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Main > South African folktales > Fairy tale "Why the Heron has a Crooked Neck"

Why the Heron has a Crooked Neck

“Baasjes know, sometimes crossness drives away frightenness; and Tante was so cross with Oom Jakhals for wanting to eat one of her little children that she called out, ‘No, no, you bad Jakhals, I shall do nothing of the sort. Go away and look for other food.’

“‘If you don’t, I’ll fly up and eat them all,’ said Jakhals. ‘Throw one down at once.’ And he stamped about and made such a horrible noise that the poor Tante thought he was really flying up. She looked at her babies: there wasn’t one she wanted to give, but it was better to lose one than have them all eaten; so she shut her eyes and fluttered about the nest till one of them fell out, and Jakhals caught it in his mouth and carried it off to his hole to eat.

“Ach! but the poor Tante was sad! She spread her wings over her other children and never slept all night, but looked about this way and that way with her soft eyes, thinking every little noise she heard was Oom Jakhals trying to fly up to her nest to gobble up all her babies.

“The next morning there was Oom Jakhals again. ‘Tante, your child was a nice, juicy mouthful. Throw me down another. And make haste, do you hear? or I’ll fly up and eat you all.’

“‘Coo-oo, coo-oo, coo-oo,’ said Tante, crying, ‘no, I won’t give you one.’ But it was no use, and in the end she did what she had done before—just shut her eyes and fluttered round and round till a baby fell out of the nest. She thought there was no help for it, and, like some people are, she thought what the eye didn’t see the heart wouldn’t feel; but her heart was very sore, and she cried more sadly than ever, and this time she said, ‘Oo-oo, oo-oo, oo-oo!’ It was very sad and sorrowful to listen to ‘Oo-oo, oo-oo, oo-oo!’

“Here came old Oom Reijer. He is a kind old bird, though he holds his neck so crooked and looks like there was nothing to smile at in the whole wide world.

“‘Ach! why do you cry so sadly, Tante? It nearly gives me a stitch in my side.’

“‘Oo-oo! I’m very miserable. Oom Jakhals has eaten two of my little children, and to-morrow he will come for another, and soon I shall have none left.

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