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Main > South African folktales > Fairy tale "Who was King?"

Who was King?

This, like other things, could await the finish of the story.

“Then Leeuw roared, and truly the voices were the same. No one could say, ‘This is a bigger voice,’ or ‘That is a more terrifying voice.’ No, they were just equal.

“So Leeuw said to Volstruis, ‘Our voices are alike. You are my equal in roaring. Let it then be so. You will be King of the Birds as I am King of the Beasts. Now let us go hunting and see who is baas there.’

“Out in the vlakte some sassaby were feeding, big fat ones, a nice klompje; so Leeuw started off in one direction and Volstruis in the other, but both kept away from the side the wind came from. Wild bucks can smell—ach toch! so good. Just one little puff when a hunter is creeping up to them, and at once all the heads are in the air—sniff, sniff, sniff—and they are off like the wind. Dust is all you see, and when that has blown away—ach no! there are no bucks; the whole veld is empty, empty!”

Outa stretched out his arms and waved them from side to side with an exaggerated expression of finding nothing but empty space, his voice mournful with a sense of irreparable loss.

“But”—he took up his tale with renewed energy—“Leeuw and Volstruis were old hunters. They knew how to get nearer and nearer without letting the bucks know. Leeuw trailed himself along slowly, slowly, close to the ground, and only when he was moving could you see which was Leeuw and which was sand: the colour was just the same.

“He picked out a big buck, well-grown and fat, but not too old to be juicy, and when he got near enough he hunched himself up very quietly—so, my little masters, just so—ready to spring, and then before you could whistle, he shot through the air like a stone from a catapult, and fell, fair and square, on to the sassaby’s back, his great tearing claws fastened on its shoulders and his wicked teeth meeting in the poor thing’s neck.

“Ach! the beautiful big buck! Never again would his pointed horns tear open his enemies! Never again would he lead the herd, or pronk in the veld in mating time!

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