Malawi folk-tale

Malawi Folk-tales

1. The Lion and the Herbalist

Long time ago, a hunter set out to hunt with his dog. He set up some traps in the jungle and went home killing only a porcupine. At home, the Hunter fell sick and did not go back to check on what his trap had gotten. One day, a herbalist came into the bush searching for some herbs for medication. He dug out some roots, took barks, plucked leaves and collected some animal shells. He moved from one place to the other doing this. Bending to take a certain root, the Herbalist heard someone calling him. When he turned back he saw that a lion had been trapped. The Herbalist was frightened. He quickly took his herbs and started to walk in the opposite direction. But the Lion continued calling him, asking for help. It moaned loudly and promised that it would do anything the Herbalist wanted, if it was helped out of the trap.

The Herbalist was flattered and pitied the Lion. He returned and went to see what had happened to the Lion. But at the trap, the Herbalist just stood looking at the Lion. He feared getting too close to it. The Lion moaned again and promised that it would do anything if helped out of the trap. Before the Herbalist decided to help the Lion, he heard some footsteps. Looking behind, the Herbalist saw a passer-by who had some wild fruits in his hands. The Passer-by came close to the two.

‘What are you doing here, brother?’ The Passer-by asked the Herbalist.

‘Young man, the Lion here is trapped and wants to be helped out. In fact, it promises to do anything for me if I help it out.’ The Herbalist told the Passer-by.

‘Don’t you know that lions are dangerous animals?’ The Passer-by asked the Herbalist.

Before the Passer-by responded, the Lion spoke.

‘Passer-by with an iron heart, I can do a lot for this man. Have I ever attacked your relatives before or friends?’ The Lion asked the Passer-by, avoiding eye contact with him.

Before the Passer-by could even answer the question, the Herbalist spoke.

‘You know, the Lion can help me quite a lot with my work,’ he said.

‘No, no, no. Do not only look at it that way. Haven’t you ever heard of people being attacked by lions before?’ The Passer-by asked the Herbalist further.

‘Well, it’s up to you!’ The Passer-by said as he turned away and went ahead with his search for fruits.

When the Passer-by had gone, the Herbalist helped the Lion out of the trap. But smiling, the Lion at once grabbed the Herbalist by his hand.

‘You have indeed, helped me, and I greatly appreciate it. But you know my dear friend, I have had no food for some days in this trap. So, you will make my food,’ the Lion, yawning, said.

The Herbalist could not believe what he had heard. He thought that he had not heard properly.

‘What are you saying Lion?’ Astonished, he asked.

With no pity at all, the Lion repeated its words. It opened its mouth and immediately salivated.

Remembering the words of the Passer-by, the Herbalist cried out loudly. He tried to loosen the tight grip of the Lion on his hand. But though he moved this way and that, he completely failed to escape. The Lion warned the Herbalist that it did not pity any animal which was to make its food.

While they were arguing a hare, which was disturbed by the noise, walked quickly over to see who it was that was making noise. The Hare had been enjoying singing and whistling as it walked in the jungle. There! The Hare found the Herbalist and the Lion arguing. Surprised, the Hare came close. The Herbalist cried more loudly when he saw the Hare. The Hare asked what it was that was happening. With tears in his eyes, the Herbalist quickly told the Hare of the situation he was in.

After the tale, the Hare shouted at the Herbalist.

‘I cannot understand what you are saying. Tell me your story again,” the Hare said.

Meanwhile, the Passer-by was now getting out of the bush. He heard the loud cry and came to find out what was happening. To his surprise, he found that the Lion had grabbed the Herbalist. When the Herbalist saw the Passer-by, he pitied himself. He wished he had taken heed of the Passer-by’s advice. Tears fell down his cheeks. The Passer-by came close to see and keenly listen to the tale of the Herbalist.

Throughout the Herbalist’s narration, the Hare pretended not to understand anything on how the Herbalist had helped the Lion. Explaining more, the Passer-by told the Hare how he had found the two. Still, the Hare said that he did not understand a thing the Herbalist was telling him.

‘I think you are lying. Is it really true the Lion was trapped. I have never seen the Lion, King of the Jungle, in a trap before,’ the Hare said.

‘How did it happen anyway?’ the Hare wondered.

‘Well, I want to see what exactly happened,’ the Hare said, sitting on a rock to watch how the Lion was trapped.

‘Can you help set the trap?’ the Hare asked the Passer-by.

The Herbalist and the Passer-by helped each other to set the trap. Then, the Lion quickly went on the trap. In no time, it was trapped again.

‘Fine, so it’s in that state that the Herbalist helped you out?’ the Hare asked the Lion.

‘Yes!’ the Lion, Herbalist and Passer-by answered in a loud chorus.

‘And after being saved, Lion! You thought of killing the one who saved you?’ the Hare asked the Lion.

The Lion hesitated to respond.

‘Aha! You should take yourself out of the trap then,’ the Hare finally ordered.

The Herbalist was all smiles. He looked at the Hare and Passer-by in disbelief. The Hare advised the Herbalist to always be careful. He told the two to go home at once. The Herbalist and Passer-by thanked the Hare and started off home. The Hare continued with its journey leaving the Lion on the trap.

Just a few metres from the trap, the two met the Hunter who had set the trap. The Herbalist and the Passer-by told the Hunter about the Lion on the trap. They explained what the Herbalist had experienced. Together, they went to the trap. They found the Lion lying helplessly. It was ashamed to see the Herbalist and the Passer-by. The Hunter did not waste time but killed the Lion. The three skinned the Lion. At home, the Hunter made a nice cloth from the lion’s skin.


helen said…
I found your entry while researching folk tales from Malawi. On behalf of the SOS Children's Village charity, I am preparing lesson plans for a British primary school which is sponsoring a new Children's Village in Blantyre. With your permission I would like to make this story available to these children. Helen
Rita Dahl said…
I suppose folk tales are free of copyright, so feel free to do that. I would appreciate if you mention our anthology (Pleasures of Peppermint, Palladium 2012) in this connection.

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