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Today’s folktale comes from South Africa and takes place during the time when animals could still talk. The Crocodile is the leader of all the water animals, so when the river dries up, he comes up with a plan to trek to another river, one that the otter assures him still has water and will be able to withstand any drought. There are a couple of problems. First, traveling across dry land is dangerous for water creatures. Second, to get to the other river they have to pass by a Boer’s farm.
The Crocodile comes up with the solution. He offers peace to the lion and other veldt animals. In exchange for allowing the crocodile and his friends to cross without worrying about being eaten and to escort them pass the farm, the other animals will be allowed to drink from the river unmolested whenever they wish. The Crocodile sheds tears to show his sincerity, and the Lion accepts the treaty, against the Jackal’s advice.
Of course, as the title indicates, the Crocodile has a little something up his sleeve. He doesn’t want to have to worry about the veldt animals anymore. He tells a snake that when they make it to the river he will call out and the snake is to harass the farm dogs, which is what happens. So, along come the Boers with their guns, but only after all the water creatures have slipped under the surface of the river.
Crocodile had disappeared long ago into the water. All one saw was just a lot of bubbles; and on the banks there was an actual war against the animals. It simply crackled the way the Boers shot them.
Thankfully most of the animals lived, and the crocodile got his just reward. I read the version of this story told in South African Folk-tales by James A. Honey, first published in 1910. You can read it several places, including here. A lot more animals have significant parts in the story than I have included in my summary, including the Baboon, Tortoise and Wolf.
Do you have any favorite animal folktales?
Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. I would love it if you joined me. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, share with us. If you have a link, please include it in your comment.