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

Why the Heron has a Crooked Neck

“Oom Reijer began to listen. It is maar so when people hear about themselves. He put down his other leg, stretched out his neck, and asked over his shoulder, ‘What did you say, eh?’

“‘Come toch this way a little; the mud over there is too soft for me to stand on. I want your valuable advice about the wind. The other people all say I must ask you, because no one is as wise as you.’

“Truly Jakhals was a slim kerel! He knew how to stroke Oom Reijer’s feathers the right way.

“Oom Reijer came slowly over the mud—a person mustn’t show he is too pleased: he even stopped to swallow a little frog on the way, and then he said, carelesslike, ‘Yes, I can tell you all about the wind and weather. Ask what you like, Jakhals.’ His long neck twisted about with pride.

“Oom, when the wind is from the west, how must one hold one’s head?’

“‘Is that all?’ said Oom Reijer. ‘Just so.’ And he turned his head to the east.

“‘Thank you, Oom. And when the wind is from the east?’

“‘So.’ Oom Reijer bent his neck the other way.

“‘Thank you, Oom,’ said the little small voice, so grateful and humble. ‘But when there is a storm and the rain beats down, how then?’

“‘So!’ said Oom Reijer, and he bent his neck down till his head nearly touched his toes.

“My little masters, just as quickly as a whip-snake shoots into his hole, so Jakhals shot out his arm and caught Oom Reijer on the bend of his neck—crack!—and in a minute the poor old bird was rolling in the mud with his neck nearly broken, and so weak that he couldn’t even lift his beak to peck at the false wicked eyes that were staring at him.

“O! how glad was cruel Jakhals! He laughed till he couldn’t any more. He screamed and danced with pleasure. He waved his bushy tail, and the silver mane on his back bristled as he jumped about.

“‘Ha! ha! ha! Oom thought to do me a bad turn, but I’ll teach people not to interfere with me. Ha! ha! ha! No one is as wise as Oom Reijer, eh? Then he will soon find out how to mend his broken neck. Ha! ha!

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