THE MONKEY'S FIDDLE
South African Folk Tale
by James A. Honey
Hunger and want forced Monkey one
day to forsake his land and to seek
elsewhere among strangers for much-needed
work. Bulbs, earth beans, scorpions, insects,
and such things were completely exhausted
in his own land. But fortunately he received,
for the time being, shelter with a great uncle of
his, Orang Outang, who lived in another part
of the country.
When he had worked for quite a while he
wanted to return home, and as recompense his
great uncle gave him a fiddle and a bow and
arrow and told him that with the bow and arrow
he could hit and kill anything he desired,
and with the fiddle he could force anything to
The first he met upon his return to his own
land was Brer Wolf. This old fellow told him
all the news and also that he had since early
morning been attempting to stalk a deer, but all
Then Monkey laid before him all the wonders
of the bow and arrow that he carried on
his back and assured him if he could but see
the deer he would bring it down for him. When
Wolf showed him the deer, Monkey was ready
and down fell the deer.
They made a good meal together, but instead
of Wolf being thankful, jealousy overmastered
him and he begged for the bow and arrow.
When Monkey refused to give it to him, he
thereupon began to threaten him with his greater
strength, and so when Jackal passed by, Wolf
told him that Monkey had stolen his bow and
arrow. After Jackal had heard both of them,
he declared himself unqualified to settle the
case alone, and he proposed that they bring
the matter to the court of Lion, Tiger, and the
other animals. In the meantime he declared he
would take possession of what had been the
cause of their quarrel, so that it would be safe,
as he said. But he immediately brought to
earth all that was eatable, so there was a long
time of slaughter before Monkey and Wolf
agreed to have the affair in court.
Monkey's evidence was weak, and to make it
worse, Jackal's testimony was against him.
Jackal thought that in this way it would be
easier to obtain the bow and arrow from Wolf
And so fell the sentence against Monkey.
Theft was looked upon as a great wrong; he
The fiddle was still at his side, and he received
as a last favor from the court the right to play
a tune on it.
He was a master player of his time, and in
addition to this came the wonderful power of
his charmed fiddle. Thus, when he struck the
first note of "Cockcrow" upon it, the court
began at once to show an unusual and spontaneous
liveliness, and before he came to the
first waltzing turn of the old tune the whole
court was dancing like a whirlwind.
Over and over, quicker and quicker, sounded
the tune of "Cockcrow" on the charmed fiddle,
until some of the dancers, exhausted, fell down,
although still keeping their feet in motion. But
Monkey, musician as he was, heard and saw
nothing of what had happened around him.
With his head placed lovingly against the instrument,
and his eyes half closed, he played
on, keeping time ever with his foot.
Wolf was the first to cry out in pleading tones
breathlessly, "Please stop, Cousin Monkey!
For love's sake, please stop!"
But Monkey did not even hear him. Over and
over sounded the resistless waltz of "Cockcrow."
After a while Lion showed signs of fatigue,
and when he had gone the round once more with
his young lion wife, he growled as he passed
Monkey, "My whole kingdom is yours, ape, if
you just stop playing."
"I do not want it," answered Monkey, "but
withdraw the sentence and give me my bow and
arrow, and you, Wolf, acknowledge that you
stole it from me."
"I acknowledge, I acknowledge!" cried Wolf,
while Lion cried, at the same instant, that he
withdrew the sentence.
Monkey gave them just a few more turns
of the "Cockcrow," gathered up his bow and
arrow, and seated himself high up in the nearest
camel thorn tree.
The court and other animals were so afraid
that he might begin again that they hastily disbanded
to new parts of the world.