The Olofin & the Mice

A Famous Olofin, or Yoruba King, was once imprisoned by his enemies in a hut without any door or roof-opening, and left to die of starvation.

As he sat gloomily on the ground, the Olofin saw a little mouse running across the hut. He seized his knife, exclaiming: “Rather than die of hunger, I will eat this mouse!" But on second thought he put away his knife, saying: “Why should I kill the mouse? I shall starve later on just the same.”

To his surprise the mouse addressed him with the following words: “Noble King! Blessed be your generosity! You have spared my life, and in return I will save yours.”The mouse then disappeared into a hole in the ground, and returned some time afterwards followed by twenty or thirty other mice, all bearing grains of corn and small fruits.

For five days they fed him in this manner, and on the sixth day the hut was opened by the Olofin’s captors, who were astonished to find him still alive and in good health. “This Olofin must have a powerful charm!” they declared. “It appears that he can live without eating or drinking!”

Thereupon they released him, gave him a war-canoe, and let him return in freedom to his own country.

-M. I. Ogumefu, Yoruba Legends

The Lost Friendship of the Cat and the Rat

In the days of old, the Cat and the Rat shared a great friendship. One day they were out tending a field of cassava together when suddenly it begin to rain. How it rained, that day! The two friends were lucky to reach high ground before the river overflowed and left them stranded on a hilltop that had suddenly become an island.
"How are we going to get back to the village?" the Cat wondered aloud. "Maybe we could make a boat out of cassava," the Rat suggested. "What a good idea! Let's try it!"

It took some doing, but they finally had a craft that would float, and they paddled off for all they were worth, but carefully. The water was rolling and the current was swift. After a time, the Rat began to get tired and hungry. "Do you think I could just nibble off these cassava leaves at the rim of our boat?" she said to the Cat. "I've worked up quite an appetite."
"Are you out of your mind? Forget eating until we get ashore. Paddle, my friend! Paddle for your life!"

Might fell. The Cat, worn out from fighting the angry water, paused to rest. All at once, before she knew it, she had fallen asleep in the bottom of the boat. "Now's my chance!" thought the Rat. "I'll just munch a few of these leaves and my friend the Cat will never know." So she ate a leaf tip here and a stem there. Her appetite grew - the boat got smaller. Suddenly, it began to leak.

In a matter of moments, even before the Cat was fully awake, the boat had sunk and both animals were swimming. By good luck they were near another hilltop, the very hilltop where they lived. After a frantic effort, they were able to scramble up onto solid ground, wet, muddy and bedraggled, but alive and safe.

The Cat shook herself and looked at the Rat with eyes that burned like embers in a fire. "Hungry, were you?" she growled. "I feel like a snack, myself. I think I'll eat you!"
"Eat me?" exclaimed the Rat, looking down at herself. "All muddy like this? You'll get grit in your teeth. Let me go clean up first." Leaving the Cat staring after her in startled fury, the Rat whisked right down her own hole which was not more than five jumps away. She didn't come out again, not until the Cat had given up waiting for her.

Or maybe the Rat was able to change herself into a dog or a lion and walk right under the nose of her former friend, because the Cat still keeps a sharp eye on every rat hole she comes across.

Why the Cat Kills Rats

Ansa was King of Calabar for fifty years. He had a very faithful cat as a housekeeper, and a rat was his house-boy. The king was an obstinate, headstrong man, but was very fond of the cat, who had been in his store for many years.

The rat, who was very poor, fell in love with one of the king's servant girls, but was unable to give her any presents, as he had no money.
At last he thought of the king's store, so at night, being quite small, he had little difficulty, having made a hole in the roof, in getting into the store. He then stole corn and native pears, and presented them to his sweetheart.

At the end of the month, when the cat had to render her account of the things in the store to the king, it was found that a lot of corn and native pears were missing. The king was very angry at this, and asked the cat for an explanation. But the cat could not account for the loss, until one of her friends told her that the rat had been stealing the corn and giving it to the girl.

When the cat told the king, he called the girl before him and had her flogged. The rat he handed over to the cat to deal with, and dismissed them both from his service. The cat was so angry at this that she killed and ate the rat, and ever since that time whenever a cat sees a rat she kills and eats it.

- Elphinstone Dayrell, Folk Stories from Nigeria


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