April 6, 2019

SOONGOORA THE HARE: An African Folktale by zteve t evans

Who is in my tree,
eating my honey?...
Soongoora the Hare was hungry, and wandering through the forest, came across a huge calabash tree. Hearing a strong humming sound, he looked and saw buzzing in and out of large hole in the trunk, many bees.Thinking he would like some honey, he went into town looking for someone to help him.

He met a big rat name Bookoo, who was in fact a very respectable citizen of the town. Smiling, Bookoo invited him to sit down and rest in his house. 

Soongoora thanked him, and sitting down sighed,“Sadly, my father has recently passed away and left me in his will, a bee’s nest of honey. Would you like to help me eat it?”

Bookoo loved honey and readily accepted the invitation and accompanied Soongoora to the calabash tree. Soongoora pointed up to the hole where the bees were buzzing in and out and said, “There, we must climb up.”  

First, both cut a bundle of dried grass and climbed up to the hole where they set the grass alight, causing lots of smoke. The bees became too sleepy to bother them, allowing Soongoora and Bookoo to tuck into the honey.
As they were enjoying the feast, out of the forest sauntered Simba the Lion who sat at the bottom of the tree looking up at them and growled, “Who is in my tree, eating my honey, looking down on me while I look up at them?”

Soongoora whispered to Bookoo, “Shhh - keep quiet! He is old and crazy. Keep quiet, and he will go away.”  

Simba did not go away and grew angry roaring, “Tell me who you are, now!”

This terrified poor Bookoo who stammered, “It is only us, only us!,”  

Soongoora rolled his eyes and shook his head.  He knew this meant trouble and whispered to his friend,“Wrap the grass around me and shout down that you are going to throw grass down.  Tell him to stand back, well out of the way. Then slowly climb down the tree.”

Quickly, Bookoo wrapped the dry grass around Soongoora. Then he shouted down, “Watch out down there! Stand well back!  I will throw this bundle of grass down and then come down myself.”  

Hearing this, Simba moved away from the tree, and Bookoo threw the bundle down and then began slowly climbing down.  As Simba looked up watching Bookoo climb down, Soongoora crept silently from the bundle of hay and sneaked off into the forest without being seen.

As soon as Bookoo set foot on the ground, Simba pounced upon him saying, “Who else was up there with you?  Where are they?”

Poor Bookoo was terrified and stammered, “It was Soongoora the Hare.  He is down here with you now.”

Simba looked all around him and then growled, “There is no one else here!”  

Panicking Bookoo insisted, “But I wrapped him up in a bundle of dry grass and threw him down to you! Can’t you see him?”

“Of course I cannot see I will eat you!” said Simba angrily and without any further talk, ate poor Bookoo. Then, Simba began looking round for Soongoora, but after searching high and low and not finding him, gave up, but did not forget.

While Simba had been distracted eating Bookoo, the wily hare had slipped away into the forest.

A few days later, Soongoora fancied some honey and went to see his neighbor, Kobay the Tortoise, saying, “Hey, Kobay, my friend, I know where there is some good honey. Why not come with me and have some?”

“Who does the honey belong to? asked Kobay warily.

“It is my father’s, and he has given me permission.” replied the hare.

“Good, let’s go and get some!” said Kobay eagerly.

Arriving at the great calabash tree, they gathered up dry grass from all around and climbed up to the hole where the bees had their nest. Setting fire to the hay, the bees soon became sleepy from the smoke and Soongoora and Kobay were soon feasting. As they were enjoying the honey, they heard a voice growl up to them saying, “Who is that up my tree?”

“Sssshhhh! It’s only Simba” said Soongoora to Kobay. “Say nothing and he will go away.”

“Come down from my tree now!” roared the lion angrily.

Kobay looked suspiciously at Soongoora and said, “You have deceived me! This tree and honey is the property of Simba.”

The lion roared, “Who are you?”

“There is no one - only me and Soongoora.” answered Kobay as Soongoora rolled his eyes.

Simba had not forgotten his encounter with Soongoora, and he was sure he had him trapped and was determined to catch and eat him.

Come down right now!”  demanded the lion

“We are on our way!” shouted Kobay.

Soongoora  said, “Quick, Kobay, wrap me up in a bundle of that hay. Then shout down to Simba to move away and throw me down. Then, you slowly climb down, and I will be waiting for you on the ground.  Don’t worry, he is old and harmless!”

Kobay did as instructed, but began to think he could not trust the hare, realizing he would leave him alone to face the angry lion. Throwing down the bundle, he shouted out, “Look out below, I am throwing Soongoora down!”

As soon as the bundle hit the ground, Simba pounced upon it saying, “Ha, Soongoora the Hare, now I have you!”

Holding the hare by his ears, Simba picked him up and looked him in the eyes saying, “Now I have you, what shall I do with you?”

“Well,”  said Soongoora, “Whatever you do, I would not try to eat me. I am terribly tough and taste awful.”

“Hmmm,” said the lion, “how can I make you taste better and become tender?”

“The only way  I know is for you to grab my tail, whirl me around your head three times, and then beat me upon the ground. That will be make me less tough and taste much better.”

Simba grasped the hare by its short tale and whirled him around his head three times. As he attempted to beat him against the ground, the tail slipped from his grasp, and the hare ran off into the forest, much to the anger and disappointment of Simba. Knowing he could not catch him, Simba turned his attention to Kobay who had now reached the ground.

“You have a hard shell. What can I do to make you more palatable?” asked the lion.

“Well, that is easy. All you have to do is place me in some mud and keep rubbing all over hard until my shell falls off,” replied the tortoise.

Simba carried the tortoise down to the waterhole and began rubbing mud all over him. He did not notice that the tortoise had slipped away as he had been fetching mud and began rubbing it all over a rock instead.  He rubbed and rubbed until his paws bled and realized he had been tricked again. This made him very angry, and he focused his anger on Soongoora the Hare, deciding he would find him and eat him.

Angrily, Simba went off in search of him, asking each person he met along the way where Soongoora the Hare lived. No one knew because as soon as Soongoora had got home after his encounter with Simba, he had persuaded his wife that they should move to another district, so no one now knew where he lived.  At last, Simba came across someone who pointed and told him, “There on top of the mountain is the new home of Soongoora the Hare.

Simba wasted no time in climbing up the path to the house, but to his disappointment, found Soongoora was not at home, and the house was empty. Therefore, he decided he would hide and when Soongoora and his wife came home, he would jump out and eat them both. Soon after, Soongoora and his wife came walking up the path to their new home.  The ever alert Soongoora noticed strange tracks going up the path and realizing it was probably Simba come looking for him, told his wife of his suspicions.

“I think it would be best if you went and stayed with our friends as I  believe Simba is looking for me!” he told her.

“Oh, no,” she said, “My place is with my husband.  I will stay with you, come what may!”

“No, you must go and stay with our friends - Go now!” but Soongoora was very touched and pleased by his wife’s display of loyalty, and he watched affectionately as she trudged reluctantly back down the path. As soon as she was gone, he followed the tracks up to the house. He suspected Simba was inside waiting for him, but was not absolutely certain.

He stopped to think of what to do, and having an idea shouted, “Good day to you house!  How do ye do?”

Hidden inside the house, Simba heard him, but not wanting to give any hint he was there, said nothing.

Then Soongoora shouted, “Well, this is very strange! Everyday I pass this house and shout ‘Good day to you house! How do ye do?' and the house always answers back, saying ‘Good day and how do ye do yourself?’ perhaps there is someone inside today?”

On hearing this, Simba thinking it would be suspicious if the house did not answer, shouted, “Good day and how do ye do yourself?”

With that, Soongoora laughed saying, “Ha, ha, Simba the Lion, now I know you are inside! Who has ever heard of a talking house?”

“Soongoora the Hare wait until I catch you!” roared the lion.

But Soongoora laughed and said, “Ha, ha, you are all huff and no puff, you will never catch me!”

Simba ran out the house and gave chase, but Soongoora easily out paced him, laughing as he ran. Simba soon grew out of breath and knew he had been beaten. Therefore, he mustered all his pride and dignity and walked in his most stately fashion back to the calabash tree. Lying down and falling asleep in its shade, he vowed to have nothing more to do with Soongoora the tricky hare.

In April 2013, zteve t evans launched his first blog that focused on legends, myths and folktales from around the world at Under the influence!. This has has grown steadily receiving visitors from 200 countries around the world so far. He has published a Kindle ebook, Havelock the Dane:Hero-King of Two Realms and has contributed  articles to the #FolkloreThursday website regularly since its launch and haunts Twitter here @ztevetevans

Cover: Amanda Bergloff @AmandaBergloff

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