THE DANCE FOR WATER OR
South African Folk Tale
by James A. Honey
There was a frightful drought. The
rivers after a while dried up and even
the springs gave no water.
The animals wandered around seeking drink,
but to no avail. Nowhere was water to be found.
A great gathering of animals was held: Lion,
Tiger, Wolf, Jackal, Elephant, all of them came
together. What was to be done? That was the
question. One had this plan, and another had
that; but no plan seemed of value.
Finally one of them suggested: "Come, let all
of us go to the dry river bed and dance; in that
way we can tread out the water."
Good! Everyone was satisfied and ready to
begin instantly, excepting Rabbit, who said, "I
will not go and dance. All of you are mad to
attempt to get water from the ground by dancing."
The other animals danced and danced, and ultimately
danced the water to the surface. How
glad they were. Everyone drank as much as
he could, but Rabbit did not dance with them.
So it was decided that Rabbit should have no
He laughed at them: "I will nevertheless
drink some of your water."
That evening he proceeded leisurely to the
river bed where the dance had been, and drank
as much as he wanted. The following morning
the animals saw the footprints of Rabbit in the
ground, and Rabbit shouted to them: "Aha! I
did have some of the water, and it was most
refreshing and tasted fine."
Quickly all the animals were called together.
What were they to do? How were they to get
Rabbit in their hands? All had some means to
propose; the one suggested this, and the other
Finally old Tortoise moved slowly forward,
foot by foot: "I will catch Rabbit."
"You? How? What do you think of yourself?"
shouted the others in unison.
"Rub my shell with pitch, and I will go to
the edge of the water and lie down. I will then
resemble a stone, so that when Rabbit steps on
me his feet will stick fast."
"Yes! Yes! That's good."
And in a one, two, three, Tortoise's shell was
covered with pitch, and foot by foot he moved
away to the river. At the edge, close to the
water, he lay down and drew his head into his
Rabbit during the evening came to get a
drink. "Ha!" he chuckled sarcastically, "they
are, after all, quite decent. Here they have
placed a stone, so now I need not unnecessarily
wet my feet."
Rabbit trod with his left foot on the stone,
and there it stuck. Tortoise then put his head
out. "Ha! old Tortoise! And it's you, is it,
that's holding me. But here I still have another
foot. I'll give you a good clout." Rabbit gave
Tortoise what he said he would with his right
fore foot, hard and straight; and there his foot
"I have yet a hind foot, and with it I'll kick
you." Rabbit drove his hind foot down. This
also rested on Tortoise where it struck.
"But still another foot remains, and now I'll
tread you." He stamped his foot down, but it
stuck like the others.
He used his head to hammer Tortoise, and his
tail as a whip, but both met the same fate as
his feet, so there he was tight and fast down to
Tortoise now slowly turned himself round and
foot by foot started for the other animals, with
Rabbit on his back.
"Ha! ha! ha! Rabbit! How does it look
now? Insolence does not pay after all," shouted
Now advice was sought. What should they
do with Rabbit? He certainly must die. But
how? One said, "Behead him"; another,
"Some severe penalty."
"Rabbit, how are we to kill you?"
"It does not affect me," Rabbit said. "Only
a shameful death please do not pronounce."
"And what is that?" they all shouted.
"To take me by my tail and dash my head
against a stone; that I pray and beseech you
"No, but just so you'll die. That is decided."
It was decided Rabbit should die by taking
him by his tail and dashing his head to pieces
against some stone. But who is to do it?
Lion, because he is the most powerful one.
Good! Lion should do it. He stood up,
walked to the front, and poor Rabbit was
brought to him. Rabbit pleaded and beseeched
that he couldn't die such a miserable death.
Lion took Rabbit firmly by the tail and
swung him around. The white skin slipped off
from Rabbit, and there Lion stood with the
white bit of skin and hair in his paw. Rabbit