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Main > South African folktales > Fairy tale "When the Birds would choose a King which tells also why the white owl only flies by night"

When the Birds would choose a King which tells also why the white owl only flies by night

‘Dere’s on’y one way o’ gettin’ at it,’ ses Ou’ Jackalse. ‘Birds was made wid wings so dey could get up off de earth. So if dat’s what a bird’s for, an’ if dat’s de one ting dat make him a bird, den it stand to reason de one dat can do bird work best is de best bird. If you is to have a King den, why, de best bird should be de best King, or de best King should be de best bird, whichever way you likes it. So now de one dat flies de highest—dat’s de one to be King.’

“Dere’s a lot o’ dem birds ’ud like to say a lot o’ bad words yust den. But de way Ou’ Jackalse lay de business down dey cahnt see yust where to tackle what he said. Dey all has to say, ‘A’ right!’ an’ dey all ses it, but they don’t all tink it. So dere ain’t no more said, an’ dey all lines up in a row. An dere ain’t nob’dy noticin’ dat nob’dy’s seen Young Tinky yet. But dere ain’t nob’dy troublin much about nob’dy else nohow.

“‘Is you ready?’ ses Ou’ Jackalse. ‘Yes,’ ses dey. ‘Den go!’ ses he.

“Up dey goes, an’ up, an’ up, an’ up. An’ fust de partridge drops, an’ den de long-tail fink; and de Kurhaan she tink she never did hear no such foolishness nohow, so down she drop too. An’ dat way dey go on, fust one an’ den anoder droppin’ out, till last of all dere ain’t but one left—Ole Baldy.

“Ole Baldy he go up, an’ on, an’ on, an’ up, till at last he cahnt get higher; but by jimminy, he is up dere. ‘How’s dis for high?’ ses he.

“All de birds look up, an’ none of ’em cahnt say one word. ‘You’s got it,’ ses Ou’ Jackalse, ‘you’s de highest.’

“‘Is he?’ squeaks a chinky little voice. ‘Is he?’ an’ dere, where dey’re all lookin’, up pops little Tinky off’n Ole Baldy’s back, where he’s bin hid in de feders widout Ole Baldy knowin’. ‘What price me now?’ ses he, an’ up he go, yards up! ‘How’s dis for higher?’ ses he.

“Ole Baldy he turn his head an’ look up. ‘Hello, you speck!’ ses he, ‘what you doin’ up dere?’

“‘Flyin’ higher’n you,’ ses Tinky. ‘Dat makes me de King.’

“‘King!’ ses Baldy. ‘If I could yust get up dere I’d King you.

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