[From Congo Life and Folklore by John Weeks, 1921. See item #197 in the Bibliography.]

Once upon a time there was a Gazelle that went in search of a wife. While journeying, he met a beautiful girl, and stopped, and said to her, “Miss So-and-so, have you any water? If so, please give me a drink, for I am very thirsty.”

The girl replied, “Yes, sir,” and, taking a calabash well ornamented with rows of brass nails, she gave it to him full of water.

He drank eagerly, and as he handed the calabash back, he said, “The water is as nice to drink as the girl is beautiful.” The Gazelle inquired of her and, finding she was not married, he asked her, “Will you marry me?”

She answered, “I don’t know; I must ask my mother.”

So together they went to seek the mother’s consent. When she heard all about the affair, she said, “If you want to marry my daughter, you must first bring me the dried flesh of every animal and bird in the forest.”

The Gazelle was at first disconcerted by such a difficult task but said, “Alright, I will do it,” and went his way to think out a plan by which he could win his wife. The Gazelle thought of first one way and then another, and at last he sought for and found a shell and filled it with various powerful medicines, and thus having made a strong fetish, he started for the forest.

He had not walked very far before a Dove came to him and said, “Behold, there are ten animals down there. I fired at them but did not kill a single one; if therefore you have a hunting fetish, teach me how to use it.”

“Yes, I have the kind of fetish you want,” replied the Gazelle, “but before you can learn how to use it, you must be killed, roasted, and dried, and then I will restore you to life and teach you how to use the fetish.”

“Very well,” said the Dove, “I am ready to be roasted.” So the Gazelle killed, roasted, and dried the silly Dove and took the flesh to his store-room as the first part of the dried meat he had to give to his future mother-in-law.

Soon after returning to the forest, an Antelope came running up to him and said, “We hear you have a strong fetish to help hunters to kill animals. Teach me how to use it, for I have had no success in hunting for a long time.”

“Well, I have such a fetish,” answered the Gazelle, “but before you can learn about it, I must kill, roast, and dry you. Then I will bring you to life again and teach you the use of the fetish.”

“Do with me whatever you like,” said the Antelope, “so long as I get a fetish with which to kill plenty of game.” The Gazelle drew his knife and told the Antelope to lie down on the ground. “What are you going to do with that knife?” cried the Antelope.

“How can you be roasted and dried unless you are first killed?” quietly asked the Gazelle. So the Antelope stretched himself out, and was soon killed, dried, and carried to the store. “Well,” ruminated the Gazelle, “I have found a way to win my wife, for these animals will believe any foolish thing so as to possess power to kill others. I must now try a big beast.”

Again he went to the forest, but he had not gone very far into it before he met a Buffalo running. “Where are you going?” asked the Gazelle.

“I am off to look after my farm, for I have no luck in hunting,” replied the Buffalo.

“I have a strong hunting-fetish,” said the Gazelle, “but before you can use it I must cut out your heart, and roast and dry you; after that, I will call you back to life and teach you my fetish, which will give you plenty of hunting skill.”

“All right,” said the Buffalo, “but I am a big person and your knife will not enter my body.” With that he fell on the ground, but directly the Gazelle had thrust his knife into the body, the Buffalo cried out, “Please stop! Do stop!” but the Gazelle said, “Just wait a moment only,” and he pushed in the knife, and the Buffalo died. In a very short time the Buffalo’s flesh was roasted, dried, and carried to the store.

In this way the Gazelle caught and roasted the Lion, the Leopard, the Elephant and all the other animals and birds of the forest. By and by, he carried all the dried meat to the mother of the beautiful girl and said to her, “My respected mother-in-law, do not be angry because I have been a long time doing the task you set me. You know all about hunting, and that it is very slow and laborious work. Sometimes one shoots and does not kill; however, here is the meat for which you sent me.”

The old woman answered, “I thank you, and now you can take your wife and go your way.”



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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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