A Masai Folktale: The Giraffe Hunters


A man named Kume went hunting for a game. He took his weapons and went out to the tall grass. He hunted a long while, and he found a giraffe eating the leaves of an acacia tree. This giraffe was a big one. Many hunters had pursued it but had not been able to catch it. Kume wanted this giraffe. He went back to the village to get his friend Lumbwa. He told him: “the big giraffe that many men have hunted is out there in the grass. Come back with me. The two of us together will get it.”

Lumbwa took his weapons, and the two of them went to the tall grass. But the giraffe was no longer standing under the tree. It had gone to the water hole to drink.

The two hunters made a plan. Kume would climb high into the branches of the tree. When the giraffe returned to eat there again, Kume would leap on its neck and kill it with his knife. Lumbwa would hide in the grass and when the time came, he would shoot the animal with his bow. Kume climbed into the tree. Lumbwa hid in the grass with his bow and arrows. They waited. When the sun grew hot, the giraffe came back to stand under the tree. Kume leaped on its neck, shouting at the same time for Lumbwa to shoot.

The giraffe began to run. Lumbwa jumped his feet and put an arrow in his bowl. He saw the giraffe running with Kume clinging to its neck. He began to laugh. When before had anyone seen a man riding on a giraffe’s neck? He laughed so hard that he could pull his bowstring. As the giraffe galloped past Lumbwa, Kume shouted, “Shoot! Shoot!” But Lumbwa could shoot. He was laughing too hard. He laughed until he fell down. He could not stop laughing. He laughed until he became unconscious and lay silently on the ground. Kume clung to the neck of the galloping giraffe. Then he remembered his knife. He took it from his belt and stabbed the giraffe so that it fell down and died. He skinned the animal and cut off a small portion of meat; then he walked back to where his friend lay on the ground as though he were dead.

Kume shook Lumbwa, but Lumbwa didn’t wake up. So, Kume built a fire and cooked a little of the meat, which he put under Lumbwa’s nose for him to smell. When the odor of the cooked meat went into Lumbwa’s nostrils, he woke up shouting, “Do not finish the giraffe without me!”

The two hunters went back to the giraffe and cooked a little more of the meat and ate it. Then Kume said, “Now I shall cut up the giraffe, but I won’t share it with you because you did not help me kill it. I said, ‘Shoot! Shoot!’ But you did not shoot. You only fainted. Therefore you don’t deserve a share.”

Hearing this, Lumbwa got up from where he sat and went back to the village. There he met Kume’s wife. She asked him, “Have you seen my husband? “Lumbwa answered, “Yes, I saw him. He is hunting. I hear he’s very angry with you. He intends to beat you when he returns.” Kume’s wife considered this. She thought it would be wise for her to stay with friends until Kume’s anger had cooled. So, she left her house and went away. As soon as she was gone, Lumbwa went into her house. He sat down and waited. After a while, Kume came with a load of giraffe meat. He went to small hole at the back of the house and called out to his wife, “Are you there?”

Lumbwa said in a voice like a woman’s, “I am here.”

“Take this meat, “Kume said. “Then I will go back for another load.” Kume then went back for more. When he was gone, Lumbwa took the meat and carried it to his own house. Then he returned to Kume‘s house and waited.

After a while Kume came again, saying, “Are you there?” Lumbwa said in a voice like a woman’s, “I am here.” Kume passed the meat through the hole, and Lumbwa said, “I have it.”

Kume then went back for more. When he was gone, Lumbwa carried the meat to his own house. Again, he came back and waited.

Kume, he came back and forth carrying the meat. Lumbwa, he accepted it each time through the hole in the back of the house and then carried it to his place. At last Kume said, “I’m going for the last time to get the skin.” This time Lumbwa went home, he did not return again to Kume’s house. He went instead to find Kume’s wife, and when he met her, he said, “Your husband is not angry with you anymore.” So, she left her friends and returned to her own house.

Soon, Kume came with the skin. He threw it on the ground and asked his wife to bring out his stool that he might rest. She brought out his stool, and he sat on it. He asked for tobacco, and she brought it to him. Kume then asked her to go invite all the neighbours to come at once.

When all the neighbours arrived, Kume asked his wife if the meat was ready.

“The meat?” she said. “What meat are you speaking of?”

“The giraffe meat, what else could I speak of? All the meat, the meat from the giraffe that I killed this morning. The meat that I carried piece by piece and gave you to take care of.” ““There’s no giraffe meat. There’s no meat of any kind, “The woman said. Kume went in. He saw there was no meat. The neighbours saw there was no meat, and they went home.

So, it happened. Kome was not willing to share a draft with his friend Lumbwa who went hunting with him. Because of that he lost it all.

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