South African Folk Tale
by James A. Honey
The birds wanted a king. Men have
a king, so have animals, and why
shouldn't they? All had assembled.
"The Ostrich, because he is the largest," one
"No, he can't fly."
"Eagle, on account of his strength."
"Not he, he is too ugly."
"Vulture, because he can fly the highest."
"No, Vulture is too dirty, his odor is terrible."
"Peacock, he is so beautiful."
"His feet are too ugly, and also his voice."
"Owl, because he can see well."
"Not Owl, he is ashamed of the light."
And so they got no further. Then one
shouted aloud, "He who can fly the highest will
be king." "Yes, yes," they all screamed, and
at a given signal they all ascended straight up
into the sky.
Vulture flew for three whole days without
stopping, straight toward the sun. Then he
cried aloud, "I am the highest, I am king."
"T-sie, t-sie, t-sie," he heard above him.
There Tink-tinkje was flying. He had held fast
to one of the great wing feathers of Vulture,
and had never been felt, he was so light. "T-sie,
t-sie, t-sie, I am the highest, I am king," piped
Vulture flew for another day still ascending.
"I am highest, I am king."
"T-sie, t-sie, t-sie, I am the highest, I am
king," Tink-tinkje mocked. There he was
again, having crept out from under the wing of
Vulture flew on the fifth day straight up in
the air. "I am the highest, I am king," he
"T-sie, t-sie, t-sie," piped the little fellow
above him. "I am the highest, I am king."
Vulture was tired and now flew direct to
earth. The other birds were mad through and
through. Tink-tinkje must die because he had
taken advantage of Vulture's feathers and there
hidden himself. All flew after him and he had
to take refuge in a mouse hole. But how were
they to get him out? Some one must stand
guard to seize him the moment he put out his
"Owl must keep guard; he has the largest
eyes; he can see well," they exclaimed.
Owl went and took up his position before
the hole. The sun was warm and soon Owl became
sleepy and presently he was fast asleep.
Tink-tinkje peeped, saw that Owl was asleep,
and z-zip away he went. Shortly afterwards
the other birds came to see if Tink-tinkje were
still in the hole. "T-sie, t-sie," they heard in
a tree; and there the little vagabond was sitting.
White-crow, perfectly disgusted, turned
around and exclaimed, "Now I won't say a single
word more." And from that day to this White-crow
has never spoken. Even though you strike
him, he makes no sound, he utters no cry.