How the Zebra Got his Stripes
and a few other Tales
African Safari Campfire Stories
Stories - Tribes
- Fauna & Flora
- Countries -
are told of the animals, which the Bushmen people of the Kalahari Desert know so
the Zebra Got His Stripes:
Long ago, when animals were still new on earth, the weather was very hot, and
what little water there was remained in pools and pans. One of these was guarded
by a boisterous baboon, who claimed that he was the 'lord of the water' and
forbade anyone from drinking at his pool.
When a zebra and his son came
down to have a drink, the baboon, who was sitting by his fire, jumped up. 'Go
away, intruders,' he barked. 'This is my pool and I am the lord of the water.'
'The water is for everyone, not
just for you, monkey-face,' shouted back the zebra's son.
'If you want it, you must
fight for it,' returned the baboon in a fine fury, and in a moment the two were
locked in combat. Back and forth they went, until with a mighty kick, the zebra
sent the baboon flying high up among the rocks of the cliff behind them. The
baboon landed with a smack on his seat, and to this day he carries the bare
patch where he landed.
The zebra staggered back
through the baboon's fire, which scorched him, leaving stripes across his white
fur. The shock sent the zebra galloping away to the plains, where he has stayed
ever since. The baboon and his family, however, remain high up among the rocks
where they bark defiance at all strangers, and hold up their tails to ease the
smarting rock-burn of their bald patched bottoms.
White Breasted Crow:
The white patch or collar around the neck of the African Pied (White breasted)
crow is said to have been made by a lump of fat tied on by Bushman wives. The
women attached the fat before sending the bird to look for their husbands if
they were late returning after a long day's hunting. Whether the fat was to
sustain the crow on his long flight, or to restore the husbands upon being found
is not quite clear, but it has certainly left the crow with an indelible stain
on his shirt front!
How the snake lost his legs:
In the story of how the snake lost his legs, the moon is portrayed as a
sympathetic deity who looked into the future, and saw that a terrible drought
was impending. She called to Mantis. 'You must take your wives and children and
all the birds and animals and move from this area, for soon there will be
nothing here but a desert,' she warned him.
So Mantis told everybody, and all the animals packed up and trekked away to
places. All but the snake, which in those days had legs like other animals. He
was lazy, and did not believe Mantis. 'No, I will stay here. Your drought will
not worry me,' he said. But soon, when no rain fell and the grass shrivelled and
all the little fat frogs hopped away, the snake grew thin and hungry and decided
to follow the others.
By then, however, the land had become a desert, and each weary foot the snake
put before him sank in the hot sand. At last, in desperation, he cried: 'Oh
Moon, I am ashamed of myself. Save me from the sun and I will change my ways.'
The moon took pity on the creature, and in a moment the snake found that his
legs had shrunk away, and on his gleaming skin he could glide easily across the
hot sand without sinking into it as before. Whether the snake really did change
his ways when he had found his way out of the desert, we are not told, but in
view of the general feelings about these reptiles, I think it is doubtful!