THE JUDGMENT OF BABOON
South African Folk Tale
by James A. Honey
One day, it is said, the following story
Mouse had torn the clothes of
Itkler (the tailor), who then went to Baboon,
and accused Mouse with these words:
"In this manner I come to thee: Mouse has
torn my clothes, but will not know anything
of it, and accuses Cat; Cat protests likewise her
innocence, and says, 'Dog must have done it';
but Dog denies it also, and declares Wood has
done it; and Wood throws the blame on Fire,
and says, 'Fire did it'; Fire says, 'I have not,
Water did it'; Water says, 'Elephant tore the
clothes'; and Elephant says, 'Ant tore them.'
Thus a dispute has arisen among them. Therefore,
I, Itkler, come to thee with this proposition:
Assemble the people and try them in order
that I may get satisfaction."
Thus he spake, and Baboon assembled them
for trial. Then they made the same excuses
which had been mentioned by Itkler, each one
putting the blame upon the other.
So Baboon did not see any other way of
punishing them, save through making them punish
each other; he therefore said,
"Mouse, give Itkler satisfaction."
Mouse, however, pleaded not guilty. But
Baboon said, "Cat, bite Mouse." She did so.
He then put the same question to Cat, and
when she exculpated herself, Baboon called to
Dog, "Here, bite Cat."
In this manner Baboon questioned them all,
one after the other, but they each denied the
charge. Then he addressed the following words
to them, and said,
"Wood, beat Dog.
Fire, burn Wood.
Water, quench Fire.
Elephant, drink Water.
Ant, bite Elephant in his most tender parts."
They did so, and since that day they cannot
any longer agree with each other.
Ant enters into Elephant's most tender parts
and bites him.
Elephant swallows Water.
Water quenches Fire.
Fire consumes Wood.
Wood beats Dog.
Dog bites Cat.
And Cat bites Mouse.
Through this judgment Itkler got satisfaction
and addressed Baboon in the following
"Yes! Now I am content, since I have received
satisfaction, and with all my heart I thank
thee, Baboon, because thou hast exercised justice
on my behalf and given me redress."
Then Baboon said, "From to-day I will not
any longer be called Jan, but Baboon shall be
Since that time Baboon walks on all fours,
having probably lost the privilege of walking
erect through this foolish judgment.