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Main > South African folktales > Fairy tale "The Flying Lion"

The Flying Lion

“Once upon a time,” remarked Outa, thoughtfully, “Oom Leeuw used to fly.”

“O-o-o-oh!” said the children all together, and their eyes widened with terror at the picture called up by Outa’s words.

“Yes, my baasjes, and then nothing could live before him. His wings were not covered with feathers: they were like the wings of Brother Bat, all skin and ribs; but they were very big, and very thick, and very strong, and when he wasn’t flying they were folded flat against his sides. When he was angry he let the points down to the ground—tr-r-r-r—like Oubaas Turkey when he gobble-gobble-gobbles and struts before his wives—tr-r-r-r, and when he wanted to rise from the ground he spread them out and flapped them up and down slowly at first—so, my baasjes; then faster and faster—so, so, so—till he made a big wind with them and sailed away into the air.”

Outa, flapping his crooked arms and puffing out his disproportionate chest, seemed about to follow suit, but suddenly subsided again on to his stool.

“Ach, but it was a terrible sight! Then, when he was high above the earth, he would look down for something to kill. If he saw a herd of springbokke he would fly along till he was just over them, and pick out a nice fat one; then he would stretch out his iron claws, fold his wings and—woops!—down he would fall on the poor bokkie before it had time to jump away. Yes, that was the way Oom Leeuw hunted in the olden times.

“There was only one thing he was afraid of, and that was that the bones of the animals he caught and ate would be broken to pieces. No one knew why, and everyone was too frightened of Oom Leeuw to try and find out. He used to keep them all at his home in the krantzes, and he had crows to look after them, two at a time—not like the ugly black crows that build in the willow-trees near the dam, but White Crows, the kind that come only once in many years. As soon as a white crow baby was found it was taken to Oom Leeuw—that was his order; then he kept it in the krantzes of the mountains and let it grow big; and when the old White Crows died the next eldest became watchmen, and so there were always White Crows to watch the bones when Oom Leeuw went hunting.

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