The boy who left his family cattle behind

James Moiloa

James Moiloa

Long, long ago, there was a boywho left his family cattle behind.

He had always done so, because he did not want to leave the forest. One day he stumbled upon a lion. On seeing him, the lion pounced. It roared so loud the sound was heard far away.

The cattle stopped grazing and sniffed with their noses in the air, and immediately got a whiff of the lion. Even the people had heard that sound and they knew that it was the roar of the lion.

They were not surprised to see the cattle running towards the village with their tails up, gathering at their usual place. But they were more shocked to see the cows were minus their herdboy.

All the villagers went to sleep without the boy who left his family cattle behind not coming home. Very early in the morning, a man raised alarm in the middle of the village, crying:

"Please! Cows have left the boy who left his family cattle behind in the forest. What do you say about this? You heard yesterday when the lion roared and the earth shook and trembled."

Men went out, running all around, carrying their spears, looking for the boy who left his family cattle behind. When they came close to the forest, they saw a small hat and picked it up. Further into the forest, they found his torn shirt; its sleeve left hanging on the thorn tree.

The search for the lion was conducted everywhere in the veld, but it was all in vain. When they arrived home with his torn clothes, his relatives cried bitterly. They did not find the lion, it might have hidden itself somewhere. But, what about the boy who left his family cattle behind? It appeared that he was nowhere to be found.

What can we say? What has happened is done. But the boy who left his family cattle behind was not a fool.

As soon as the lion attacked him, coming at him with gnashing teeth, he threw his hat on its feet, and ran, very fast, into the forest.

When the lion realised that the hat had no human life, it dropped the hat and pursued the boy into the forest. At that time, when the lion was shaking the rag, he had already hidden behind a thorn tree, where he hung his shirt.

When he saw the lion flinging itself on the shirt, he ran ahead, deeper into the forest.

The lion fought to bring down the shirt from the thorn tree, pulling it apart, and the thorns of the tree caused it much pain. Thinking that it was the boy who left his family cattle behind fighting so strongly, it became fierce, trying to pull the shirt apart. The thorns of the tree pierced its nails, paws and it growled in pain, like a dog.

l This is an extract of the translation of James Jantjies Moiloa's Ditshomo, Sesotho for folk tales. Moiloa, pictured, is one of the 43 writers honoured through the South African Literary Awards between 2005 and 2007. Samples of their work appear in Band of Troubadours. It was launched by Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan in Joburg in December 2008. The award is a nation-building partnership project of the national arts and culture department, Sowetan, wRite Associates and Nutrend Publishers.