Why The Cat Lives Among Men - Ebira Folktales
Ebira Folktales: Many years ago, the cat lived with other animals and birds in the bush. They lived together in their own community like human beings. They had their own kings, planted their own food, took offenders to their king’s palace for trial, and helped one another in doing their work.
The ostrich was the king of the birds.
All the other birds assembled before the king in his palace. During one planting season, ‘Inomi Oba’, the king of the birds called all the birds to his palace. He told them to help him clear his farmland. The king wanted to plant maize and beans in his farm. All the birds, big and small, happily agreed to work on the king’s farmland. They fixed the next day to do the work.
Early the next morning, the sound of the gong woke up the birds. It was the parrot, the town crier, beating the gong. He called them to the king’s palace, from where they will go to the king’s farm. The peacock, fowl, owl, parrot, hawk, vulture, and other big birds were present. Present also was the little sparrow called, ‘Kinkin’ with his cutlass ready to work on the farm. The king was happy to see the large number of birds that came out to work on his farm.
“Thank you very much my people,” said the king. He suddenly noticed the presence of the little sparrow. He was the tiniest bird that came. He pointed at him and said, “What can you this tiny bird do on the farm? You even carry a cutlass.” He said jokingly to Unechi. “Go back to your house, for today. I will send for you when I have the work small birds like you can do” the king added. The other birds laughed when they heard what the king said about the size of Unechi.
Unechi was not happy that the king did not allow him to follow the other birds to work on his farm. “He thinks I am too small to do any useful work on his farm. I have been disgraced in front of all the people.” The sparrow said to himself returning home unhappy. He thought of what he could do to show the king and other birds that it was wrong to use the size of a person to judge what he is capable of doing. “I may be small but they forgot that I am older than many of them. What can they do that I can’t do? I will show them that every person in this community is important” he boasted.
Unechi had a magical power that could cause weeds to grow immediately through a song. Nobody knew he had this power. After the other birds had finished working on the king’s farm, they went to tell the king to come and see for himself. While they were away, Unechi came and sang his magical song.
The Unechi Song.
The king called all birds;
The big and small he called;
To clear his farmland;
I was sent back home because of my size;
I command the weeds to overgrow the farmland;
And grow into thick bush.
The weed grew immediately into a thick bush. When Inomi Oba got to the farm, he was very angry and thought the other birds had deceived him. The fowl begged him to allow them to clear it again, after explaining to him that they were all surprised to see the farmland grown again. The king then put the hawk in charge to watch over the farmland. Unechi came and sang the song again when they had all left. The magical song made the hawk to dance away. He then ran to tell the king that “the ghost came again, and your farm is overgrown with weeds”, but was unable to say how it happened.
The fowl told the king, “The cat could do it. He is brave, fast, and has sharp claws.” The other birds chorused, “Yes, he could.” The king ordered that the cat be called. He then sent the cat to look over his farm after the other birds had cleared it again. Unechi came after they had all gone home but the cat hid itself and kept watch over the farm.
Unechi started his song but the cat was not charmed. He saw everything and jumped on Unechi. Unechi begged the cat to let him go but the cat refused. The cat was hungry and killed Unechi.
So that all animals can live in harmony in the animal kingdom, an agreement has been made that any other specie of anymal that killed the other should be killed too, now the cat has killed one of birds.
When the cat has finished the meat and went back to tell the king that it was Unechi that had been causing him trouble. When the king asked for Unechi, he said he had killed him. The king asked for the body but he could not show it either. The king got angry and the cat was smart to know that the king wanted to kill him too for not showing him respect through his action and for breaking the animal’s kingdom rules. This forced the cat to escape from the bush to the town, where he started living in the house among human beings..
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