This tale is taken from our book of tales, ‘Once upon a time in Niger’. You can order it from our shop.

The Animal Fight.

Time was when animals used to wrestle. After harvest, as custom required, a fight was organised in every village. Griot Dadaya’s big tom tom boomed through the packed arena. He sang the praises of Damo, the iguana, whose name means ‘slapped mouth’. He said :

  • Kai Damon da ke, abokin sure de daudawa (bis), that’s to say: You, slapped mouth, friend of sorrel and of Soumbala.

Thereupon slapped mouth started inflating and deflating, his tail raised high over the crowd. Seeing Damo inflating and deflating, Guizo Guizo, the spider, decided to challenge him and put an end to his bragging. Suddenly, a great cry shook the crowd. It was Damo, shouting :

  • Hey, you ribcage out the spider! Find your true match, for I shall crush you.

    And Damo kept bellowing.

There were in the audience some who thought the contest was unfair, and they spoke out, but others wanted the rivals to fight it out , saying : ‘the loser will learn to challenge his equal.’ The two contenders entered the ring. A whistle blew the start of the fight.

Everyone held their breath. Fighting tooth and nail, the two wrestlers put up an appalling show. Damo, the slapped face, tried as best he could to crush the spider. Nimbly, the spider climbed on to Damo’s back. Opinions differed, some claimed Damo’s victory, others the spider’s. The outcome was uncertain, so they were persuaded to resume the fight. It went on, and once again, quick as lightning, the spider climbed on to Damo’s back, and he struggled vainly to shake his attacker off. Nevertheless, Damo’s supporters demanded one more fight. And once again, it was the spider who came out victorious.

It was then that, from the top of the stands, Kurciya the turtle-dove said to Shaho the hawk :

  • I shall fight you, for I have just witnessed the spider’s exploit over Damo.

Hearing that, some cried : ‘Ba’a san ma ci tuwo ba sai in miya ta ‘kare’, in other words : ‘When there is no sauce left with the gruel the big eater reveals himself.’

Shortly after, the fight started. In a single stab, the hawk’s beak crushed the turtle-dove’s neck. Choking, the turtle-dove was barely heard to whisper:
- This fight is to be stopped at once ; it is dangerous and unfair. (bis)
The contest was stopped, but the turtle-dove’s neck had been broken, and she eventually died.
Thus spoke the hawk :

  • You mocked me direly, turtle-dove. This will teach you a lesson!

The moral of the story is that one must respect one’s neighbour, and everyone has to determine who is their match.

Issakitchi school.

Story-teller : Widow Gaya Ma’keri.

Student group : Abdou-Rahamane Soba, Assoumane Bawa, Nourou Boubacar, Moumouni Hassane, Nourou Hassan, Idi Saidou.

Person in charge : Mr Karimou Issa, School director.

Il était une fois au Niger