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African Folklore: The Hare and the Crocodile

(A Hambakushu legend)   Long, long ago, Ngando the Crocodile lived in a quiet backwater in the swamps of the Great Okavango.  One day, a herd of Zebra came down to drink at his creek.  Ngando was envious of their grace and beauty and of the freedom with which they roamed the plains.  He was bored with his little stretch of water, so he asked the Zebras if he could live with them on the open grasslands.

"How could you live with us?" asked the Zebras.  "The plains are so far away from the water?"

"Oh, I'm sure I will be able to manage," replied Ngando, more hopefully than truthfully.

So when the Zebras filed away after their drink, Ngando the Crocodile heaved himself up the bank and followed them.  Soon, he was left far behind and the Zebras had to wait for him to catch up.

By noon, it was so hot that Ngando could go no further.  He dug himself in beneath a shady tree.  He was so tired he slept as though he was dead.  When on of the Zebras returned to look for him, he though the crocodile had indeed died.  So the Zebra left him where he was.

While Ngando slept, Hare strolled past.  Hare saw the adventurous crocodile sleeping beneath the shady tree.  Hare woke him up (very carefully!), and asked him why he was so far from his home in the water.

"I foolishly followed the Zebras. But they ran off and left me all alone." said Ngando.  "I would be very grateful for some assistance in getting home," he added, hopefully.

Hare offered to help, provided Ngando promised him a favor in return. The desperate crocodile quickly agreed and the Hare ran off to get help.

Hare cautiously approached his mortal enemy, Hyena. He told him that here was a dead crocodile nearby and that he needed to help carry the body back to the water so as not to anger the Rain Spirits.

Hyena thought this would be an excellent chance to get an easy meal.  That was why he agreed to help Hare instead of eating him up.

Hare and Hyena - a most unlikely pair - struggled to carry the heavy crocodile back to the water. At last they arrived and lowered him into the shallows.

Hyena suggested that they leave Ngando in the water for a while so that when they came back he would be nice and tender to eat.

Hyena marked the bank so that he would know where to return. Then he slunk away to rest. He wanted to be ready for the huge feast that night.

But Ngando had different plans. As soon as he cooled down and recovered from his foolhardy adventure, he swam back to his lair.

When Hyena returned after his nap, the "dead" crocodile was nowhere to be seen. Hyena, whose mouth was watering at the thought of a tasty meal, waded into the water to see if his dinner had floated out into the creek.  He was searching so intently, that he did not notice Ngando silently gliding up behind him.  Only Ngando's eyes and the tips of his nostrils were showing.

With a lunge as quick as lightning, Ngando grabbed Hyena with his huge jaws and dragged him into the deep water, where he drowned.

Ngando climbed out into the river bank to thank Hare for helping him back to the pool where he belonged. Hare replied that Ngando had already returned the favor by ridding him of his worst enemy, Hyena.

Since that time, Crocodile and his descendants have been content to live in the water.  You may find them lurking in the shadows, waiting patiently to pounce upon their unsuspecting prey. (From When Lion Could Fly and other tales from Africa, Nick Greaves)

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