African folklore

During my stay in South Africa various wildlife experts taught me some African folklore stories. Some are sad, but most are really funny and correspond very well with how some animals function in the African bush. Because I believe such stories should be preserved I wrote one down which I state below:

Why the cheeks of the Cheetah are stained with tears

Long ago, a wicked and lazy hunter was sitting under a tree, gazing idly at a large clearing below where a herd of fat springbok were peacefully grazing. The hunter was thinking that it was far too hot too bother himself with a long and tiring stalk through the bushes, when suddenly he notices some movement off to the right. It was a female cheetah which had also chosen this herd to hunt – and she was doing it very well.

Keeping downwind of the herd, she was moving closer to them very slowly, inch by inch, and keeping well under cover. The hunter watched fascinated, as she crept closer and closer to a springbok which had unwisely wandered away from the main herd.

Suddenly, she gathered her long legs under her, and sprang forward like an arrow. With dazzling speed she raced down upon the springbok and caught it just as it started to leap away.

Panting from her effort, the cheetah dragged her prize away to some shade on the edge of the clearing. The hunter watched, marveling at the speed and skill he had just witnessed. But as he watched, he saw to his surprise that three beautiful cubs had also been watching in the shade.

Now the hunter was filled with envy for the cubs, and he wished that he too, could have such a good hunter to provide for him. This gave him a wicked idea; he knew that cheetahs never attack men, and so he decided that it would be easy to take one of the cubs and train it to hunt for him. Chuckling to himself, he settled down to wait. After all, the hunter was cowardly and did not wish to find out whether a mother would defend her cubs.

When the sun was setting, the mother cheetah left her cubs concealed in a bush, and set off to the waterhole to drink. Quickly, the hunter grabbed his spear and trotted down to the bushes where the cubs were hidden. There he found the three cubs, still too young to run away. He could not decide which one to take, and so stole them all, thinking to himself that three cheetahs would undoubtedly be better than one.

When their mother came back half an hour later and found her babies gone, she was broken-hearted. The poor mother cried and cried, till her tears made dark stains down her cheeks. She wept all night, and the next day. She cried so loudly that she was heard by an old man, who came to see what all the noise was about.

Now, it so happened that this old man was very wise in the ways of the world, and he had a great knowledge of, and respect for, animals. When he found out what happened, he became very angry, for not only had the lazy hunter become a thief, but he had broken the traditions of the tribe. All knew that a hunter must use only his own strength and skill. Any other way of hunting was surely a dishonor.

The old man took the three cheetah cubs and returned them to their grateful mother; but the long weeping of the mother cheetah had stained her face permanently, and so, to this day, say the Zulu, the cheetah wears the tear stains on its face as a reminder to the hunters that it is not honorable to hunt in any other way than that which is traditional.