The Black Hunter and the Doe
Le Chasseur Noir et la Biche
Ameyibo adelaa de kple dzoke le gbeme
pg. 114-117 of Contes et Légendes du Togo
A long time ago, the beasts spoke to and understood each other in a language all to the themselves.
A Man, hunter by trade, master of the jungle, one day, went on a hunt in a forest that he knew was full of prey. But on this day, the jungle resembled a cemetery: not one trace of its inhabitants, not one movement. Even the charming turtledove did not cheer him with his warbling melodic voice. The Hunter traveled up and down the jungle all in vain.
He was alarmed. What to do? Leave? But to leave empty-handed would have lessened him in the eyes of his tribe. In those long ago times, prey was so plentiful that a hunger never came back from the hunt without a hefty load to feed the tribe.
After having scoured every nook and cranny of the jungle, still in search of prey, be it ever so small, and then resigning himself to return home empty-handed, the Hunter saw a Doe, who had stopped neatly in front of him. As soon as he saw the animal, he raised his gun.
“Hunter,” said the Doe, “don’t shoot.”
The Hunter couldn’t believe his ears. Even though he trembled to hear an animal talk, he pretended deafness and decided to shoot.
“Hunter,” the prey said again, “Don’t shoot. Listen Hunter” she continued, “If you grant me my life, I will give you a great gift; I will confer upon you a marvelous power that your descendants will inherit. Listen, we animals, domestic as well as savage, we speak. We have out own language to ourselves. Don’t kill me and I will do something for you that will permit you to understand our language; you may have need of it some day.”
“Is it possible,” the Hunter murmured to himself, “that an animal possesses the power of speech?”
Addressing himself to the animal, he said, “That you are gifted with speech, that you possess a marvelous power, I don’t care. I will kill you and eat you with great satisfaction.”
“Don’t kill me, I beg of you,” the Doe pleaded with such frailty and tenderness that the Hunter renounced his plan.
“Doe” called the Hunter “I will not kill you. Now give me your gift.”
The animal knelt down before the Hunter and thanked him graciously.
The Doe, after this gesture of gratitude, plucked an herb, pressed it between her hooves and put excreted juice on the ears and mouth of the hunter, who immediately began to understand and speak the language of the animals.
Then she said to the man:
“Take this herb: guard it jealously; with this you will cure all illnesses.”
The Hunter became known far and wide as a great healer.
This is why, according to fable, Blacks know many medicinal plants and understand and speak many foreign languages.
From Paul Akakpo TYPAMM