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Main > South African folktales > Fairy tale "Saved by his Tail"

Saved by his Tail

“The end, Outa, please,” said little Jan, “the end of The Animals’ Dam. You said it was too long to finish last night.”

“Aja, my baasje, it’s full of jakhals draaie, and that’s why it is so long, but it’s near the end now.

“The night was old by the time the animals had finished with old Broer Babiaan, and the stars were going out. Only the Big Star, that lasts the longest, was travelling quickly by the Stars’ Road to call the Dawn. It began to get light already at the place where the shining Old Man gets up every day, and that meant it was time for the animals to fade away to their sleeping-places.

“Oom Leeuw looked round on them. ’Who will look after the dam to-night?’ he asked.

“‘I will,’ said a little voice, quickly. ‘Peep! peep!’

“‘And who is this that speaks from the ground?’ asked Oom. ‘Let us find this brave one.’

“They looked about in the sand, and there, under a milk-bush near the dam, sat the Water Tortoise. He was nice and big, baasjes, as big as the lid of the soap-pot, and his skinny legs were very strong. He stretched out his skinny neck and twinkled his little black eyes.

“‘I’ll look after the dam, Oom, and I’ll catch the Water-Spoiler for you.’

“‘Ha! ha! ha! How will you do that?’ asked Oom Leeuw.

“‘If Oom will just let someone rub my back with the sticky black stuff from the floor of the hives, then Oom will see what will happen.’

“‘This is a wise little man,’ said Oom Leeuw, and he ordered Old Brown Sister Hyena—she with the limp in the left hind leg—to rub the Water Tortoise with the sticky stuff.

“That night, my baasjes, when Jakhals went to the dam to drink, he peeped about, but no! there was no one to guard the dam; only a large black stone lay near the edge of the water.

“‘Arré! this is lucky,’ said Jakhals. ‘Such a nice large stone! I’ll stand on it while I drink.’

“He didn’t know that the stone had a strong skinny neck, and, on the end of the neck, a head with little bright eyes that could see everything that was going on. So he gave a jump, and—woops!

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