Resource 5: The river that swept away liars and other stories

Teacher resource for planning or adapting to use with pupils

The river that swept away liars

A certain master was on a journey with his servant. It was a long journey on horseback. As they were travelling across the country, the master saw a jackal crossing their path.

The master remarked, ‘That jackal is quite big.’ The servant replied, ‘Oh, Master, this is nothing compared to the one I saw yesterday.’ ‘Is that so?’ responded the master. ‘Oh yes. It was very, very big. In fact, it was as big as an ox!’ ‘As big as an ox?’ questioned the master. ‘Yes, as big as an ox,’ answered the servant. The master answered again, ‘You say “as big as an ox”?’ ‘Yes, really, as big as an ox,’ said the servant. The master did not utter a word and they continued on their way, without talking to each other, for about an hour.

The servant noticed that his master was not happy and he didn’t know what was worrying him. So he asked the master what the matter was. The master told him that they would have to cross four rivers before they reached their destination. The last river was the biggest and the most dangerous of all the rivers. This river was allergic to liars, and no liar could escape its anger. It swept liars there and then down to the deep blue sea. It never missed a liar, even if they were to invoke ‘Ifa’ to bring them luck (people invoked Ifa to bring them luck, and to give them power to conquer evil spirits).

When the servant heard this, he was quite shocked because he knew how powerful Ifa was. If this river would not yield to Ifa, then he knew it must be a VERY powerful river. As they travelled, he became more and more uneasy. The master also became sadder and sadder the further they rode. And as his master grew sadder, the servant grew more and more panic-stricken.

As they neared each river, the size of the jackal changed. When they reached the first river, the servant said, ‘My Lord, the jackal was not exactly as big as an ox. It was a little bit smaller than an ox.’ The master said nothing.

When they reached the second river, the servant said, ‘The jackal was not even nearly the size of an ox. It was as big as a calf.’ But again, the master said nothing. When they had crossed this second river, the master just explained his concerns about the last dangerous river, and said no more.

As they approached the third river, the servant said to his master, ‘The jackal was not even as big as a calf. It was as big as a goat.’

Just before they reached the last river, the jackal was the same size as other jackals, which are common everywhere.

Adapted from: Umthamo 2, University of Fort Hare Distance Education Project

The lazy hare and the 20-eyed monster

Once upon a time in Uganda there lived a group of animals: the giraffe, the buffalo, the hippopotamus, the elephant, the zebra and, of course, the king of all the animals – the lion.

All of these animals worked together in the fields to grow food. They helped one another and shared the work and the harvest was plentiful because they had all worked in cooperation with each other.

All of them, that is, except for one.

The hare would not work. He was too lazy and too proud to work and he was cunning. There lived near the animals a 20-eyed monster that was very fierce and terrible to look at. The 20-eyed monster grew beans in his garden, which he harvested and ate to keep him strong.

The cunning hare crept into the 20-eyed monster’s garden at night and stole his beans.

The hare ate the beans and the next day when the animals said, ‘Come and help us in the field, Hare, or you will have nothing to eat for the winter,’ he laughed at them and smiled a cunning smile. ‘I have already grown my crops somewhere else,’ he lied, ‘I don’t need to work with you.’

This continued for some time. The 20-eyed monster would grow his beans, the hare would creep into the garden at night and steal the beans, and the hare would refuse to help the other animals in the field.

One day the 20-eyed monster was so angry that someone kept stealing his beans that he decided to set a trap to catch the thief. The 20-eyed monster made a scarecrow woman, a beautiful scarecrow woman, and he made the beautiful scarecrow woman out of glue.

The 20-eyed monster put the beautiful scarecrow woman into his garden that evening and then he went off to bed. That night, the lazy and cunning hare was hungry and decided to steal some more beans from the 20-eyed monster’s garden. The hare jumped over the wall and made his way towards the beans. Then he saw the beautiful scarecrow woman. The hare was mesmerised by her beauty and walked over to talk to her. ‘Hello,’ said the hare, blushing slightly, ‘you are a very beautiful woman, will you shake me by the hand?’

The hare put out his hand and grasped the beautiful scarecrow woman’s hand in his… but of course the beautiful scarecrow woman’s hand was made from glue!

The hare’s hand was stuck fast. ‘Let me go!’ he cried, trying to pull away from the scarecrow woman. ‘Let me go or I’ll hit you!’ he shouted and tried to slap the scarecrow woman with his other hand, but of course the other hand got stuck as well!

The hare tried to kick the scarecrow woman and his foot got stuck and then he tried to stamp on her foot and his other foot got stuck as well.

So the lazy hare was stuck fast to the beautiful scarecrow woman, and there was nothing he could do but wait.

The next morning, the 20-eyed monster came down to his garden and saw the hare stuck to the scarecrow woman. ‘So it was you who stole my beans!’ he roared, and picked up the hare and tucked him under his arm. ‘I’ll teach you to steal from me,’ the 20-eyed monster growled, ‘I’ll cook you in my pot and eat you all up.’

The 20-eyed monster put the hare into his cooking pot, but the hare was cunning and leapt out of the pot and out of the window while the 20-eyed monster’s back was turned, and ran away as fast as his legs could carry him.

The hare never went back to the 20-eyed monster’s garden and was very hungry for the whole of the winter!

[The moral of this story is that you should not be lazy – you should help each other and when you have helped each other you can all share in the rewards.]

The singing bird

Once upon a time in a village called Laeni there was a chief called Ojubi. In his palace there were women and men working for the chief.

One day, six women were told to go and fetch firewood. When these women were about to collect firewood a beautiful bird flew over them and stood on the tree near to them.

This bird began to sing beautiful songs in a rhythm that encouraged the women to dance.

The bird sang for nearly four hours. When the women returned to the palace the chief asked them why they took so long to get back. The women told the chief about this beautiful bird.

The following day the chief sent a different group of women to the forest. They, too, encountered the singing bird and danced for hours.

The chief decided to go with some men to guard him to find the bird. When they arrived at the place where the bird was, the beautiful bird sang wonderful songs. The chief was amazed and asked the bird to come and live in his palace. The bird agreed.

Once inside the palace the chief instructed one of his guards to look after the bird carefully.

Some time later, the daughter of the guard who was looking after the bird took the bird from the cage where it was kept. She asked the bird to sing for her. As she turned to sit down the bird flew straight back to the forest.

When the girl realised what had happened she started crying and went and told her father. He was very upset with his daughter.

When the chief learned that his bird had flown away he ordered the guard to go and find it and return it to the palace. If not, then he would lose his job. The guard and his daughter searched the forest for days and days but they couldn’t find the bird. They returned to the palace and told the chief, who said that the guard would have to leave his job. The guard turned to his daughter and asked ‘why did you have to meddle with something that was not yours?’.

[This story teaches us not to play with things that do not belong to us.]

For more materials see: Tales From The Past by Harriet Masembe pub. Fountain ISBN9970020919

Resource 4: How Mrs Masiko found her story

Resource 6: Assessing your story