The Lion’s Bride

One day a very handsome young man comes to a certain kraal and asks the parents if he could marry their daughter. They don’t like him, saying that they don’t know where he comes from. But the daughter is so taken by his beauty and strength and she pleads with such passion that they give in and allow them to wed.

After the wedding, she leaves with her new husband – his name was Kambunde to go to his house. As they come near the new kraal, she hears a terrible roaring and she sees that the inhabitants there are lions. Her husband turns out to be a lion too and she turns around to run away, but he shouts: “Come!”. She cries bitterly, but enters the village by his side. The lion’s sisters come to console her saying that, as the Lion’s Bride, she will always have more meat to eat than what the people could ever give her. But she continues to cry and she still wants to run away.

Now, because she is always sad and never high of spirits, Kambunde grows angry and weary of her and he takes her away to a cave. He carries her across a river and over rocks and boulders to a narrow valley in the mountains. As they get there, the woman sees piles of dry bones and skeletal remains strewn everywhere. Now she is very scared, but Kambunde says: “Don’t be afraid. These are just the bones left here by the hyenas after feeding.” And Kambunde leaves her there.

All by herself, she explores the cave and far into the darkness at the very back she finds a skeleton – an old woman. The skeleton speaks to her: How did you come to be here, poor child? I am Kambunde’s grandmother. They treated me just like they are treating you now.” The woman begins to shiver and weep. “Oh, Granndmother, please help me”.

“Yes, I’ll help you” she says. “Take this flea. Sit on it and say: ‘Hurry, hurry my dear elephant’. But you may not doubt for one moment what you are saying and you may not laugh under any circumstances.” The young woman promises to do exactly as instructed. She sits on the flea and it carries her off like an elephant.

But as they ride out of the narrow valley where the cave is, the hyenas come out laughing incessantly: “You will never get out of here, hehehehe!” She can’t help herself and she too starts laughing. Instantly, she finds herself back inside the cave.

The old woman is angry, but the younger woman cries and pleads with her so that she feels sorry for her and gives her another flea. She sits on it and say again: “Hurry, hurry my dear elephant” and the flea carries her away. Again the hyenas come out just as she gets to the edge of the valley and again they laugh unceasingly. Again the foolish young woman cannot help herself and she bursts out laughing. Again the enchantment is broken and she returns to the cave.

This time the old woman is very sad. “I only had three fleas and this is my last one. If you laugh again, you will be lost forever”. This time the young woman clenched her jaw and bit her toungue so that she doesn’t laugh. The hyenas cajole and try their best, but she stays serious.

A little while later, Kambunde comes to the cave and he calls: “Come out wife. I can’t see you. It is your husband Kambunde calling you” but there is no answer. Then he gets angry and he turns to the grandmother: “you probably gave her one of your fleas didn’t you?” The old woman gets angry too: “There are no fleas here, only dead bones.”

Kambunde cals the other lions and they quickly pick up the trail left by the fleeing woman. As they come closer hot on her heels, she calls again: “Hurry, hurry my dear elephant”. The elephant grows larger and creates a big river behind them.  The lions are washed away by the flood – all except Kambunde. He makes it to the other side.

Just as he is about to catch up to them, the elephant creates another river, even bigger than the previous one and the lion is left stranded on the other side. He cannot cross.

In the meantime, the elephant arrives with the woman on his back at the home of her parents. He remains a real elephant and he us given many watermelons as a reward.

Kambunde finally manages to cross the river and he sneaks into the yard through the gate of the cattle enclosure. The woman sees him and runs along the wooden fence where all the tools are kept. She stubs her toe against an old hand plough and her blood drips onto the ground. All of a sudden the hand plough disappears and in its place stands an old woman: “Don’t worry my child, I am here to help you,” she says. In an instant the old woman turns into a large tree so that Kambunde is unable to pass. There was smoke and flames and Kambunde burnsto ashes.

Finally the young woman is safe and she and her family can continue living in peace. This all happened long ago and the story remains.



Clever Elsie – a story about what happens when you over think things and under act…

A Brothers Grimm Fairy tale.

I love this story because it rattles me every time – or shall I say ‘rings my bells’.

There was once a man who had a daughter who was called Clever Elsie. And when she had grown up her father said: ’We will get her married.’ ’Yes,’ said the mother, ’if only someone would come who would have her.’

At length a man came from a distance and wooed her, who was called Hans; but he stipulated that Clever Elsie should be really smart. ’Oh,’ said the father, ’she has plenty of good sense’; and the mother said: ’Oh, she can see the wind coming up the street, and hear the flies coughing.’ ’Well,’ said Hans, ’if she is not really smart, I won’t have her.’ When they were sitting at dinner and had eaten, the mother said: ’Elsie, go into the cellar and fetch some beer.’ Then Clever Elsie took the pitcher from the wall, went into the cellar, and tapped the lid briskly as she went, so that the time might not appear long. When she was below she fetched herself a chair, and set it before the barrel so that she had no need to stoop, and did not hurt her back or do herself any unexpected injury. Then she placed the can before her, and turned the tap, and while the beer was running she would not let her eyes be idle, but looked up at the wall, and after much peering here and there, saw a pick-axe exactly above her, which the masons had accidentally left there.

Then Clever Elsie began to weep and said: ’If I get Hans, and we have a child, and he grows big, and we send him into the cellar here to draw beer, then the pick-axe will fall on his head and kill him.’ Then she sat and wept and screamed with all the strength of her body, over the misfortune which lay before her. Those upstairs waited for the drink, but Clever Elsie still did not come. Then the woman said to the servant: ’Just go down into the cellar and see where Elsie is.’ The maid went and found her sitting in front of the barrel, screaming loudly. ’Elsie why do you weep?’ asked the maid. ’Ah,’ she answered, ’have I not reason to weep? If I get Hans, and we have a child, and he grows big, and has to draw beer here, the pick-axe will perhaps fall on his head, and kill him.’ Then said the maid: ’What a clever Elsie we have!’ and sat down beside her and began loudly to weep over the misfortune. After a while, as the maid did not come back, and those upstairs were thirsty for the beer, the man said to the boy: ’Just go down into the cellar and see where Elsie and the girl are.’ The boy went down, and there sat Clever Elsie and the girl both weeping together. Then he asked: ’Why are you weeping?’ ’Ah,’ said Elsie, ’have I not reason to weep? If I get Hans, and we have a child, and he grows big, and has to draw beer here, the pick-axe will fall on his head and kill him.’ Then said the boy: ’What a clever Elsie we have!’ and sat down by her, and likewise began to howl loudly. Upstairs they waited for the boy, but as he still did not return, the man said to the woman: ’Just go down into the cellar and see where Elsie is!’ The woman went down, and found all three in the midst of their lamentations, and inquired what was the cause; then Elsie told her also that her future child was to be killed by the pick-axe, when it grew big and had to draw beer, and the pick-axe fell down. Then said the mother likewise: ’What a clever Elsie we have!’ and sat down and wept with them. The man upstairs waited a short time, but as his wife did not come back and his thirst grew ever greater, he said: ’I must go into the cellar myself and see where Elsie is.’ But when he got into the cellar, and they were all sitting together crying, and he heard the reason, and that Elsie’s child was the cause, and the Elsie might perhaps bring one into the world some day, and that he might be killed by the pick-axe, if he should happen to be sitting beneath it, drawing beer just at the very time when it fell down, he cried: ’Oh, what a clever Elsie!’ and sat down, and likewise wept with them.

The bridegroom stayed upstairs alone for along time; then as no one would come back he thought: ’They must be waiting for me below: I too must go there and see what they are about.’ When he got down, the five of them were sitting screaming and lamenting quite piteously, each out- doing the other. ’What misfortune has happened then?’ asked he. ’Ah, dear Hans,’ said Elsie, ’if we marry each other and have a child, and he is big, and we perhaps send him here to draw something to drink, then the pick-axe which has been left up there might dash his brains out if it were to fall down, so have we not reason to weep?’ ’Come,’ said Hans, ’more understanding than that is not needed for my household, as you are such a clever Elsie, I will have you,’ and seized her hand, took her upstairs with him, and married her.

After Hans had had her some time, he said: ’Wife, I am going out to work and earn some money for us; go into the field and cut the corn that we may have some bread.’ ’Yes, dear Hans, I will do that.’ After Hans had gone away, she cooked herself some good broth and took it into the field with her. When she came to the field she said to herself: ’What shall I do; shall I cut first, or shall I eat first? Oh, I will eat first.’ Then she drank her cup of broth and when she was fully satisfied, she once more said: ’What shall I do? Shall I cut first, or shall I sleep first? I will sleep first.’ Then she lay down among the corn and fell asleep.

Hans had been at home for a long time, but Elsie did not come; then said he: ’What a clever Elsie I have; she is so industrious that she does not even come home to eat.’

But when evening came and she still stayed away, Hans went out to see what she had cut, but nothing was cut, and she was lying among the corn asleep. Then Hans hastened home and brought a fowler’s net with little bells and hung it round about her, and she still went on sleeping. Then he ran home, shut the house-door, and sat down in his chair and worked.

At length, when it was quite dark, Clever Elsie awoke and when she got up there was a jingling all round about her, and the bells rang at each step which she took. Then she was alarmed, and became uncertain whether she really was Clever Elsie or not, and said: ’Is it I, or is it not I?’ But she knew not what answer to make to this, and stood for a time in doubt; at length she thought: ’I will go home and ask if it be I, or if it be not I, they will be sure to know.’

She ran to the door of her own house, but it was shut; then she knocked at the window and cried: ’Hans, is Elsie within?’ ’Yes,’ answered Hans, ’she is within.’ Hereupon she was terrified, and said: ’Ah, heavens! Then it is not I,’ and went to another door; but when the people heard the jingling of the bells they would not open it, and she could get in nowhere. Then she ran out of the village, and no one has seen her since.

The Rose

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

There was once a poor woman who had two children. The youngest had to go every day into the forest to fetch wood. Once when she had gone a long way to seek it, a little child, who was quite strong, came and helped her industriously to pick up the wood and carry it home, and then before a moment had passed the strange child disappeared. The child told her mother this, but at first she would not believe it. At length she brought a rose home, and told her mother that the beautiful child had given her this rose, and had told her that when it was in full bloom, he would return. The mother put the rose in water. One morning her child could not get out of bed. The mother went to the bed and found her dead, but she lay looking very happy. On the same morning, the rose was in full bloom.