Folk Tales

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Rwabushaija, Milton

Hadithi za Sababu

Stories about Why Things Happen the Way They Do

Kampala, Uganda: Fountain Publishers, 2002. Ages 8 and up.

Language: Kiswahili

Publisher: Fountain Publishers Ltd.

The thirteen folktales in this book provide explanations for various animal traits and behaviours. Through these pourquoi tales we learn why a chameleon changes its colour, why a sheep walks facing down, and why a frog has no tail. These interesting stories not only give the reasons for the distinctive features of various animals, but they also comment on the relationships of animals with humans and among themselves. For instance, “Why Hawks Eat Chicks” explains that the friendship between fowls and hawks ended when Fowl lost Hawk’s sewing needle. In revenge, Hawk hunts and eats the fowl’s chicks.

“Why Does a Hippopotamus Live in Water?” explains that in ancient days Hippopotamus used to be a domesticated animal, but one day the owner locked her in the house when he went to attend a celebration. While at the celebration, he was informed that his house was on fire and that the hippopotamus was trapped inside. When Hippopotamus was rescued, with all her hair burned, she quickly ran out and jumped into water. Thereafter, Hippopotamus vowed to live in water, because she was afraid of being burned again. “Why Does a Tortoise Have Cracks?” is about the friendship between tortoises and ducks, while “Why Does a Frog Have Bad Skin?” explains that Frog’s skin was burned in hot cooking oil when he asked Snake what type of cream he used to make his skin smooth and shiny. Similarly, “Why Is Dog a Friend of Human Beings?” explains that human beings were so pleased with Dog for eating the bones and chasing a thief that they decided to domesticate him.

These animal stories also convey messages to readers/listeners on proper social conduct. “Why Does a Giraffe Have a Long Neck?” emphasises the importance of cooperation and responsibility toward one’s community, especially during famine. In stories such as “Why Does a Snake Remove Its Skin?” and “Why Does Hyena’s Skin Have Spots?” we learn that these animals acquired their distinctive traits when they deceived others, especially while stealing food that did not belong to them. “Why Does a Cock Live in the House?” narrates that once Cock lived in the forest with other animals. One day, when all the animals assembled to choose a leader, each candidate tried to justify his suitability for the position. In the end, the animals agreed to elect Cock because he professed that he could tell time as well as provide fire from his horn during the cold season. However, while the cock was in deep sleep one day, the animals discovered that his promises were lies. Cock was so ashamed that he quickly collected all his belonging and escaped at night to be domesticated.

These tales will teach young children skills in storytelling – both how to listen as well as tell stories. More importantly, they reflect folk wisdom and are repositories of traditional culture. Intended to entertain as well as socialise children into being moral and good human beings, they teach respect and appreciation for the natural order. In particular, children will learn about the power of God over living creatures, and that a leader is always needed amongst a group of people and animals for guidance and decision-making.


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