Black Tales for White Children | Annotated Tale

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Bata the Duck

ONCE upon a time there was a duck called Bata, and she lived with her husband, and they were very happy, for they had never seen the face of man. Till one day there came a man to their home, and he fired his gun and killed Bata's husband.

               When she saw that her husband was dead Bata was very unhappy, and flew far, far away to a country where man had never come.

               There she met a peahen, and that peahen made friends with her and asked her name. She said, "I am called Bata."

               Then she asked her, "Why are you trembling so?"

               Bata answered, "Do you know man?"

               The peahen said, "No, I have never seen one."

               Then said Bata, "I tremble to think of man and how he has made me a widow, for he killed my husband."

               Then the peahen said, "I have a husband too, and he is very beautiful."

               So she took Bata to her husband the peacock, and when Bata saw him she began to weep. That peacock said, "Why do you weep?"

               Bata answered, "I weep to see how beautiful you are, and to think that if man sees you he will surely kill you."

               "What is this creature called man?" asked the peacock.

               "He is a creature of great guile," replied Bata.

               After that she travelled on till she came to a big river, and she swam up and up the river till she came to a cave. She looked into the cave and there she saw a lion. The lion asked, "Who are you?"

               She replied, "I am Bata the Duck."

               Then the lion asked her, "Why are you trembling?"

               She answered, "I am trembling to think of man."

               The lion asked, "What is this man?"

               Bata said, "He is a creature of great cunning, who is even able to kill you."

               The lion said, "Then this man must be very big and strong."

               "No," said Bata, "he is neither big nor strong, but his guile is great."

               Just then a dikdik came running past. When it saw the lion it stopped and greeted him. The lion asked, "What are you running from?"

               The dikdik said, "I am running away from man."

               "What is this man like?" said the lion.

               "Oh, he is very cunning," answered the dikdik, and scampered off.

               Presently a bushbuck came running up. When it saw the lion it stopped and greeted him. Then the lion asked, "What are you running from?"

               The bushbuck said, "I am running from man."

               "What is he like?" said the lion.

               "Oh, he is very cunning," answered the bushbuck, and ran off.

               Next an eland came galloping up, and when he saw the lion he stopped and greeted him. The lion asked, "And whom are you running away from? Is it also this creature called man?"

               The eland answered, "Yes, I am running from man."

               The lion said, "This man must be a very big animal, that one of your size should be afraid of him."

               "No, he is not big," said the eland, "but his guile is very great."

               The eland galloped off, and presently a buffalo came tearing past. When he saw the lion he drew up and greeted him. The lion asked, "And are you also running away from this creature called man?"

               The buffalo said, "Yes, it is indeed he from whom I am running."

               Then said the lion, "This man must be a great and powerful creature, that one of such a terrifying appearance as you are runs from him."

               The buffalo said, "No, he is small, but his guile is exceedingly great."

               Then the buffalo rushed off, and presently there came forth a man. Now that man was a carpenter, and he carried planks under his arm and his bag of tools over his shoulder. Suddenly he looked up and saw the lion, and he said to himself, "Now I am indeed lost, for there is a lion, and I have no weapons."

               That lion, when he saw the man, asked him, "Who are you who are walking so slowly and carefully? All the animals who have passed here were running away from the creature called man. How is it that you are not afraid of him, that you do not make haste to escape?"

               Then that man saw that the lion did not recognise him for a man, so he took heart, and said, "No, it is not man, but the elephant I am afraid of, for I am the servant of the elephant, and he has called me to make a house for him. For the elephant fears this man whom you speak of, so I now go to make him a house, so that when he goes inside it man cannot get him."

               The lion said, "First you must make such a house for me."

               That man said, "No, I cannot, for I have promised to make it for the elephant."

               But that lion insisted on the man making him a house first, so that carpenter put down his load and began making a box like a coffin.

               When he had finished it he made a door at one end, and then he said to the lion, "Enter in, my master, and see if the house suits you."

               So the lion walked in, and the man shut the door and cried, "Now do you know me? I am that creature called man."

               Then he took his axe and rained blows on the lion until he had killed him.

               When Bata saw this she flew away, and this was the beginning of her sitting always on the water, even to sleeping on the water in the middle of a pool, for fear of man who killed her husband.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Bata the Duck
Tale Author/Editor: Stigand, C. H. & Stigand, Nancy Yulee
Book Title: Black Tales for White Children
Book Author/Editor: Stigand, C. H. & Stigand, Nancy Yulee
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Publication City: Boston
Year of Publication: 1914
Country of Origin: Africa
Classification: unclassified

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