Hyena were together, it is said, when a fluffy white cloud rose. Jackal ascended upon it, and ate of the cloud, as if it were fat.
When he wanted to come down, he said to Hyena, “My sister, as I am going to share with you, catch me well.” So she caught him, and broke his fall. Then she also went up and ate there, high up on the top of the cloud.
Catch Me If You Can
When Hyena was satisfied, she said, “My greyish brother, now catch me well.” The greyish rogue said to his friend, “My sister, I shall catch you well. Come then down.”
Once a Rouge !
Jackal held up his hands, and she came down from the cloud, and when she was near, Jackal cried out (pretending pain and jumping to one side), “My sister, do not take it ill. Oh my! Oh my! A thorn has pricked me and sticks in me.”
Thus Hyena fell down from above, and was sadly hurt.
There’s a Lesson Here
Since that day, it is said that Hyenas’ hind feet have been shorter and smaller than the front ones and ever since then, Hyenas have walked with a limp…
Moral of the story? Keep your head out of the clouds and you won’t be led astray.
Note: This is to thank Botswana-Travel for the bushman picture.