[From Moorish Literature by René Basset, 1901. See item #24 in the Bibliography.]

In times past, there was a man who had two wives, and one was wise and one was foolish. They owned a rooster in common. One day they quarreled about the rooster, cut it in two, and each took half. The foolish wife cooked her part. The wise one let her part live, and he walked on one foot and had only one wing.

Some days passed thus; then Half-a-Rooster got up early and started on his pilgrimage. At the middle of the day he was tired and went toward a brook to rest. A jackal came there to drink. Half-a-Rooster jumped on the jackal’s back, stole one of his hairs, which he put under his wing, and resumed his journey. He proceeded until evening and stopped under a tree to pass the night there.

He had not rested long when he saw a lion pass near the tree where he was lying. As soon as he perceived the lion, he jumped on his back and stole one of his hairs, which he put with the hair of the jackal.

The next morning he got up early and took up his journey again. Having arrived at the middle of a forest, he met a boar and said, “Give me a hair from your back, as the king of the animals and the trickiest of the animals have done — the jackal and the lion.”

The boar answered, “As these two personages so important among the animals have done this, I will also give you what you request.” He plucked a hair from his back and gave it to Half-a-Rooster. The latter went on his way and arrived at the palace of a king. He began to crow and to say, “Tomorrow the King will die, and I will take his wife.”

Hearing these words, the King gave to his servants the command to seize Half-a-Rooster and cast him into the middle of the pen of the sheep and goats to be trampled upon and killed by them so that the King might get rid of his crowing. The servants seized him and cast him into the pen to perish.

When he landed there, Half-a-Rooster took from under his wing the jackal’s hair, preparing to burn it in the fire. As soon as the hair was near the fire, the jackal came and said, “Why are you burning my hair? As soon as I smelled it, I came running.”

Half-a-Rooster replied, “You see what situation I am in. Get me out of it.”

“That is an easy thing,” said the jackal, and immediately he yowled in order to summon his brothers. The jackals gathered around him, and he gave them this command: “My brothers, save me from Half-a-Rooster, for he has a hair from my back which he has put in the fire. I don’t want to burn. Take Half-a-Rooster out of the pen, and you will be able to take my hair from his hands.” At once the jackals rushed to the pen, strangled everything that was there, and rescued Half-a-Rooster.

The next day the King found his stables deserted and his animals killed. He sought for Half-a-Rooster, but in vain. The next day at the supper hour, Half-a-Rooster began to crow as he did the first time. The King called his servants and said to them, “Seize Half-a-Rooster and cast him into the cattle-yard so that he may be crushed under the cattle’s feet.”

The servants caught Half-a-Rooster and threw him into the middle of the cow-pen. As soon as he landed there, he took the lion’s hair and put it into the fire. The lion came, roaring, and said, “Why do you burn my hair? I smelled from my cave the odor of burning hair and came running to learn the motive of your action.”

Half-a-Rooster answered, “You see my situation. Help me out of it.”

The lion went out and roared to call his brothers. They came in great haste and said to him, “Why do you call us now?”

“Take Half-a-Rooster from the cattle-yard, for he has one of my hairs which he can put into the fire. If you don’t rescue Half-a-Rooster, he will burn the hair, and I don’t want to smell the odor of burning hair while I am alive.”

His brothers obeyed. They at once killed all the cattle in the pen. The King saw that his animals were all dead, and he fell into such a rage that he nearly choked to death. He looked for Half-a-Rooster to kill him with his own hands. He searched a long time without finding him and finally went home to rest.

At sunset Half-a-Rooster came to his usual place and crowed as on the former occasions. The King called his servants and said to them, “This time when you have caught Half-a-Rooster, put him in a house and shut all the doors till morning. I will kill him myself.”

The servants seized Half-a-Rooster immediately and put him in the treasure-room. When he landed there, he saw money under his feet. He waited till he had nothing to fear from the masters of the house, who were all sound asleep, and then he took from under his wing the hair of the boar, started a fire, and placed the hair in it. At once the boar came running, shaking the earth. He thrust his head against the wall. The wall shook and half of it fell down and, going to Half-a-Rooster, the boar said, “Why are you burning my hair at this moment?”

“Pardon me; you see the situation in which I am, without counting what awaits me in the morning, for the King is going to kill me with his own hands if you don’t get me out of this prison.”

The boar replied, “The thing is easy; fear not. I will open the door so that you may go out. In fact, you have stayed here long enough. Get up; go and take money, enough for you and your children.”

Half-a-Rooster obeyed. He rolled in the gold, took all that stuck to his wing and his foot, and swallowed as much as he could hold. He took the road he had followed the first day, and when he had arrived near the house, he called the mistress and said, “Strike now; be not afraid to kill me.” His mistress began to strike until Half-a-Rooster called from beneath the mat, “Enough now. Roll up the mat.”

She obeyed and saw the earth beneath the mat all shining with gold.

At the time when Half-a-Rooster returned from his pilgrimage, the two women owned a dog in common. The foolish one, seeing that her companion had received much money, said to her, “We will divide the dog between us.”

The wise woman answered, “We can’t do anything with the dog. Let her live; I will give you my half. Keep her for yourself. I have no need of her.”

The foolish one said to the dog, “Go on a pilgrimage as Half-a-Rooster did and bring me some gold.”

The dog started to carry out the commands of her mistress. She began her journey in the morning and came to a fountain. As she was thirsty, she started to drink. As she stopped, she saw in the middle of the fountain a yellow stone. She took it in her mouth and ran back home. When she reached the house, she called her mistress and said to her, “Get ready the mats and the rods; you see that I have come back from the pilgrimage.”

The foolish woman prepared the mats under which the dog ran as soon as she heard the voice of her mistress; then the dog said, “Strike gently.” The woman seized the rods and struck with all the force possible. The dog cried out to her a long while for her to stop the blows. Her mistress refused to stop until the animal was cold. She lifted up the mats and found the dog dead, with the yellow stone in its mouth.


title page of Zanzibar Tales



the rat and the rabbit


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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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