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Tales that are told around the open fire

Southern Africa has a long history of people and wild animals living side-by-side, and folklore plays an important part in all the major cultures of the region. These stories are of deep interest and value to South Africans, and hopefully will be of some value to those of you who have either an interest in animals or who appreciate the folklore of other countries.

This was a way in which these people passed on life lessons to their children and to one another, teaching good moral values.

We have selected a few of our favourites below for you to enjoy too.

When The Cheetah Cried

Cheetah and cubs

One day, a hunter left his village to go and find food for his family.  He passed a small clearing, and noticed a young Impala who had strayed away from the main herd...

Why Lion Hunt Buffalo

Lion heading out to huntIn the Beginning, the Buffalo used to hunt and eat meat, and was the King of the Bush.  All the other animals, including the Lion, feared Buffalo...
 

Why The Rhino Is Bad-Tempered

Two approaching rhino
In the Beginning, the Giraffe had a normal neck, and looked a bit like a large Antelope...

Why The Hippo Scatters His Dung

Hippo and calf on the dry riverbankWhen The Creator made all the animals, he forgot about the Hippo, so had to make the Hippo out of all the remaining animal parts...
 

Why The Snake Can Shed His Skin

Puff adder
In The Beginning, Man struck a deal with The Creator that he would not die.  Instead, when he got old, The Creator would send down a new skin for Man to put on, which would make him young again...

Why The Elephant Has A Trunk

Elephants in a row drinkingThe Elephant used to only have a small snout in The Beginning.  This didn't bother him unduly, in fact he was rather proud of his small nose because it never got in the way of feeding and drinking...
 

How The Elephant Got His Tusks

Elephant showing off his tusks

The Warthog used to have beautiful long ivory tusks, but his friend, the Elephant, only had small, curling tusks...

Why The Warthog Is So Ugly

WarthogIn the Beginning, the Warthog was the most handsome animal.  He knew this, and unfortunately became very vain...
 

The Waterbuck's White Circle

Waterbuck standing in the water

One very dark night, a mother Waterbuck was grazing near the Tribesman's wooden hut with her young calf.  The Tribesman had been very busy that day, painting his hut white, and had left the tin of white paint outside his door ready to continue his work the next morning...

Why The Zebra Has A Stripy Coat

A dazzle of zebrasThe Creator originally made all the animals the same.  After a while, the animals became bored with all looking alike, and asked if The Creator could do something to help them...