African Folklore: The Fish-Stealers

A Khoi Khoi Tale

The fire threatens,

The stone threatens,

The assagais threaten,

The guns threaten,

Yet you seek food from me.

My children,

Do I get anything easily?

— The Hyena addresses her children

Once upon a time a Jackal, who lived on the borders of the colony saw a wagon returning from the seaside laden with fish. He tried to get into the wagon from behind, but he could not; he then ran ahead, and lay in road as if dead. The wagon came up to him, and the leader cried to the driver, "Here is a fine kaross for your wife!"

"Throw it into the wagon," said the driver, and the Jackal was thrown in.

The wagon travelled on through a moonlit night, and and all the while the Jackal was throwing fish out into the road; he then jumped out himself, and secured a great prize. But a stupid Hyena coming by, ate more than her share, for which the Jackal held a grudge; so he said, "You can get plenty of fish, too, if you lie in the way of the wagon as I did, and keep still whatever happens.

Accordingly, when the next wagon came from the sea, the Hyena stretched herself out in the road.

"What ugly thing is this?" cried the leader, and kicked the hyena. The Hyena lay quietly for as long as she could; then she got up and hobbled off to tell the Jackal of her misfortune. The Jackal pretended to comfort her.

"What a pity," said the Hyena, "that I have not such a handsome skin as you."