Lion Who Took A Woman's Shape

: South-african Folk-tales

Some Women, it is said, went out to seek roots and herbs and other wild

food. On their way home they sat down and said, "Let us taste the food

of the field." Now they found that the food picked by one of them was

sweet, while that of the others was bitter. The latter said to each

other, "Look here! this Woman's herbs are sweet." Then they said to the

owner of the sweet food, "Throw it away and seek for other." So she

rew away the food, and went to gather more. When she had collected a

sufficient supply, she returned to join the other Women, but could not

find them. She went therefore down to the river, where Hare sat lading

water, and said to him, "Hare, give me some water that I may drink." But

he replied, "This is the cup out of which my uncle (Lion) and I alone

may drink."

She asked again: "Hare, draw water for me that I may drink." But Hare

made the same reply. Then she snatched the cup from him and drank, but

he ran home to tell his uncle of the outrage which had been committed.

The Woman meanwhile replaced the cup and went away. After she had

departed Lion came down, and, seeing her in the distance, pursued her on

the road. When she turned round and saw him coming, she sang in the

following manner:

"My mother, she would not let me seek herbs,

Herbs of the field, food from the field. Hoo!"

When Lion at last came up with the Woman, they hunted each other round a

shrub. She wore many beads and arm-rings, and Lion said, "Let me put

them on!" So she lent them to him, but he afterwards refused to return

them to her.

They then hunted each other again round the shrub, till Lion fell down,

and the Woman jumped upon him, and kept him there. Lion (uttering a form

of conjuration) said:

"My Aunt! it is morning, and time to rise;

Pray, rise from me!"

She then rose from him, and they hunted again after each other round the

shrub, till the Woman fell down, and Lion jumped upon her. She then

addressed him:

"My Uncle! it is morning, and time to rise;

Pray, rise from me!"

He rose, of course, and they hunted each other again, till Lion fell a

second time. When she jumped upon him he said:

"My Aunt! it is morning, and time to rise;

Pray, rise from me!"

They rose again and hunted after each other. The Woman at last fell

down. But this time when she repeated the above conjuration, Lion said:

"Hè Kha! Is it morning, and time to rise?"

He then ate her, taking care, however, to leave her skin whole, which he

put on, together with her dress and ornaments, so that he looked quite

like a woman, and then went home to her kraal.

When this counterfeit woman arrived, her little sister, crying, said,

"My sister, pour some milk out for me." She answered, "I shall not pour

you out any." Then the Child addressed their Mother: "Mama, do pour out

some for me." The Mother of the kraal said, "Go to your sister, and let

her give it to you!" The little Child said again to her sister, "Please,

pour out for me!" She, however, repeated her refusal, saying, "I will

not do it." Then the Mother of the kraal said to the little One, "I

refused to let her (the elder sister) seek herbs in the field, and I do

not know what may have happened; go therefore to Hare, and ask him to

pour out for you."

So then Hare gave her some milk; but her elder sister said, "Come and

share it with me." The little Child then went to her sister with her

bamboo (cup), and they both sucked the milk out of it. Whilst they were

doing this, some milk was spilt on the little one's hand, and the elder

sister licked it up with her tongue, the roughness of which drew blood;

this, too, the Woman licked up.

The little Child complained to her Mother: "Mama, sister pricks holes in

me and sucks the blood." The Mother said, "With what Lion's nature your

sister went the way that I forbade her, and returned, I do not know."

Now the Cows arrived, and the elder sister cleansed the pails in order

to milk them. But when she approached the Cows with a thong (in order to

tie their fore-legs), they all refused to be milked by her.

Hare said, "Why do not you stand before the Cow?" She replied, "Hare,

call your brother, and do you two stand before the Cow." Her husband

said, "What has come over her that the Cows refuse her? These are the

same Cows she always milks." The Mother (of the kraal) said, "What has

happened this evening? These are Cows which she always milks without

assistance. What can have affected her that she comes home as a woman

with a Lion's nature?"

The elder daughter then said to her Mother, "I shall not milk the

Cows." With these words she sat down. The Mother said therefore to Hare,

"Bring me the bamboos, that I may milk. I do not know what has come over

the girl."

So the Mother herself milked the cows, and when she had done so, Hare

brought the bamboos to the young wife's house, where her husband was,

but she (the wife) did not give him (her husband) anything to eat. But

when at night time she fell asleep, they saw some of the Lion's hair,

which was hanging out where he had slipped on the Woman's skin, and they

cried, "Verily! this is quite another being. It is for this reason that

the Cows refused to be milked."

Then the people of the kraal began to break up the hut in which Lion lay

asleep. When they took off the mats, they said (conjuring them), "If

thou art favourably inclined to me, O Mat, give the sound 'sawa'"

(meaning, making no noise).

To the poles (on which the hut rested) they said, "If thou art

favourably inclined to me, O Pole, thou must give the sound 'gara.'"

They addressed also the bamboos and the bed-skins in a similar manner.

Thus gradually and noiselessly they removed the hut and all its

contents. Then they took bunches of grass, put them over the Lion, and

lighting them, said, "If thou art favourably inclined to me, O Fire,

thou must flare up, 'boo boo,' before thou comest to the heart."

So the Fire flared up when it came towards the heart, and the heart of

the Woman jumped upon the ground. The Mother (of the kraal) picked it

up, and put it into a calabash.

Lion, from his place in the fire, said to the Mother (of the kraal),

"How nicely I have eaten your daughter." The Woman answered, "You have

also now a comfortable place!"

Now the Woman took the first milk of as many Cows as had calves, and put

it into the calabash where her daughter's heart was; the calabash

increased in size, and in proportion to this the girl grew again inside


One day, when the Mother (of the kraal) went out to fetch wood, she said

to Hare, "By the time that I come back you must have everything nice

and clean." But during her Mother's absence, the girl crept out of the

calabash, and put the hut in good order, as she had been used to do in

former days, and said to Hare, "When Mother comes back and asks, 'Who

has done these things?' you must say, 'I, Hare, did them.'" After she

had done all, she hid herself on the stage.

When the Mother of the kraal came home, she said, "Hare, who has done

these things? They look just as they used when my daughter did them."

Hare said, "I did the things." But the Mother would not believe it, and

looked at the calabash. Seeing it was empty, she searched the stage and

found her daughter. Then she embraced and kissed her, and from that day

the girl stayed with her Mother, and did everything as she was wont in

former times; but she now remained unmarried.