The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 7/A South African Red Riding Hood

The Folk-Lore Journal, Volume 7
A South African Red Riding Hood


THE following Bechuana tale has some points of likeness to the story of Little Red Riding-Hood. It was taken down by MM. Arbousset et Daumas (Voyage d'Exploration au Nord-est de la Colonie du Cap de Bonne Espérance. Paris, 1842. P. 119, sqq.)

A man had a daughter called Tsélané. One day he set off with a his family and his flocks to seek fresh pastures. But his daughter would not go with him. She said to her mother, "I won't go. Our house is so pretty, with the white and red beads, that I can't leave it." Her mother said, "My child, since you are naughty, you may stay here all alone, but shut the door fast, in case the Marimos"—a tribe of cannibals—"come and eat you." With that she went away. But in a few days she came back, bringing food for her daughter. "Tsélané, my child, Tsélané, my child, take this bread, and eat it." "I hear my mother, I hear. My mother speaks like an ataga bird, like the tsuere coming out of the wood." For a long while the mother used thus to bring food to Tsélané. One day Tsélané heard a gruff voice saying, "Tsélané, my child, Tsélané, my child, take this bread and eat it." But she laughed and said, "That gruff voice is not my mother's voice; go away, naughty Marimo." The Marimo went away. He lit a big fire, took an iron hoe, made it red hot, and swallowed it to clear his voice. Then he came back and tried to beguile Tsélané again. But he could not, for his voice was still not soft enough. So he went and heated another hoe, and swallowed it red hot like the first. Then he came back and said in a still small voice, "Tsélané, my child, Tsélané, my chee-ild, take this bread and eat it." She thought it was her mother's voice, and opened the door. The Marimo put her in his bag and walked off. Soon he felt thirsty, and, leaving his bag to the care of some little girls, went to get some beer in a village. The girls, peeping into the bag, saw Tsélané in it, and ran to tell her mother, who happened to be near. The mother let her daughter out of the bag, and stuffed it instead with a dog, scorpions, vipers, bits of broken pots, and stones. When the Marimo got home with his bag and opened it, meaning to cook and eat Tsélané, the dog and the vipers bit him, the scorpions stung him, the potsherds wounded him, and the stones bruised him. He rushed out, threw himself into a mud-heap, and was changed into a tree, in whose bark the bees made honey, and in spring the young girls came and gathered the honey to make honey-cakes.

J. G. Frazer.