Read on line
Listen on line
Main > South African folktales > Fairy tale "The Place and the People"

The Place and the People

Their coming caused a stir among the children. Little Jan slowly withdrew his gaze from the fire, and, with more energy than might have been expected from his dreamy look, pushed and prodded the sleeping terrier along the rustbank so as to make room for Cousin Minnie.

Pietie sprang to his father’s side. “Now may I go and call Outa Karel?” he asked eagerly, and at an acquiescent “Yes, my boy,” away he sped.

It was a strange figure that came at his bidding, shuffling, stooping, halting, and finally emerging into the firelight. A stranger might have been forgiven for fleeing in terror, for the new arrival looked like nothing so much as an ancient and muscular gorilla in man’s clothes, and walking uncertainly on its hind legs.

He was not quite four feet in height, with shoulders and hips disproportionately broad, and long arms, the hands of which reached midway between knee and ankle. His lower limbs were clothed in nondescript garments fashioned from wildcat and dassie skins; a faded brown coat, which from its size had evidently once belonged to his master, hung nearly to his knees; while, when he removed his shapeless felt hat, a red kopdoek was seen to be wound tightly round his head. No one had ever seen Outa Karel without his kopdoek, but it was reported that the head it covered was as smooth and devoid of hair as an ostrich egg.

His yellow-brown face was a network of wrinkles, across which his flat nose sprawled broadly between high cheekbones; his eyes, sunk far back into his head, glittered dark and beady like the little wicked eyes of a snake peeping from the shadow of a hole in the rocks. His wide mouth twisted itself into an engaging grin, which extended from ear to ear, as, winking and blinking his bright little eyes, he twirled his old hat in his claw-like hands and tried to make obeisance to his master and mistress.

The attempt was unsuccessful on account of the stiffness of his joints, but it never failed to amuse those who, times without number, had seen it repeated.

Also read