[From Songs and Tales from the Dark Continent by Natalie Curtis Burlin, C. Kamba Simango, and Madikane Čele, 1920. See item #41 in the Bibliography.]

One day Shulo the Hare was visiting Jongwe the Rooster’s home and he saw  the Rooster standing on one leg. His other leg was gone, and his head was gone, too! The Hare was so astonished that he stood stock-still, and then ran home and told his wife.

Next day he went to see the Rooster again. But the Rooster was up in a tree, and his head was there again and so were both his legs.

The Hare was still more astonished, and he said, “When I saw you yesterday, your head was gone and you had only one leg.”

“Oh,” said the Rooster, “that’s nothing! My head and my leg went visiting. They went off to another kraal, and we had singing and beer-drinking. I often enjoy myself that way without trouble. I tell my wife to cut off my head and my leg, and then my head and leg go visiting and have a good time. It is very easy.”

So the Hare thought, “I’m going to try that, too! If Jongwe can do that, why can’t I?”

So he ran home and told his wife. “Wife, take a sharp knife and cut off my head and my leg so that they can go visiting like the Rooster’s. I saw Jongwe again today, and his head and leg were on again, and he told me that they had been away to another kraal, dancing and singing and drinking beer. Now I want my head and leg to do the same, so cut them off!”

“But if I cut off your head,” said the wife, “you will die!”

“No, I won’t,” said Shulo, the Hare. “Jongwe is not dead. I saw him one day with his head and leg gone, and I saw him the next day with his head and leg on again. You do what I say.”

So the wife took a sharp knife and cut off the Hare’s leg and then his head. She waited for the head and leg to fly off visiting, but they never moved. And there lay Shulo the Hare, dead.

So she ran to the Rooster’s kraal.

“My husband is dead!” she cried. “What shall I do? His leg and his head have never gone visiting at all! How shall I put them on again and bring him to life?”

Then Jongwe the Rooster laughed to himself, for he knew that his own head and leg had never been cut off. He had only drawn his leg up under him to rest it while he went to sleep, and as for his head, he had simply tucked it under his wing. The visits he had had were pleasant dreams of singing and beer drinking in other kraals.


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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.

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