Two Stories from Africa

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We are joined by Umar from Nigeria to present these two charming stories from Africa.

The first story is a funny fable about a Spider, a Hippo and an Elephant. The second is about a wise man who rides on a Hyena on the way back from Mecca.

Umar also tells us about the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, which is taking place now and features in the second story.


Hello, This is Jana

I’m here with two stories from Africa. And I’m delighted to introduce you to a friend of Storynory, Umar Isa Dandago, who lives in Kano, in Northern Nigeria.

Umar: Hi Jana, I’m so pleased to be on Storynory

Jana: Umar, can you tell us how you used to hear stories when you were growing up:

Umar How Uma and family members heard stories from Grandma and Aunty) And tell us that these were traditional Hausa stories.

Jana: We would love to hear some of those stories- can you suggest one?

Umar: There is an amusing story about how a spider tricked an Elephant and a Hippo.

Jana. Excellent, let’s do that one. And will you play the part of Trickster Spider for us?

Umar Of course, Jana, I’d love to.

Once upon a time, in a lush forest beside a peaceful river, Elephant and Hippopotamus loved to show off.

Elephant, with his massive feet and thundering roar, proclaimed himself as the King of the Forest. "Bow to me, for the earth trembles under my steps!” he bellowed.

With her huge size, Hippo called herself the Empress of the River. “Tremble! When I splash, it’s like a storm in the river!” she bragged.

Among the animals, a clever little spider had enough of their boasting. He came up with a cunning plan.

As the moon guarded the night sky, Spider spun a magic web in the shape of a strong rope.

The sly Spider found the Elephant as he feasted on fruits near the forest's edge. Spider looked up at Elephant and spoke clearly, "Oh, great Elephant, with steps that shake the earth! How about a challenge to prove your might?"

Elephant looked down at the tiny Spider and raised an eyebrow. "A challenge? From little you?" he bellowed with amusement.

"Yes, indeed!" replied Spider. “Even the creatures across the mountains have heard of your might. They want to know if your claims are true. So, what better way to prove your strength than a tug-of-war!"

Elephant trumpeted a hearty laugh. "Very well," he boomed. "I accept your challenge! Your cheekiness is as grand as my majestic tusks!"

Spider attached the magic web to Elephant's colossal foot. The web shimmered as the morning sun danced upon it.

Expecting an easy victory, Elephant waited for the signal to start the contest. Of course, he believed it would all be over in mere moments.

Slyly, the Spider slipped down to the river, where Hippo, the Empress of the River, was making quite a splash.

"Mighty Empress Hippo!" Spider exclaimed with a deep bow. “I challenge you to a tug-of-war !”

Hippo peered down at the tiny Spider, eyes widening with amusement. The river creatures bubbled with laughter.

“Tug-of-War?” Hippo chuckled, her laughter sending ripples across the water. "With you, tiny weaver of webs? Oh, how that idea tickles my tusks!”

Hippo allowed Spider to weave the magic rope around her massive foot. Hippo snorted to her subjects, "This shall be a tug to remember!"

Spider tied the other end of the rope to Hippo’s foot. But he didn’t tell the Hippo or the Elephant that they would pull against each other!

He stood in the middle and shouted, “Ready, set, pull!”

And so began the legendary tug-of-war!

Elephant and Hippo pulled with all their might. The trees shook, and the river waves soared as they strained against each other.

The tug-of-war continued for hours, becoming an epic battle as the sun set for the evening. Their strength waned, but their pride kept them going.

As hours passed, Elephant called out, "Spider, have you been eating magical fruits to become this powerful?"

And Hippo asked, “Spider, have you been in training to make your eight legs so strong?”

Finally, under the silver moonlight, Elephant and Hippo both had the same idea, "Could that spider be up to some trick?"

Each took steps toward the centre, letting the rope fall loose.

Suddenly, they stumbled upon each other! The ground trembled as they collapsed in astonishment.

They saw Spider laughing and dancing. “You two big braggarts were pulling against each other!” he told them. And the whole forest erupted into laughter.

And from that day on, Elephant and Hippo were a little less boastful because the spider had taught them to respect brains as much as brawn!

Jana: And that was a Hausa story from Northern Nigeria about the Spider, the Elephant and The Hippo. I loved that one. Umar, can you suggest another story for us?

Umar: I recall a story about a wise, learned man who travelled to Mecca for the Hajj.

Jana: Can you explain what the Hajj is?

Umar: Yes, we follow the Islamic faith, and Hajj is an important part of our religion. ….. Explain what it is briefly.

Jana, well, this is an intriguing story, so listen on.

The Wise Man Who Rode on a Hyena

Once upon a time, there was a wise man from the city of Kano. He was a kind and knowledgeable person loved by everyone, including the animals. One year he undertook a special journey to Mecca for Hajj. It was a long and dangerous journey across sandy deserts, mountains, and dry riverbeds. He made his way to Mecca safely and completed his sacred duties.

Then he set back on the long journey home to Kano.

As the wise man travelled on his faithful horse, he encountered a cunning hyena. The hyena approached him with a sly grin and said, "Oh, wise man, your horse looks so fast! I have a feast waiting for me in the forest, but my legs are too short to get there in time. Could I borrow your horse?"

Being kind-hearted, the wise man considered the hyena's request. He thought, "Perhaps this is a chance to help someone in need." So, he agreed to let the hyena ride his horse.

But little did the wise man know the hyena was playing a trick.
Instead of going to the forest, she took the horse to her den and shared it with her hungry cubs. The wise man was left without a horse, feeling puzzled and foolish.

Sitting under a shady tree, feeling a mix of sadness and amusement, the wise man thought, "Well, that didn't go as planned!"

A tiny spider had been watching all that had taken place. The spider approached the wise man and said, "Hello, wise traveller! Why the long face? What's going on?"
The wise man explained, "Oh, dear spider, I lost my horse, and now I have no way to get to Kano."

The spider replied, "Fear not! I have a solution for you. Look, there’s a saddle right here. How about I bring hyena to you, and you can ride on her back to Kano? If you do that, will you give me the charm of popularity?

The wise man was surprised by the spider's idea, but, as he had no better one, he agreed, saying, "Alright, spider, if you can make this happen, I will give you a reward."

Excitedly, the spider scurried off to find the hyena's den. She found the hyena and said, "Hey, Hyena! You’re missing out. The Wise man is enjoying a delicious feast. I know where he is. Let me put this saddle on your back, and we'll go to find him. He’s bound to share his food with us because he’s so kind and gullible!”

The hyena, licking her lips at the idea of a feast, agreed. The spider put the saddle on the hyena’s back and started to ride on her.

As they travelled, the hyena complained,

“My back feels itchy!”

“We’ll solve that,” said the Spider. “How about we use this cloth to cushion the saddle?"

The hyena agreed, and they put the cloth under the saddle. But as they continued, the hyena complained,

“But I don’t know where to put my feet, and I keep slipping.”

The spider replied, "How about we use this harness so I can guide you?”

The hyena agreed to this. The spider fitted the harness, and then she walked along more happily.

But the hyena was still rather slow. So the spider dug spurs into Hyena's side, saying, "Hyena, if I touch you with these spurs, you'll run faster."

And with a touch of the spurs, they zoomed through the land, causing laughter and astonishment from everyone they passed.

Very soon, they returned to where the Wise Man was waiting. Now the Spider said,

“Greetings again, Wise Man; I have brought the Hyena. Now will you give me the charm of popularity?”

The wise man was grateful for the spider's help and gave him some money as a reward before mounting the Hyena. As he set off for Kano, the spider called out:

“Whatever you do, don’t tie the Hyena up with a leather reign. Be sure to use a good strong chain.”

The Wise Man was some way off and could not hear the spider properly. He asked Hyena, “What did he say?”

The Hyena purred, “Whatever you do, don’t tie me up with a chain. Use a leather rein.”

When they reached Kano, the city's people were astonished to see the Wise Man riding the Hyena as if she were a horse. He rode her to his house and tied her with a leather rein.

The wise man awoke in the morning to find chaos in his house. The chickens were gone, and there was water everywhere! He realised that the hyena had caused all the mischief.

Feeling frustrated, the wise man set out to find the spider again. He searched high and low but couldn't find the clever little creature anywhere.

Nobody was willing to help the Wise Man find the tricky spider because he was long gone.

With a sigh, the wise man cleaned up the mess and learned an important lesson about trust and deceit. You can be very learned and know all sorts of things from books but still, be naive about life.

He understood that not everyone could be trusted, even those who initially seemed helpful.

And that was the story of The Wise Man Who Rode on a Hyena, read by me, Jana, for Storynory.com with help from Umar Isa Dandago in Kano, Nigeria.

Umar, thank you so much for helping us with those stories and for playing the part of the spider. Do children in Nigeria still hear these stories from their grandparents like you did?

Umar explains

Jana closes the programme.