A FREE EXCERPT
West African Folklore
The Story About a Beautiful Maiden
(how the hartebeest got the marks under its eyes like teardrops)
This is a story about an alliance. A story, a story. Let it go, let it come.
Once Upon A Time a chief’s wife begat a beautiful daughter; she had no equal in the town. And he said, 'He who hoes on the day the people come together and whose area hoed surpasses everyone else's he marries the chief's daughter. So on the day the chief calls his neighbours to hoe (gayaa), let them come (the suitors) and hoe for him. But he who hoes and surpasses everyone else, to him a wife.'
Now of a truth the chameleon had heard (about this) for a long time past, (and) he came along. He was eating hoeing medicine. Now when the day of the hoeing came round the chameleon was at home. He did not come out until those hoeing were at work and were far away; then the chameleon came. When he struck one blow on the ground with the hoe, then he climbed on the hoe and sat down, and the hoe started to hoe, and fairly flew until it had done as much as the hoers. It passed them, and reached the boundary of the furrow.
The chameleon got off, sat down, and rested, and later on the (other) hoers got to where he was. Then the chief would not consent, but now (said) he who ran and passed every one, he should marry his daughter. Then the hartebeest said he surpassed every one in running. So they had a race. But the chameleon turned into a needle; he leaped (and) stuck fast to the tail of the hartebeest, and the hartebeest ran until he passed every one, until he came to the entrance of the house of the chief. He passed it.
Then the chameleon let go the hartebeest's tail; of a truth the chameleon had seen the maiden. So he embraced her, and when the hartebeest came along he met the chameleon embracing the girl. Thereupon the hartebeest began to shed tears, and that was the origin of what you see like tears in a hartebeest's eyes. From that day he has wept and not dried his tears.
Title: Hausa Folklore Pages: 112
Translated by: R. Sutherland Rattray
Published by: Abela Publishing