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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

Come down now!’

“‘Oh, oh!’ ses Tinky. ‘So you gi’es in you can’t get up to me! Dat’s done den. I’s King a’ right,’ an’ he comes down yust as cheeky as billy-o, wid his tink, tink, tink, tinky, till he gets to de ground. Den he chucks a leg. ‘King Tinky!’ ses he. ‘Dat’s me.’

“Well, de birds dey all drop down an’ dey wait for someb’dy to say somefin’. But young Tinky he hop in front of Ou’ Jackalse an’ he stick his coat tails out. ‘Well, Oom Jackalse,’ ses he, ‘who’s de smart ’un to-day?’

“‘I wish I was one o’ de birds you’s bin foolin’,’ ses Ou’ Jackalse; ‘I’d show you which was smart.’

“Just den Ole Baldy bounce down in front of ’em. ‘Who’s King?’ ses he.

“‘De one dat went highest,’ ses Ou’ Modher Reyer, de Blue Crane.

“‘An’ dat’s me,’ ses Baldy.

“‘An’ dat’s me,’ ses Tinky, stickin’ his little wings out an’ bouncin’ hisse’f like he was mockin’ Ole Baldy.

“‘Look-a’-here,’ ses Baldy, ‘if you ses anoder word I’ll scoff you.’

“‘Will you?’ ses Young Tinky, settin’ hisse’f in front of Ole Baldy like a bantam. ‘You will, hey? Well—anoder word—dere, I’s said it.’

“Ole Baldy yust look one look at Tinky, an’ den he make one dive to scoff him, straight. But he’s dat slow an’ heavy on de ground he might as well try to catch a flea on a blanket; an’ dere’s him a-divin’ an’ a-floppin’, an’ dere’s Young Tink a-flickin’ an’ a hoppin’, till Ole Baldy fair boil over an’ stand still. ‘Birds!’ ses he, ‘is we gun’ to stand dis an’ have dis little squirt say he’s King over us?’

“‘You bet we ain’t,’ ses de White Owl. ‘Is I de King den?’ ses Baldy nex’, lookin’ at ’em all roun’.

“But dey all want to say sometin’ to dat, ’cause if dey cahnt be King deirselves dey don’t want anyb’dy else to be it. ‘No,’ ses dey. ‘It was to be de one went highest, an’ we all hear you say to Tinky what you’d do if on’y you could get up at him.’

“‘Den what’s a-gun’ to be done?’ ses Baldy, as mad’s a scorpion.

“‘Well, we’ll ha’ to study dat out,’ ses dey. ‘We’ll ha’ to hold a indaba an’ see what we’ll do about it.

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