[From The Mantis and His Friends: Bushman Folklore by Wilhelm Bleek, Lucy Lloyd and Dorothea Bleek, 1924. See item #35 in the Bibliography. The photograph of the aardwolf is by Derek Keats at Wikimedia Commons.]


Kwammanga and his family were going to see other people, to visit Kwammanga’s people. He was going to visit the Aardwolf, because she was his aunt. The Mantis said he would go with them. Kwammanga said to his son, the young Ichneumon, “Child, you must tell Grandfather that we are going to see Aunt Aardwolf.”

The young Ichneumon said, “O my Grandfather Mantis! Father says we are going to see Aunt Aardwolf, and her home is not near, therefore you should sit still.” Then the Mantis said he must be with Kwammanga; he had to accompany Kwammanga wherever he went. And the young Ichneumon said, “You must sit still.”

Then Kwammanga said, “You will have to let Grandfather go with us, for he will not listen.”

So the Mantis went with Kwammanga. They went along, they reached the home of the Aardwolf. Then Kwammanga begged his Aunt, the Aardwolf, to give him a little Aardwolf. She was inside the hole, as she usually is.

So when the Mantis came up to them and saw the Aardwolf spoor, he called out, “Stop, stop, Grandson! Kwammanga must think that an Aardwolf is here.” Then Kwammanga looked at the young Ichneumon, for he wanted him to tell the Mantis to be silent. The young Ichneumon said, “O my Grandfather Mantis! You always go on like this when you come to anyone’s home.”

Then Kwammanga laid down his things, he sat down.

The Mantis said, “Where are the people whose footmarks are here?”

Kwammanga said, “O my Aunt! Come out and give me one so that I may put it to roast for myself.”

Then the Mother Aardwolf came out, she sat in front of the hole, looking at the Mantis, because she did not usually see him. Therefore she stared at him.

Then Kwammanga said, “I have begged you to give me one so that I may rub off the dust, for you see I am white with dust.” And the Mother Aardwolf said, “O man, my children are not grown up yet, they are still little.” And Kwammanga said, “Do you think I do not feel covered all over with dust, and the dust burns?” Then the Mother Aardwolf went in and did not come out at once, for she was thinking inside the hole that she did not want to give a child. Then she caught hold of a little Aardwolf and pulled it out, because it was a lean one. She gave it to Kwammanga.

Kwammanga took hold of the little Aardwolf, he cut it open and laid it down. He gathered firewood, and brought it. He dug out a hole for the fire, he put wood into the hole, he put stones to heat on the wood, he lighted the fire with his tinder-box; he let it blaze up and singed the little Aardwolf. Then he took it out and scraped it and skinned it and put it down. He went to the fire, he scratched the coals aside, he put the little Aardwolf down to roast, he covered it up and made a fire above it. Then he arose and sat down, for he sat waiting for the little Aardwolf to roast. Then he got up and went to it, and rolled it out, and shook off the ashes and put it to cool. Then he took it up, and cut it up and gave the heart to the Mantis, and they ate. They put away pieces of meat, for they felt that they must keep some for the women who were hungry. They returned home.

The Mantis was greedy; therefore he turned back to the Aardwolf. He went up to her hole, he laid down his things, he gathered wood, he scratched open the ashes, he put bushes on the fire. He put stones to heat on the bushes, he lighted the fire with his tinderbox, he made it blaze. When the fire had burnt up, he said, “O my Aunt, come out, give me a little thing to cut up.”

The Aardwolf was inside and would not come out. The Mantis sat waiting for her; he was alone, for Kwammanga had gone home. He spoke again, “O my Aunt, come out, give me a little thing to cut up so that I may rub off the dust from myself.” Then the Aardwolf stuck out her head while her body was inside; she sat looking at the Mantis. Then the Mantis sat looking, sat and sat and said, “Why are you staring at me because I wanted you to give me a little thing with which to wipe off the dust?”

The Aardwolf did not speak to him; she went in and took a little girl Aardwolf and pulled her out. And the Aardwolf held her fast while she gave her to the Mantis. For she thought that when the Mantis seized the little Aardwolf, she would try to catch the Mantis while she kept hold of the little Aardwolf’s other arm. Then the Aardwolf caught hold of the Mantis with one arm, she pulled the Mantis onto the fire while she kept fast hold of the little Aardwolf. She knocked the Mantis down on the fire which he had shown her.

Then the Mantis said, “Oh blisters!” for he wished to fly out of the fire. Then he flew away, flew to water. He descended when he saw the water was near. He alighted, he popped into the water, he said, “Oh blisters! Oh dear! That fire into which the Aardwolf mother put me was hot.”

And he came out of the water, he picked up the cloak, he threw it over his shoulders, he picked up the quiver, he slung it on. He went homewards, he came along moaning, he said, “Hng, hng, hng, hng,” because of the burns. Moaning, he found the hut.

Then Kwammanga spoke, “Child, tell Grandfather that I wanted him to come quietly. For he seems to think we are used to go back again to the Aardwolf, but when the Aardwolf has already given us a little one, we do not turn back. For the Aardwolf generally acts like this.” Then the young Ichneumon said, “O my Grandfather Mantis! Father wants me to say that he told you to come quietly, for the Aardwolf generally acts like this to us.”


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

A Reader's Guide to African Folktales at the Internet Archive Copyright © 2022 by Laura Gibbs is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book