African Folktale Of Cheetahs Stained Cheeks
Why Cheetahs Cheeks are Stained
The Cheetah and the Hunter
Long, long, ago somewhere in Africa… When all the people and animals were new… there lived a wicked, worthless, lazy man. Now and again, when forced by hunger, would take up his spear and seek food. One hot and sultry day, as was his custom, this slothful man sat in the shade of a tree on a small kopie (hill) watching plump antelope grazing on the plain below, sighing with discontent.
Bemoaning the fate of having to be a hunter and hunt for food whenever he got hungry. Why could he not get meat without such tiresome work? He scanned the plain looking for a kill to steal meat from some poor animal, as he was want to do. Fortunately, this day there was no fresh kill to rob. Occupied with these and other irritated thoughts, his eye was caught by a movement in the long grass close to the antelope herd. Suddenly, the grass exploded into life and a cheetah sprang out, moving with the speed of the wind across the plain, and brought down a plump buck who’d unwisely wandered off from the main group. The startled animals scattered in all directions, while the cheetah quickly dispatched its victim.
Now he had his chance to steal some meat, then still watching from the kopie (hill) he saw the cheetah drag her quarry to the nearby trees where three fine-looking cheetah cubs were waiting. This good-for-nothing’s whole being was filled with jealousy. Tired of always eating un-fresh meat he schemed a plan. If only he could eat fresh meat like this cheetah every day, without having to hunt or scrounge for it. With these thoughts swirling through his head, he swiftly came up with a diabolical plan.
So this lazy degenerate had decided to steal a cheetah cub, thinking to train it to hunt for him. As the shadows grew longer and the sun began to sink toward the West, the cheetah hid her cubs under some bushes and went to drink. The man grabbed his spear and scurried down to the bushes where the cubs were concealed. Too young to be afraid of him, the cubs lay still while he dithered, trying to pick the best one to steal. Unable to make up his mind, he took all three of the cubs, thinking three cheetahs to hunt for him, would undoubtedly be better than one.
The mother cheetah returned from the waterhole to find her cubs gone. Although she searched the bushes and surrounding grass, plaintively calling for them the whole time, there was no sign of her babies anywhere. Broken-hearted and desolate, she kept on searching while she cried and cried. How long she cried, no one knows but with all her weeping, her tears made dark stains down her cheeks.
As she cried, the sound of her sobbing was heard by an old prophet passing by, who found her relentlessly searching under the bushes, where he noticed from the signs on the ground, she had last hidden her cubs.
Now this old prophet was wise and knowledgeable in the ways of the animals and knew the cheetah was searching for her lost cubs. Combing the grass and surrounding area, looking for clues of what had happened to the cheetah’s babies, the old man had a thought. After going about the village, he learned of what the wicked hunter had done, which made him very angry. The lazy hunter was not only wicked and worthless; he was a thief who had broken the traditions of the people. Everyone knew that a hunter must use only his own strength and skill for hunting. This way of hunting, would surely bring dishonor to the whole tribe.
When the old prophet told the elders what had happened and they in turn informed the villagers, they also became very angry. The people found the lazy hunter and drove him away, making sure he went far from their village. The old prophet took the three cheetah cubs and gave them back to their grateful mother.
But the long weeping and sobbing of the mother cheetah had stained her face forever. And so you will see, even today, the tear-stains on a cheetah’s face, remind all hunters it is not honorable or noble to hunt without the traditional respect that must be given to the animals.
From that day to this, this tribe and many others, dress up in their proudest apparel, when they go out to hunt as a mark of respect to the animals and as gratitude to the creator.