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.