The Adventures of The Jackal's Eldest Son
Reading time: 5 minutes. Word count: 900 words.
The jackal continued to run till at last he could run no longer. He flung himself under a tree panting for breath, when he heard a rustle amongst the grass, and his father's old friend the hedgehog appeared before him.
'Oh, is it you?' asked the little creature; 'how strange that we should meet so far from home!'
'I have just had a narrow escape of my life,' gasped the jackal, 'and I need some sleep. After that we must think of something to do to amuse ourselves.' And he lay down again and slept soundly for a couple of hours.
'Now I am ready,' said he; 'have you anything to propose?'
'In a valley beyond those trees,' answered the hedgehog, 'there is a small farmhouse where the best butter in the world is made. I know their ways, and in an hour's time the farmer's wife will be off to milk the cows, which she keeps at some distance. We could easily get in at the window of the shed where she keeps the butter, and I will watch, lest some one should come unexpectedly, while you have a good meal. Then you shall watch, and I will eat.'
'That sounds a good plan,' replied the jackal; and they set off together.
But when they reached the farmhouse the jackal said to the hedgehog: 'Go in and fetch the pots of butter and I will hide them in a safe place.'
'Oh no,' cried the hedgehog, 'I really couldn't. They would find out directly! And, besides, it is so different just eating a little now and then.'
'Do as I bid you at once,' said the jackal, looking at the hedgehog so sternly that the little fellow dared say no more, and soon rolled the jars to the window where the jackal lifted them out one by one.
When they were all in a row before him he gave a sudden start.
'Run for your life,' he whispered to his companion; 'I see the woman coming over the hill!' And the hedgehog, his heart beating, set off as fast as he could. The jackal remained where he was, shaking with laughter, for the woman was not in sight at all, and he had only sent the hedgehog away because he did not want him to know where the jars of butter were buried. But every day he stole out to their hiding-place and had a delicious feast.
At length, one morning, the hedgehog suddenly said: 'You never told me what you did with those jars?'
'Oh, I hid them safely till the farm people should have forgotten all about them,' replied the jackal. 'But as they are still searching for them we must wait a little longer, and then I'll bring them home, and we will share them between us.'
So the hedgehog waited and waited; but every time he asked if there was no chance of getting jars of butter the jackal put him off with some excuse. After a while the hedgehog became suspicious, and said: 'I should like to know where you have hidden them. To-night, when it is quite dark, you shall show me the place.'
'I really can't tell you,' answered the jackal. 'You talk so much that you would be sure to confide the secret to somebody, and then we should have had our trouble for nothing, besides running the risk of our necks being broken by the farmer. I can see that he is getting disheartened, and very soon he will give up the search. Have patience just a little longer.'
The hedgehog said no more, and pretended to be satisfied; but when some days had gone by he woke the jackal, who was sleeping soundly after a hunt which had lasted several hours.
'I have just had notice,' remarked the hedgehog, shaking him, 'that my family wish to have a banquet to-morrow, and they have invited you to it. Will you come?'
'Certainly,' answered the jackal, 'with pleasure. But as I have to go out in the morning you can meet me on the road.'
'That will do very well,' replied the hedgehog. And the jackal went to sleep again, for he was obliged to be up early.
Punctual to the moment the hedgehog arrived at the place appointed for their meeting, and as the jackal was not there he sat down and waited for him.
'Ah, there you are!' he cried, when the dusky yellow form at last turned the corner. 'I had nearly given you up! Indeed, I almost wish you had not come, for I hardly know where I shall hide you.'
'Why should you hide me anywhere?' asked the jackal. 'What is the matter with you?'
'Well, so many of the guests have brought their dogs and mules with them, that I fear it may hardly be safe for you to go amongst them. No; don't run off that way,' he added quickly, 'because there is another troop that are coming over the hill. Lie down here, and I will throw these sacks over you; and keep still for your life, whatever happens.'
And what did happen was, that when the jackal was lying covered up, under a little hill, the hedgehog set a great stone rolling, which crushed him to death.
Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:
Source: Andrew Lang, Orange Fairy Book (1906). Weblink. [Lang notes: Nouveaux Contes Berberes, par Rene Basset.]
Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology.
Laura Gibbs, Ph.D.
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