ONCE upon a time there was a man, and his work was to set traps. Every morning he went out and set his traps for game, and in the evening he returned to his house, for he was a poor man, and there was no money in the house, and so this was, indeed, his manner of living.
One day he went forth, and when he came to his traps he met a lion.
And the lion said to him, "Have you not heard that this forest belongs to me, and that there is no leave to hunt here? for I am the only person who hunts here, and now, you son of Adam, you have come to hunt in my forest. Do you not know that I have the strength of forty men?"
And the man answered him, "Oh, master, I had not the news that this was your forest, so now make what plan you like, for I can do nothing."
Then the lion said to him, "We will make this arrangement together. You may hunt game here, but of every animal you catch you must give me the heart, the liver and the entrails, but the meat you may take yourself."
So they made this arrangement together, and every day the man set his traps, and of the game he caught he gave the lion the heart, liver and entrails, but the meat he took home, and his wife was glad.
Till one day his wife said to him, "How is it that of all the game you bring here, you bring the meat only, but the entrails you leave there in the bush? Now I am feeling sick, and the liver of game is what I long for."
The man said, "Do you not know that the entrails of all the game belong to the lion, who is, indeed, the master of the forest?"
And his wife said to him, "I know very well that you give the heart and the liver to another woman every day, and if it indeed be the lion who takes them, I will follow you to-morrow and see."
So the man said, "My wife, you must not come with me to the forest, for in the forest are fierce animals and thorns and difficulties and dangers."
So they slept, and in the morning the man went off to his work, and when he had gone his wife followed him in the way and came to the first and the second trap, but she entered into the third trap and was caught.
When the man returned from the woods he did not find his wife, and he looked for her till one of the neighbours said, "I saw your wife follow you in the way this morning."
And the man thought to himself, "My wife must surely have followed me to see where the entrails of the game went to."
So he took the way and came to the first and the second trap, but at the third he saw his wife caught, and beside her sat the lion.
And the lion said, "See what a nice animal you have caught to-day; be quick and cut it up that I may get my share."
The man said, "I cannot cut her up, for she is my wife."
The lion said, "Was not our agreement that I should have the entrails of every animal you caught? Now give me my share or I will kill you."
At that moment there came forth a hare, and when he had heard the case he said to the lion, "This man speaks not truly when he says that this animal is his wife, he only wishes to get all the meat for himself. Now my plan is that you and the man follow me, and I will show you that this is not his wife."
So the man and the lion followed the hare, and the hare and the man passed the second trap, but the lion entered in, and was caught up by the noose in the air.
Then the hare said to the man, "Now take your wife quickly and run away, for if he gets out he will kill us both."
So the man took his wife and ran away quickly.
Now the lion stayed in the trap, but after some time the rope rotted and he got out, but he was weak and maimed and thin. After several days he caught a pala, and then he caught a zebra, and then he grew strong again.
Then he said, "Now I will go and kill that hare who took me in." So he went to the house of the hare, which was under a big rock, and seized the hare.
Now over the rock was a great boulder poised, and the hare said to the lion, "See, that stone is falling, it will kill us both." The lion looked up and saw the boulder and leaped from under it, but when he found that it did not fall he looked for the hare, but the hare had gone.
Then he sought for the hare many days, and at last he found where he lived in a cave, so he went in and sat there to wait for him till he returned.
And as the hare returned he saw the footprints of the lion on the path leading to his house, so he went and stood near the house and said, "Salaam, oh house." But the lion was not to be deceived, and he answered not.
Then the hare said again, "Salaam, house," and again the lion was silent.
So the hare said to himself, "Every day when I pass here and say, 'Salaam, oh house,' the house answers and says, 'And to you salaams,' but to-day it is silent; perhaps there is some one inside."
So the lion answered from inside, "And to you salaams." And the hare said, "Oh, lion, I hear your voice you have come here to kill me."
Then the hare ran off, and the lion came out and went his way. Some time afterwards the hare met the lion in the way, and seeing that he could not escape he said, "I am tired of running away from you, old lion, so now I will come with you and be your servant."
The lion agreed, and the hare followed the lion.
Shortly afterwards the lion killed a zebra, and he said to the hare, "Now, my servant, cook the fat, that I may eat."
So the hare collected firewood and made a fire, and putting a little fat in the fire, said, "Open your mouth, old lion, and taste."
And the lion tasted the fat and saw that it was sweet and good, and said, "Hurry up and cook the rest, that I may eat."
The hare ran off and fetched a stone and put it in the fire till it was red hot and then, taking hold of it with two sticks, said, "Open your mouth, old lion."
The lion opened his mouth and the hare popped the stone in; the lion gulped it down and it burnt his inside and killed him.
The hare then skinned the lion, and taking the skin he went his way till he came to a cave where thirty hyaenas were holding a dance.
The hare took the lion's skin and propped it up against the entrance to the cave, and tied it with string to one of the hyaena's tail.
When the hyaenas smelt the smell of a lion they looked round and saw a lion crouching at the entrance.
They took counsel together and said, "It were better that we remain inside here, for if we go out we will certainly be killed, and after a little time he will go away."
They waited the first and the second day, but when the third day came and the lion did not go away they took counsel together again, saying, "We will all die of hunger here. It were better that we eat one of our number that the rest may live."
So they ate one of their number, and the next day they did likewise, and so on every day, till at last there was only one left alive, and this was the one with the skin tied to his tail.
And he thought to himself, "If I stay here I shall die of hunger. It would be better if I tried to rush past the lion and get away."
So he rushed out of the cave across the plain, and the skin followed him, till at last the rope broke, and he looked round and saw the hare coming to pick up the skin.
Then was the hyaena very angry, and rushed after the hare and caught him.
The hare said, "I am but a small mouthful. If you leave me, I will show you where a whole rhino has just died."
So the hyaena let go and said to him, "I will follow you and see; but if you have deceived me I will kill you."
So the hare led him down to the stream and said, "He fell in here this morning. If you put your nose in the water you will smell him."
So the hyaena put his nose in the water to smell if the rhino was there, and he was seized by the crocodiles and dragged into the river and eaten.
This is the end of the story of the hunter and the lion and the hare, which ends here.