How Isuro the Rabbit Tricked Gudu
Reading time: 5 minutes. Word count: 1000 words.
Early next morning they started for another village, and passed on the way a large garden where people were very busy gathering monkey-nuts.
'You can have a good breakfast at last,' said Gudu, pointing to a heap of empty shells; never doubting but that Isuro would meekly take the portion shown him, and leave the real nuts for himself.
But what was his surprise when Isuro answered: 'Thank you; I think I should prefer these.' And, turning to the kernels, never stopped as long as there was one left. And the worst of it was that, with so many people about, Gudu could not take the nuts from him.
It was night when they reached the village where dwelt the mother of Gudu's betrothed, who laid meat and millet porridge before them.
'I think you told me you were fond of porridge,' said Gudu; but Isuro answered: 'You are mistaking me for somebody else, as I always eat meat when I can get it.' And again Gudu was forced to be content with the porridge, which he hated.
While he was eating it, however a sudden thought darted into
his mind, and he managed to knock over a great pot of water which was hanging
in front of the fire, and put it quite out.
'Now,' said the cunning creature to himself, 'I shall be able in the dark to steal his meat!' But the rabbit had grown as cunning as he, and standing in a corner hid the meat behind him, so that the baboon could not find it.
'O Gudu!' he cried, laughing aloud, 'it is you who have taught me to be clever.' And calling to the people of the house, he bade them kindle the fire, for Gudu would sleep by it, but that he would pass the night with some friends in another hut.
It was still quite dark when Isuro heard his name called very
softly, and, on opening his eyes, beheld Gudu standing by him. Laying his finger
on his nose, in token of silence, he signed to Isuro to get up and follow him,
and it was not until they were some distance from the hut that Gudu spoke: 'I
am hungry and want something to eat better than that nasty porridge that I had
for supper. So I am going to kill one of those goats, and as you are a good
cook you must boil the flesh for me.'
The rabbit nodded, and Gudu disappeared behind a rock, but soon returned dragging the dead goat with him. The two then set about skinning it, after which they stuffed the skin with dried leaves, so that no one would have guessed it was not alive, and set it up in the middle of a lump of bushes, which kept it firm on its feet. While he was doing this, Isuro collected sticks for a fire, and when it was kindled, Gudu hastened to another hut to steal a pot which he filled with water from the river, and, planting two branches in the ground, they hung the pot with the meat in it over the fire.
'It will not be fit to eat for two hours at least,' said Gudu, 'so we can both have a nap.' And he stretched himself out on the ground, and pretended to fall fast asleep, but, in reality, he was only waiting till it was safe to take all the meat for himself. 'Surely I hear him snore,' he thought; and he stole to the place where Isuro was lying on a pile of wood, but the rabbit's eyes were wide open.
'How tiresome,' muttered Gudu, as he went back to his place; and after waiting a little longer he got up, and peeped again, but still the rabbit's pink eyes stared widely. If Gudu had only known, Isuro was asleep all the time; but this he never guessed, and by-and-bye he grew so tired with watching that he went to sleep himself. Soon after, Isuro woke up, and he too felt hungry, so he crept softly to the pot and ate all the meat, while he tied the bones together and hung them in Gudu's fur. After that he went back to the wood-pile and slept again.
In the morning the mother of Gudu's betrothed came out to milk her goats, and on going to the bushes where the largest one seemed entangled, she found out the trick. She made such lament that the people of the village came running, and Gudu and Isuro jumped up also, and pretended to be as surprised and interested as the rest. But they must have looked guilty after all, for suddenly an old man pointed to them, and cried: 'Those are thieves.' And at the sound of his voice the big Gudu trembled all over.
'How dare you say such things? I defy you to prove it,' answered Isuro boldly. And he danced forward, and turned head over heels, and shook himself before them all.
'I spoke hastily; you are innocent,' said the old man; 'but now let the baboon do likewise.' And when Gudu began to jump the goat's bones rattled and the people cried: 'It is Gudu who is the goat-slayer!' But Gudu answered: 'Nay, I did not kill your goat; it was Isuro, and he ate the meat, and hung the bones round my neck. So it is he who should die!'
And the people looked at each other, for they knew not what to believe. At length one man said: 'Let them both die, but they may choose their own deaths.'
Then Isuro answered: 'If we must die, put us in the place where the wood is cut, and heap it up all round us, so that we cannot escape, and set fire to the wood; and if one is burned and the other is not, then he that is burned is the goat- slayer.'
And the people did as Isuro had said. But Isuro knew of a hole under the wood-pile, and when the fire was kindled he ran into the hole, but Gudu died there.
When the fire had burned itself out and only ashes were left where the wood had been, Isuro came out of his hole, and said to the people: 'Lo! did I not speak well? He who killed your goat is among those ashes.'
Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:
Source: Andrew Lang, Orange Fairy Book (1906). Weblink. [Lang notes: Mashona story]
Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology.
Laura Gibbs, Ph.D.
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