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Africa Igbo culture

Dialogue 6: Ancient Folklore Rivalries

Ancient Folklore Rivalries

Storyteller: Otii!

Audience: Oyoo!

Storyteller: Otii!!

Audience: Oyoo!!

Storyteller: Today we will examine an incident that led to two friends becoming the world’s example of bitter rivalry.

Oral folklore from ancient times has long been reported in several narratives that happened between the cat and rat. Indeed, in modern times, it is even portrayed in cinema. I’m sure the cartoon and movie, Tom and Jerry ring a bell to many households. Whether our oral traditions were right or not, you will agree that this rivalry didn’t start today.

Other stories demonstrating epic rivalries include the hawk and the hen, the lion pride and herd of buffaloes, etc. This also depicts the human nature of holding grudges over long periods.

In Igbo oral traditions, this is perhaps the most well-documented rivalry that existed in the ancient animal kingdom tales.

Below is one of those stories narrating the origin of this rivalry. Have fun. Ifochakpi!

Audience: Waa!!

The Cat & The Rat

In ancient times, when the land was blind, the rat and cat were friends. They lived together and sometimes traveled together to other lands to see their friends and family. They were so close that people mistake them for siblings.

The day for the festival came in the land and the two decorated their mud hut with nzu (clay) and unyi (charcoal) to welcome visitors. They replaced the roof with fresh raffia palm leaves and they rested from the tedious work. While they were resting they thought about the food to prepare for their guests.

‘It must be a delicious meal!’ The cat offered.

‘Indeed, let’s prepare the soup e richaa e chefuo uwa’ (eat and forget the world) the rat replied. They agreed to contribute ingredients for the soup. To make this soup tasty as its name, the rat promised to go into town to steal from the old woman’s spice basket and the cat decided to kill a fowl in the barn house down the village road.

In no time the firewood was roaring with flames and the soup pot gathered steam. (I’m going to tell you how the pot and fire sang: gwarara gwada, gwarara gwada!)

The two friends started salivating when the smell of soup went all over the compound and they started wondering if the soup will ever be ready. They started praying for the soup to be ready. Their prayers were answered and in a few minutes, the soup was done. To let the soup get warm they decided to take a stroll.

On their way, the only thing in the rats mind was the delicious pot of soup. He was greedy and started thinking about what he will do with that pot of soup. It was not long when an idea came to him.

‘Ewoo! Ewoo!!’ The rat screamed. The cat asked why he was screaming. ‘I forgot my smoking pipe!’ The rat retorted. He begged the cat to let him go and fetch it. The cat refused but the rat won’t relent. He continued begging and the cat warned him to fetch it and return at once.

When the rat got back to the hut, he jumped on the pot and started eating the soup as fast as he could. While he was eating the soup and struggling with the pot, it fell over and trapped him. So he was shivering thinking of how angry the cat will be if he finds out. Meanwhile, he kept chewing on the pieces of fish and meat that fell on the floor.

The cat became impatient and ran home to look for the rat. When he arrived he saw the pot upturned. ‘Ewoo! What happened to our soup! The cat yelled and started calling the rat but he didn’t answer.

Slowly, the cat lifted the pot and likes lightning, the rat took off, out of the hut and into the bush. The cat went in pursuit but the rat was fast and escaped into a hole. Since that day, the cat vowed to kill rats wherever it finds them. It’s because of bad behavior that cats kill rats.

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