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19 8 The Man and the Wild Animals T he wild animals decided to do everything they could to become more intelligent and stronger than man. They found it unfair that the bush was full of animals such as the elephant and the gazelle, and that in spite of their strength none of them could defeat man, who remained the most powerful. They decided to send one of their own to where man lived to ask him a few questions: How is it that he has two feet and that his strength is not worth the gazelle’s, yet he is more intelligent than those who have four feet? How did that come about? The lion was elected to go question man. He started out. At the entrance to the village he found a man who was looking for some termites for his chickens. He greeted him and the latter responded in kind. He told him he had come on behalf of all the animals of the bush, and that he wanted to see him. The man asked him the reason for his visit. He told him that he had been sent to ask him the following question: ‘‘How is it that you have only two feet and yet you are the strongest? What is your secret?’’ The man let him finish, greeted him, and told him he had done well to come. He went on: ‘‘However, you should have told me you were coming so that I could have gathered together all the intelligences, and brought them here. At the moment, I have only one 20 Alain-Joseph Sissao (Translated from the French by Nina Tanti) here with me. But that’s all right. I will show it to you. You will come back later so that I can show you the rest.’’ Satisfied, the lion thanked him and accepted his proposal. He followed the man. The latter tore off several strips of bâgna1 bark. Afterwards, they came upon a tree. The man asked the lion to lean up against it. He willingly accepted. The man tied him tightly to the tree. When he had finished, he said: ‘‘They sent you to discover our secret so that they themselves could become stronger than us?’’ ‘‘Yes,’’ said the lion. ‘‘I will show you just one intelligence,’’ said the man. He picked up the hoe he had been using to dig in the termite hole, and pretended to hit him. The lion cried out and the man said to him: ‘‘Are you crying? Patience! It’s coming!’’ He took his knife and pretended to slit the lion’s throat. The later yelled even louder. ‘‘Listen,’’ the man told him, ‘‘If I did not fear God, you would be my prey. On the other hand, if I kill you, there will be no one to go and tell the other animals what man is. This is why you are still alive. However, I do have to make you suffer somewhat; that way when you return to the bush you will tell them to respect man because, apart from God, man fears nothing.’’ He took up his knife again, made a mark on the lion’s back, and cut off his tail before setting him free. The lion ran off and went to find the other animals, who were busy playing. When they saw him they said: ‘‘Here is the bold one!’’ 1. A shrub whose fibrous bark is torn off in strips and used in making rope. 21 Folktales from the Moose of Burkina Faso They were all happy. When he was in the midst of them, the elephant approached: ‘‘How did you manage to see him? What did he say?’’ The lion remained silent. Then he told them: ‘‘Be patient, I am going to rest now because I cannot speak for the moment. Let me catch my breath.’’ After resting, he told them: ‘‘You ask me how it went? Well! Didn’t I leave here with a tail?’’ And they replied, yes. He went on: ‘‘Look at my back! Where is my tail?…Listen, I am telling you now. If you see man walking, run until your claws are gone because he is not someone to be trifled with! Today, if he had wanted to, I’d be done for, that’s for sure!’’ ...


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