Where Animals Talk; West African Folk Lore Tales/Part 1/Tale 11
Which is the Fattest?
|King Ra-Mborakinda||Ngowa (Hog; Pl. Ingowa)|
|Manga (Manatus)||Arandi (Oyster)|
Accept no challenge whose test you know you cannot endure. Oyster, without fat, accepted the challenge of the fat Hog and the fatter Manatus.
The fat of the Manatus, or dugong seal, is delicious and very abundant.
Ra-Mborakinda was dwelling in his Town, with his people and the glory of his Kingdom. There were gathered there the Manatus, the Oyster and the Hog, waiting to be assigned their kingdoms. To pass the time, while waiting until the King should summon them for their assignments. Oyster said, "You, Manga, and Ngowa, let us have a dance!" And they went to exhibit before the King. They danced and danced, each one dancing his own special dance.
After that they made a fire, each one at his own fire-place, and sat down to rest. Then Hog proposed a new entertainment. He said, "You, Arandi, and Manga, we all three shall test ourselves by fire, to see who has the most fat." And they all three went into their respective fire-places, Hog into his, and Manatus into his, and Oyster into its. Under the influence of the heat, the fat in their bodies began to melt.
Then the King announced, "To the one who shall prove to have the most fat, I will give a great extent of country as its kingdom." So, they all three tried to show much fat, in their effort to win the prize.
Presently, the fat of Hog began to cease exuding, for he had not a great deal. As to Oyster, it had no fat. What it produced was not fat at all, but water; and that was in such quantity that it put out its fire.
These facts about the Hog and Oyster were reported to the King, and when he inquired how Manatus was getting on, lo! it was found that she had such abundance of fat, that the oil flowing from her had burst into flame and had set the town on fire.
At this, the King wondered, and exclaimed, "This Manga, that lives in the water, has yet enough fat to set the town afire!"
Then Manatus with Hog and Oyster went and sat together in the open court before the King's house, to await what would be his decision. When he was ready, he sent two heralds to summon not only those three, but all the Tribes of the Beasts of the Forest, and of the Fishes of the Sea; and the town was full of these visitors. But, Hog and all his tribe had become impatient of waiting, and had gone off for a walk. All the other animals that had been summoned, came into the King's presence, and he, having ascended his throne, said, "I am ready now to speak with these three persons; but, I see that the Ingowa are not here. So, because of their disrespect in going off to amuse themselves with a walk instead of waiting for me, I condemn that they shall no longer wear any horns."
Then the King announced that, as Manatus had the most fat, her promised territory should be the Sea, and of it she should be ruler. But, Manatus said, "I do not want to live in the Sea, lest I be killed there." The King asked, "Then, where will you prefer to live?" She answered, "In such rivers as I shall like."
That is the reason that the Manatus lives only in rivers and bays. For, one day she and her children had floated with the tide to the mouth of a river and into the Sea; and some of them had been killed there by sharks and other big fish. So, the Manatus is never now found near the Sea on ordinary tides, but only when high tides have swept it down.
Just as the King had made his announcement, the company of Hogs returned and entered the Assembly. They explained, "We have just come back from our walk, and we wish to resume our horns which we left here." But the King refused, and kept possession of the horns. Hog begged, "Please! let me have my horns!" But the King swore an oath, saying, "O savi! (By the Blessing!) wherever you go, and whatever you be, you shall have no horns." So the Hogs departed.
Now Oyster stood up, and said, "I wish to go to my place. Where shall it be?" The King said, "I will give you no other place than what you already have had. I do not wish to put you into the fresh-water springs and brooks with Manga. You shall go into the salty waters." So Oyster went; and its race lives on the edge of the rivers, near the Sea, in brackish waters. And the King said to Oyster, "A11 the tribes of Mankind, by the Sea, when they fail to obtain other fish, shall be allowed to eat you."
All knew that this was a punishment given by the King to Oyster, for having dared the test by fire, pretending that it had fat, the while it had none.