Swahili Story-Time: The Trapper, The Lion, and The Hare
By Wolfgang Hieronymus Von Bömmel (1660 – 1700) (Details of artist on Google Art Project) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AWolfgang_Hieronymus_Von_B%C3%B6mmel_-_Lion_and_Hare_Composed_of_Ornamental_Leaf-Work_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg
In fables from many different cultures, one animal regularly serves as a “trickster” figure. For Aesop, it was often a fox or a raven. In West Africa, Anansi, the spider, regularly fills this role. In East African fables, jackals or hares are known for their cleverness, as in this story of the trapper, the lion, and the hare.
One day, a trapper met a lion in the forest.
“Don’t you know I’m the king of the forest,” the lion said? “I have not given you leave to hunt here.”
“I did not know, great lion,” the trapper said, “please, tell me what I should do to make amends.”
So the lion told the trapper that from that day forward, the trapper could keep the meat off any animal he caught, but he must give the lion the tasty heart and liver.
This arrangement worked until the trapper’s wife became suspicious. “My husband must be giving the heart and liver to another woman,” she thought, and decided she would follow him the next day he set his traps.
The following day, the trapper went out, set his traps, then checked back to see if he’d caught anything. He found nothing in the first or second traps, but at the third, he found the lion, sitting next to his wife.
“Give me the heart and liver of this animal,” the lion said, “for that is our arrangement.”
“I can’t,” the man cried, “that’s not an animal, it’s my wife.”
The lion didn’t believe the trapper, and ordered him to cut up his wife, otherwise he would kill them both.
At that point, a hare appeared from behind a rock. The lion and the trapper told him their story.
“You’re right, lion,” the hare said, “this is not his wife. Follow me, and I will show you the proof.”
The lion followed after the hare, until they drew near the second trap. The hare stepped out of the way at the last moment, and the lion was caught up by his foot in the snare.
“Now run!” the hare shouted to the man and his wife, and they all ran away.
Eventually the lion got free, and went to the hare’s house, where he seized the hare.
“Be careful!” the hare shouted, pointing up at a boulder that was perched over the entrance to his house, “that boulder is falling and will kill us both!”
The lion let go of the hare, who immediately ran off.
The lion kept chasing the hare, who fooled him in different ways several times, until one day the hare came up to the lion and said “lion, I am sick of running from you. Now I would like to become your servant.”
The lion agreed, and ordered the hare to cook up his dinner. So the hare cooked up a tasty piece of fat.
“Open your mouth, lion, and eat.”
So the lion did, and he tasted the fat, and it was very good.
“Hurry up and cook the rest,” the lion said, “I’m very hungry.”
So the hare placed a large flat stone in the fire. When it was red hot, he said to the lion “open your mouth, lion, and eat.”
When the lion opened his mouth, the hare placed the hot rock inside. The lion swallowed, and the rock burned him up, killing him. From then on, the hare was free to do as he pleased.