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sahel: folklore

Fulani tales featuring trickster hares are popular throughout West Africa. To survive in the Sahel, the hare thinks like a human. He relies on his cunning and speed to outwit larger and more stupid animals. Sometimes his practical jokes lead to harsh punishment, sometimes not. Transported to the U.S. by slaves, these stories provided the foundation for the Brer Rabbit and Uncle Remus yarns.

Hare the Thief

nce upon a time, animals tended farms like humans. They harvested grain and stored it in huts. One year, after safely storing their grain, the animals set out to graze their cattle during the dry season. Hare pretended to leave, too. But, instead, he returned to the grain huts and ate his fill. By the time the other animals returned, there was no grain left. Hyena suggested that they use the moon to show them the culprit. It is well known that the moon sees everything, so the animal on which the moon first shined would be guilty. That night, Hare said he was suffering from aching muscles and asked Squirrel to sleep next to him to turn him over. He was, of course, worried that the moon would shine on him first. So he lay awake, watching for its beams. The moon did, in fact, shine on Hare, but he got up and walked away, so that only Squirrel lay in its light. Then, stretching and yawning, he pointed to Squirrel. “There’s your culprit!,” he shouted. And the other animals pounced on Squirrel and tore him to shreds.

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