The Mouse and the Partridge
Narrated by Abebe Kebede
Once upon a time there was a partridge who lived in the forest. This partridge had many enemies both in the air and in the land. In the air, all the hawks and eagles would like to come down and eat her and her chicks, and on the ground the hyenas and all sorts of animals wanted to eat her. So she had to be very, very careful.
Now this partridge had many chicks and she taught them to hide all over the forest while she went looking for grain. So she would tell them to hide and not come out of hiding while she was away.
When she came back she had a certain way of calling to them. She would cluck and say, “My dear children who I am trying to feed by looking for grain during this hard time, where are you?”
And the chicks would answer in their childish voices, “We have stayed hidden when people have called, we have stayed hidden when the wind blew and now we are coming out to you, Mother.”
Now there was this hyena who always wanted to eat up the chicks and he didn’t know how he could find them. So one day he went up to the partridge, pretending to be her friend, and said, “Would you please teach me your language? I would like to speak like you?”
So she taught him her way of clucking.
So the next day the hyena came to the place where the chicks were hiding, and he called out in his gruff voice, “My children, who I am looking for grains for, and who I have brought up in difficult conditions, where are you my children?”
But the chicks realised that this wasn’t their mother’s voice so they still stayed in hiding.
So the next day, the hyena came back and this time he imitated the partridge’s voice, and he said, “My children, where are you? I have been looking for grains for you, and I am trying to bring you up in these hard times. Where are you my chicks?”
And the children, thinking that it was their mother, came out of hiding, and the hyena caught them all and ate them up. Then he sat, waiting for the mother partridge, to eat her up as well.
He sat waiting and waiting and finally when she came, he tried to pounce on her, but the partridge was very fast, and she ran away. The hyena chased her and the partridge ran. And the hyena chased her and the partridge ran and she ran, and she reached a lady who was scraping the stem of a false banana tree.
“Please, the hyena is going to eat me. Please hide me,” she pleaded to the woman.
“All right, hide over there under my utensils,” the lady said.
And the partridge hid herself.
Then a few minutes later the hyena came running up panting.
“Listen lady, listen. Have you seen the partridge?” he said.
“No, I haven’t,” the lady responded.
“Listen lady, I will gobble you up if you don’t tell me where you saw the partridge, I’ll chew you to bits. Now you’d better tell me where you saw the partridge.”
“Well rather than you attacking me, there is the partridge hiding under those pots,” the lady said.
The partridge ran out and continued to run and the hyena continued chasing her.
He chased her and he chased her until finally she came to an area where a mouse was threshing his grain.
“Please Mr. Mouse, save me, the hyena is about to eat me! If you save me I will be your wife, you can marry me," she said.
“All right,” said the mouse, “so you hide yourself, and I’ll respond when the hyena comes.”
So the hyena, after a few minutes came rushing up and said “Hey little mouse, have you seen my partridge?”
And the mouse just continued working.
And the hyena roared, “Hey little mouse, have you seen my partridge?”
And the mouse continued working, mumbling to himself, “Do you think I am your partridge’s keeper? Do you think I should look after your partridge?”
And he continued threshing and threshing.
“Listen mouse, you have got to be careful; unless you tell me I’ll gobble you up,” said the hyena.
But the mouse simply continued working. So the hyena pounced upon him and gobbled him up. But the little mouse sneaked away out of the hyena’s bottom, so again the hyena swallowed him up, and again the mouse sneaked out from his bottom. And this went on for a few times and the hyena became very, very angry. So because he didn’t want the mouse to escape, he went to stitch his anus closed.
In the meantime, the mouse went to the blacksmith and bought himself a sharp blade. So the hyena came back and he gobbled up the little mouse. So the mouse got in and, with his blade, he started slicing the hyena’s intestines.
“Little mouse come out, come out, I don’t want you any more,” said the hyena.
“How am I supposed to come out? One end is sewn up and the other end is a steep cliff I can’t climb,” the mouse said.
“No, it hurts, it is hurting!”
Slice, slice slicing through the intestines.
“Painful mouse come out, I don’t want you inside me,” the hyena said. “Which end am I supposed to come out? One end is sewn up and the other one is a steep cliff I can’t climb up,” said the mouse.
Slice, slice, slice! Then finally he sliced his way out of the hyena’s stomach and the hyena fell down and died.
So according to their agreement, the mouse married the partridge, then he told the partridge, “You go into the house and make me some porridge, and I’ll sit out in the sun and wax my body with butter, because that is what all warriors do after a great kill.”
So he sat in the sun and started applying butter to his body. Then he started boasting and singing, and singing the songs of victory.
And in the meantime an eagle was flying by, and the eagle saw this mouse sitting in the sun and boasting, so she swooped down upon him and carried him away.
“Listen Mr. Eagle, my type of mice are very bad if you eat us out in an open field,” the mouse said, “We should be eaten amongst big bushes or a tree with many branches.”
“Oh, really!” said the eagle, and she carried him up into a big tree with a lot of bushes, and the mouse slipped away and ran back to his wife.
And once again, he sat outside the hut, putting butter to his body and singing the songs of victory, because now he had not only killed the hyena, but he had also tricked the eagle.
However, a second eagle swooped down and picked him up.
“Listen, Mr. Eagle,” he said, “My type of mice, we cause a lot of problems when eaten on the fields, you should eat us amongst rocks.”
“Is that so?” the eagle said and carried him away to a rocky area, and once again the mouse escaped and came running back to the house. Again he sat in the sun and put butter on to his body.
Then the partridge called and said, “The porridge is ready, it is in the pot.”
“Oh really,” said the mouse, and he came running over, and he said, “Is the porridge enough, did you put in enough grains?”
And he tried to peek into the pot to see how much porridge there was. Unfortunately he slipped and fell into the pot, and died in the boiling water. Now this story shows us that a great hero can escape dangers and be caught out with something small and unexpected.
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