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South-African Folk-Tales, by James A. Honeÿ, [1910], at


ONE day, it is said, the following story happened:

Mouse had torn the clothes of Itkler (the tailor), who then went to Baboon, and accused Mouse with these words:

"In this manner I come to thee: Mouse has torn my clothes, but will not know anything of it, and accuses Cat; Cat protests likewise her innocence, and says, 'Dog must have done it; but Dog denies it also, and declares Wood has done it; and Wood throws the blame on Fire, and says, 'Fire did it'; Fire says, ' have not, Water did it'; Water says, 'Elephant tore the clothes'; and Elephant says, 'Ant tore them.' Thus a dispute has arisen among them. Therefore, 1, Itkler, come to thee with this proposition: Assemble the people and try them in order that I may get satisfaction."

Thus he spake, and Baboon assembled them for trial. Then they made the same excuses which had been mentioned by Itkler, each one putting the blame upon the other.

So Baboon did not see any other way of punishing them, save through making them punish each other; he therefore said,

"Mouse, give Itkler satisfaction."

Mouse, however, pleaded not guilty. But Baboon said, "Cat, bite Mouse." She did so.

He then put the same question to Cat, and when she exculpated herself, Baboon called to Dog, "Here, bite Cat."

In this manner Baboon questioned them all, one after the other, but they each denied the charge. Then he addressed the following words to them, and said,

Wood, beat Dog.
Fire, burn Wood.
Water, quench Fire.
Elephant, drink Water.

Ant, bite Elephant in his most tender parts."

They did so, and since that day they cannot any longer agree with each other.

Ant enters into Elephant's most tender parts and bites him.

Elephant swallows Water.
Water quenches Fire.
Fire consumes Wood.
Wood beats Dog.
Dog bites Cat.
And Cat bites Mouse.

Through this judgment Itkler got satisfaction, and addressed Baboon in the following manner:

"Yes! Now I am content, since I have received satisfaction, and with all my heart I thank thee, Baboon, because thou hast exercised justice on my behalf and given me redress."

Then Baboon said, "From to-day I will not any longer be called Jan, but Baboon shall be my name."

Since that time Baboon walks on all fours, having probably lost the privilege of walking erect through this foolish judgment.

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