ONCE upon a time there was a hare who was cunning with great guile. That hare went to the jackal and said, "I want to make friends with you, jackal. Our friendship will be that we walk about together and agree in every matter. Everything that I do you must do also, and everything that you do I must also do."
When the jackal heard those words of the hare he was very pleased, and he thought, "This will be very good to have the hare for a brother, for he is very clever."
So the jackal agreed to make friends with the hare, and they walked about together. Till one day the hare said to the jackal, "To-day, my brother, we will each take a knife and a spear, and we will go and kill our mothers. I will go and kill mine, and you, jackal, must go and kill yours."
So they each took a spear and a knife and went their ways to kill their mothers. The hare went to his mother and took her and hid her in a cave. Then he went to a tree which is called Mtumbati and smeared his knife and spear with the sap of that tree, which is red. Then he returned to the place at which he had agreed to meet the jackal.
Now the jackal was very grieved when he was told that he must kill his mother, and being without guile he said to himself, "I will stay away for a little while, and then say to my brother, the hare, that I have killed my mother."
So he went off, and returned again to the place of meeting, and there met the hare. The hare asked him, "Have you killed your mother, my brother?"
The jackal said, "Yes, I have killed her."
So the hare said, "Let me look at your spear and knife. See, here are mine, and you can see that I have killed my mother, truly."
Then was the jackal ashamed, and the hare said to him, "Oh, my brother, you have deceived me. We agreed that each one must do as the other, and now I have gone and killed my mother, and you have not done likewise. We must both go and kill your mother, so that we may both be without our mothers."
So they went and killed the jackal's mother, and the jackal was very sorry.
After that the hare said to the jackal, "Now, my brother, we must eat nothing but insects." So they went about the forest trying to catch insects to eat, but when the jackal slept the hare used to run into that cave where he had hidden his mother, and she fed him.
The jackal lived with the hare, trying to catch enough insects to eat, and he grew thinner and thinner, till at last he died.
Now when all the animals heard how the hare had deceived the jackal, and made him kill his mother, and how he had made him live on nothing but insects till he died, they were very angry with the hare. Then they held a meeting, and it was asked, "Who is a match for the hare in cunning?"
The cock said, "I am; I am able to deceive the hare and kill him."
All those animals said to the cock, "You, cock, are not the equal of the hare. What sort of cunning have you to match yourself against the hare?"
The cock replied, "I know very well that I can get the better of the hare. Now I am going off to see him, and you will all hear the news of what has passed between the hare and me very soon."
So the cock set forth and went to see the hare.
The hare asked him, "How is it that you have never before walked out to our house here? To-day is the first time that I have seen you, oh cock."
The cock answered, "Your words are true. I have never yet walked as far as your house. To-day I have come to ask your friendship, for I have no friend. That is why I want your friendship. We will get on very well together, and now I am going to return home. I will prepare food for you, and to-morrow you must come and see me and we will have a talk."
The hare replied, "It is well. To-morrow, if Allah pleases, I will come to your house."
The cock then returned home and told his wives, "To-morrow my friend the hare is coming, so get food ready for him. When the hare comes I will sit in the courtyard and hide my head under my wing. Serve up food to the hare, and when he asks, 'Where is my friend the cock?' show him his friend and say, 'There is his body lying in the courtyard, but he has sent his head away to have audience of the Sultan, and to speak his cases for him.' Tell the hare like that."
So next day, when the hare came and asked for his friend the cock, the cock's wives took him, and showed him the cock where he was lying with his head under his wing, and they told him, as they had been taught, that his head had gone away to speak his cases for him before the Sultan. Then they took him on to the verandah and bade him sit down and await his friend and eat the food that was ready for him.
That hare was very astonished, and said to himself, "My friend the cock must indeed be strong if he can send his head by itself all the way to the Sultan's, to speak his cases alone without a body."
They set much food before the hare, and he ate there in the verandah. Presently the cock came round the corner and said to the hare, "Oh, my friend, I am indeed sorry that I was not here to greet you, but I had to send my head away to speak of some very important matter to the Sultan."
The hare said, "It is well, my friend. I saw your body lying out there in the courtyard, and now that your head has returned it is indeed well."
Shortly after that the hare took leave of the cock, and said to him, "I am now going home, and to-morrow you must come and eat with me."
The cock agreed, and the hare went off. When he arrived at his house he said to his wives, "Prepare food, for to-morrow my friend the cock comes to see me." So they prepared food for the cock, and next day the hare said to them, "My friend the cock is very strong, he can send his head all alone to the Sultan's. Now I want you, my wives, to cut off my head and put it on one side, and when the cock comes show him my body, and tell him that I have also important cases at the Sultan's, and have sent my head off to see to them."
His wives said, "You will certainly die, our husband."
The hare said, "Why shall I die? My friend the cock cuts off his head, and he does not die, so why should I? You must cut off my head, and after the cock has sat down and begun to eat you must put it on again, so that I may come and talk to him."
His wives refused, but he pressed them much, till at last they agreed and cut off his head. When the cock came and asked after the hare they took him and showed him the hare's body, and told him as they had been taught. When the cock looked at the hare's body he saw that his head had really been cut off, so he said to those wives of the hare, "I am not able to wait for your food, for to-day in your house there is a great mourning, and it is I who have deceived the hare; so now I am going home. Your husband is not able to rise again, for he is dead. Good-bye."
The cock went forth, and went his way to give the news to all the animals who had laughed at him, and said to him, "You have no sort of guile with which to deceive the hare."
When the animals heard the news of how the cock had deceived the hare, and when they heard that there was mourning in the house of the hare, they said, "Truly the words of the cock are true; he has great cunning, even more than the hare."