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Little Red and the Hungry Hyena

Listen to this timeless tale of a charming little girl who falls prey to a cunning hyena. Will she end up in his empty belly or is there yet hope for her to see another day?

Hadithi Afrika · Little Red and the Hungry Hyena

Long, long ago, in a village not far from here, there was a dear little girl who was loved by everyone, but adored most by her grandmother. Her grandmother loved to give her little precious gifts. Once she gave the little girl a hair bow made of fine red velvet. It suited her so well that she would wear it everywhere; soon everyone called her ‘Little Red’. One day her mother said to her: ‘Little Red, please come: here are some yams and a calabash of soured goat's milk; take them to your grandmother for she is ill and weak in bed, and they will give her strength. Set out before it gets too hot, and while you are on your way keep on the path, don't wander off or you may fall and break the calabash then your grandmother will have nothing to eat; and when you get to her house, do remember to say, “Good morning”, and avoid peeping into every corner before you do so.’ ‘Yes, mama. I will do as you say,’ said Little Red. Little Red's grandmother lived out in the forest, a short walk from the village, and just as Little Red entered the forest, a hyena met her. She did not know what a crafty creature he was so was not at all afraid of him. ‘Does it go well with you today, Little Red?,’ said he. ‘I am well, kind hyena. What of you?’ ‘So so,' he grumbled. 'To where are you headed so early?’ ‘To my grandmother’s.’ ‘And what do you have in your basket?’ 'Yams and soured goat's milk; my mum was at market yesterday and bought some nice thick yams for grandmother to make her strong.’ ‘And where does your grandmother live?’ ‘Not too far from here; her house stands under the three large guava trees; you surely must know it,’ replied Little Red. The hyena thought to himself: ‘What a tender little creature! She will make a tasty treat—much better than the old woman. I must act craftily, so as to catch them both.’ So he strolled briefly beside her then suddenly said: 'What pretty flowers are about here—look! Listen to how sweetly the little birds sing; you walk as though you were sadly on your way to school, while everything around you is so bright and cheerful.’ Little Red raised her eyes, and when she saw the sunbeams dancing here and there through the trees, and pretty flowers growing everywhere, she said: ‘Suppose I take grandmother a fresh bunch of flowers; Oh! that would really please her. It is early in the day and I can still get to her house in good time.’ "Now that's a delightful idea! Your grandmother would indeed be pleased," agreed the hyena. "You might want to start at that far end." And with that she ran off the path into the forest to look for flowers. Everywhere she picked one, she spied yet another even prettier farther on. On and on she kept going deeper and deeper into the forest. Meanwhile the hyena ran straight to grandmother’s house and knocked at the door. ‘Who is it?’ ‘Little Red,’ replied hyena trying his best to muffle his scratchy voice. ‘I have some lovely treats for you; please, open the door.’ Grandmother was no fool. Sensing danger, she quickly hid under the bed and silently prayed that Little Red was safe. Impatiently, hyena tried the door. It was open! He snuck in quietly and without saying a word went straight to grandmother’s bedroom. She was nowhere to be found. He could hear Little Red on her way singing ever so mightily. So he quickly put on grandmother's clothes, draped on a head scarf, drew the curtains then dived into her bed. When Little Red got to her grandmother's house she was surprised to find the door ajar and when she went in she had a strange feeling that she said to herself: ‘Oh dear! something doesn't feel right; usually I enjoy being here with grandmother but today I feel awful.’ She called out: ‘Good morning, grandmother,’ but received no reply; so she went to the bedroom and drew back the curtains. There lay grandmother with her head scarf pulled far over her face looking very strange. "Oh! grandmother," she said, "what hairy ears you have!" "The better to hear you with, my child," was the reply. "But, grandmother, what big eyes you have!" she said. ‘The better to see you with, my dear.’ ‘But, grandmother, what large hands you have!’ ‘The better to hug you with.’ ‘Oh! but, grandmother, what a terrible big mouth you have!’ ‘The better to eat you with!’ And scarcely had the hyena said this, than with one bound he was out of bed and gave her chase. Little Red screamed and ran to the kitchen and hid in the farthest corner of the tiniest cupboard. Hyena scratched and scuffed to get his dirty claws on her but he couldn't reach her. Seeing that he was defeated hyena bolted the door then lay down again in the bed to rest his mean head. He was soon fast asleep and began to snore very loudly. Grandmother's goatherd had just brought back the goats from the river when he heard the loud snores and thought to himself: ‘How very odd! I've never heard the old lady snoring so loudly! I must just see if she is ill.’ He tried the door and found it locked. He went round the house and peeped in through the window where he saw hyena sprawled across the bed in a deep sleep and grandmother trembling underneath. Hyena was so fast asleep that he didn't hear the goatherd burst open the door and march straight to the bedroom with his bow and arrow. 'Finally!' said he. "I have you just where I need you!" Just as he was about to fire an arrow, hyena stirred and with a loud cry jumped clean through the window leaving a large tuft of his fur clinging to the glass. He ran as far as his short legs could carry him but not before he got a good pinch from the goatherd's arrows. Then grandmother and Little Red emerged from where they were hiding. All three were so relieved because they knew they would never see the old hyena again. Grandmother warmed the tasty yams and served the soured goats milk and they all ate and celebrated. As for Little Red, she learned a valuable lesson. 'As long as I live I will never talk to strange animals again and I will always keep to the path.’ You would do well to do the same!

Next story: The Old Man and His Grandson