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Main > South African folktales > Fairy tale "Why the Ratel is so Keen on Honey"

Why the Ratel is so Keen on Honey

The children were accompanying Old Hendrik from the tobacco lands to the mealie lands farther out, and on the way, in crossing the broken, bush-grown spruit between, the eldest boy marked a fresh earth of the Ratel or honey-badger. “Dat’s bad to see if we don’t do sometin’,” said Old Hendrik. “Dere’ll be mighty little honey on dis place ’fore long if we don’t drop on to Mr Ratel.”

“But, Ou’ Ta’,” demanded Annie, “why is the Ratel always after the honey?”

“Well, Ainkye,” answered Old Hendrik gravely, “it’s ’cause it’s in de blood. Some folk ses it’s dis way an’ some ses it’s dat way but as soon as Ou’ Ratel sees ’em comin’ to ax, he fair dives into diggin’, an’ he’s half-way down to Dublin, as your mammy ses, ’fore dey comes to where he started f’m. It ain’t dat dese hyer Ratels ain’t proud o’ de reason, ’cause dey tinks it was mighty smart o’ deir grandaddy. It’s yust dey rinks nobody knows, an’ so dey won’t tell.

“But I knows, ’cause my ole grandaddy tole me, an’ it happen in his grandaddy’s time. You see it was de grandaddy of all dese yere Ratels, an it was when he was a young kerel in his daddy’s house. Dere ain’t no doubt he was slim, baiah slim, an’ he was yust dat gone on honey dat he even played tricks on his ole daddy, till at last he tried on dat about de sack o’ honey an’ de honey-gum tree. Den—well, you listen.

“Dis young Seeunkie Ratel was de sort dat his mammy was al’ays a-fallin’ out wid his daddy over him, reckonin’ his daddy was al’ays a-tinkin’ he was up to some skellumness or other. An I reckon myse’f dat de ole man know’d. However, de ole man had a big goatskin chock full o’ de finest honey, an’ he kep’ it under de bed in de sleepin’ chamber, so it ’ud be nice an handy—an’ safe. In a mawnin’ dey’d all get up, an de ole daddy he’d go out an’ have a look round, an’ de ole mammy she’d be busy a-gettin’ de breakfas’ ready, while little missy Wilhelmina Ratel she’d play about, inside or outside or underfoot, yust like little girls does when deir mammies is busy.

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