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Clever Jackal Gets Away (A Traditional Zulu Story)

"Hawu, hawu, hawu, my children," Gogo began one evening. "You know, cleverness is a very important thing to own! Why, cleverness has helped Nogwaja out of the cooking pot more than once!"

"The Jackal is also a clever animal, isn't he, Gogo?" asked little Sipho (see' poh), who was quite proud that his nickname was Mpungushe (mpoo-ngoo'-shay = "jackal"). Gogo, in fact, had given him that name because of the loud howl he had made as a baby. Sipho liked to think it was because he was quick and agile as the Jackal.

Gogo laughed and looked at the child at her feet. "Yes, my boy! You are right! Jackal is a very clever animal. Sometimes too clever for his own good!"

"I remember how he helped Jabu the herdboy by tricking Bhubesi back into the snare. Tell us another tale about Jackal, Gogo!" begged Sipho.

"Yes, Gogo," her other grandchildren chorused. "Please tell us...."

"Alright, my children. But listen and learn!" Gogo settled her round self down more comfortably upon the tree stump. "Kwasuka sukela . . ."

One day long ago, Jackal was trotting through a narrow, rocky pass. As he often did, he kept his nose to the ground as he ambled along, to catch the odd scent. "Never know when I'll happen upon my next meal, " he thought to himself, although it was highly unlikely that he would find a rat out in the midday heat. But perhaps he could catch a lizard or two.

Suddenly he was aware of a movement ahead of him in the pass. "Oh, no!" Jackal moaned and stopped dead-still in his tracks. Lion was coming toward him. Realising that he was too near to escape, Jackal was filled with fear. He had played so many tricks on the great Bhubesi in the past, he was sure that lion would take this opportunity to get his revenge. In a flash Jackal thought of a plan.

"Help! Help!" cried Jackal. He cowered down on the cliff path, looking above at the rocks.

Lion stopped short in surprise.

"Help!" Jackal howled, using the fear he felt in the middle of his chest to accentuate his cry. Jackal glanced up at Bhubesi. "Oh, great Nkosi! Help! There is no time to lose! See those great rocks above us? They are about to fall! We shall both be crushed to death!!!! Oh, mighty Lion, do something! Save us!" And Jackal cowered even lower, his paws covering his head.

Lion looked up, most alarmed. Before he even had a chance to think, Jackal was begging him to use his strength to hold up the overhanging rock. So Lion put his brawny shoulder to the rock and heaved.

"Oh, thank you, great King!" yelped Jackal. "I will quickly fetch that log over there to prop under the rock, and we will both be saved!" With that Jackal bounded out of sight.

Lion was left all alone to struggle under the weight of the unmoving rock. How long he remained there before he realised that it was another trick, we will never know. But this much we do know: Jackal continued to live by his wits!

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