Kaffir Folk-Lore by Georg McCall Theal

Barking Black-Backed Jackal by Beverly Joubert

Kaffir Folk-Lore
by Georg McCall Theal


Introductory Chapter Regarding the Kaffirs

The Story of the Bird That Made Milk

The Story of Five Heads

The Story of Tangalimlibo

The Story of the Girl Who Disregarded the Custom of Ntonjane

The Story of Simbukumbukwana

The Story of Sikulume

The Story of Hlakanyana

The Story of Demane and Demazana

The Runaway Children; or, The Wonderful Feather

The Story of Ironside and His Sister

The Story of the Cannibal's Wonderful Bird

The Story of the Cannibal Mother and Her Children

The Story of the Girl and the Mbulu

The Story of Mbulukazi

The Story of Long Snake

The Story of Kenkebe

Another Story of Kenkebe

The Story of the Wonderful Horns

The Story of the Glutton

The Story of the Great Chief of the Animals

The Story of the Hare

The Story of Lion and Little Jackal

Proverbs and Figurative Expressions


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The Story of the Cannibal's Wonderful Bird

A NUMBER of girls once went away their homes early in the morning purpose of getting imbola [the red with which they colour their bodies and clothes]. Among them was the daughter of a chief, a very pretty girl. After they had collected the imbola, they were about to return home, when one of them proposed that they should bathe in a large pool of water that was there. To this they all agreed, and so they went into the water and played about in it for a long time. At last they dressed themselves again, and set out for home; but when they had gone some distance, the chief's daughter noticed that she had forgotten one of her ornaments, which she had taken off when they went to bathe. So she asked her cousin to return with her to get it. The cousin refused. Then she asked another girl, and another, but one and all refused to go back. She was thus obliged to return to the water alone, while the other girls went home.

On arriving at the pool, a big ugly cannibal with only one leg came up to her, caught her, and put her in his bag. She was so frightened that she lay quite still. The cannibal then took her round to the different villages and made her sing for him. He called her his bird.

When he came to a village he asked for meat, and when it was given to him he said: "Sing, my bird." But he would never open the bag, so that any one could see what sort of a bird he had.

When the girls reached home, they told the chief that his daughter had reached the age of ntonjane, and they selected one of themselves and shut her up in a hut. The chief believed that story, and so he killed a large ox and said the people must eat. That day they ate fat beef, and were very merry. The boys took meat, and went away from the village to eat it.

The cannibal, who did not know that the girl's father was chief at this place, came there just at this time. He said to the boys if they would give him meat he would make his bird sing for them. So they gave him meat, and he said: "Sing, my bird." The girl's brother was among those boys, and he thought the bird sang like his sister, but he was afraid to ask the cannibal to let him see. He advised the cannibal to go to the village where the men were, and told him there was plenty of meat that day.

The cannibal then went to the village and made his bird sing. The chief wanted very much to see the bird, but the cannibal would not open the bag. The chief offered him an ox for the bird, but the cannibal declined the offer. Then the chief made a plan. He asked the cannibal to go for some water, and said he would give him plenty of beef when he returned. The cannibal said he would go if they would promise not to open his bag while he was away. They all promised not to touch the bag. They gave the cannibal a leaky pot to carry the water in, so that he was gone a long time.As soon as he was out of sight the chief opened the bag and took his daughter out. At first he could not believe it was his daughter, for he thought she was observing ntonjane. But when he knew how those other girls had deceived him he said they must all die, and so they were killed. Then he put snakes and toads in the bag, and tied it up again.

When the cannibal came back he complained of the leaky pot, but they gave him plenty of meat to satisfy him, so he picked up his bag and went away. He did not know what had happened while he was absent. When he came near his own house he called to his wife: "Make ready to cook." He sent and called all the other cannibals to come to a feast, and they came expecting to get something nice. He let them wait a little to get very hungry. Then he opened his bag and thought to take the girl out, but found only snakes and toads in it. The other cannibals were so angry when they saw this, that they killed him and made their feast of him.

The text came from:

Theal, Georg McCall. Kaffir Folk-Lore. London: S. Sonnenschein, Le Bas & Lowrey, 1886. Buy the book in paperback.

Available from

Kaffir Folk-Lore by Georg McCall Theal

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African Folktales (Pantheon Fairy Tale & Folklore) by Roger Abrahams

The Adventures of Spider: West African Folktales by Joyce Cooper Arkhurst

Favorite African Folktales by Nelson Mandela

The Girl Who Married a Lion and Other Tales From Africa by Alex McCall Smith


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