It’s story time and I have another hyena tale to share. Poor hyena, an ugly coat was only the beginning of its troubles.

Wishful Thinking, an African folktale, retold by A. Sakyiama
Credits: Hyena illustration by Jason Sweeney, via flickr.

Once upon a time, a hyena and a leopard met and became good friends. They sometimes hunted together and shared the food equally between them.

One day, the leopard was out alone, hunting for food, when the enticing smell of fresh fish came into its nostrils. The hungry beast followed the smell and found that it was coming of off a cart being pulled by a tough looking man. It was a fisherman hauling home a good day’s catch.

“It would not be wise for me to attack a man,” the leopard thought. “He has all sorts of weapons that can hurt me. I’m going to have to be clever about getting some of his fish.”

Hunger made the leopard’s brain sharp. In a few minutes it had worked out a plan. Staying hidden from the man’s view, it ran ahead and then laid down in the middle of the road.

When the fisherman came to the leopard, he exclaimed,

“What a beautiful animal. Too bad it died. Its coat will make a fine rug for my wife though.”

He picked up the leopard and tossed it into his cart.

In the cart, the leopard lay still and quiet until it was sure that the man’s attention was elsewhere. Then, as fast as it could, it threw out enough fish to make several fine meals and jumped off the cart.

The leopard was very disappointed to see that most of the fish it had thrown out of the cart had already been eaten.

It was not the only beast who had smelled the fish and followed its nose. Its neighbour, the hyena, had done the same. It had followed the cart and gobbled up most of the fish that the leopard had risked its life to steal.

The leopard was very angry but the hyena pretended not notice. It said,

“That was the best meal I have had in a long time. You must teach me how to get into the man’s cart. I promise to share any fish I get with you.”

“Well that is not so easy,” the leopard said, rather grudgingly. “But, since you’re my friend, I’ll tell you.”

The leopard told the hyena to lie in the middle of the road and play dead.

“You must stay still no matter what the man does. He himself will put you in the cart.”

The hyena immediately ran and lay in the path of the cart. The leopard went home in a better mood because it had a very good idea of how things would turn out.

When the man saw the hyena in the road, he said,

“What ugly thing is this?”

He poked it with his stick and then started hitting it quite hard. Through it all, the hyena lay still as if dead. It held it’s breathe when the man picked it up. Instead of throwing the hyena into the cart though, the fisherman threw it into the bushes by the side of the road.

Poor hyena. It hobbled off in great pain. When it saw the leopard again, it told him about how badly things had gone. The leopard pretended to sympathize.

“Oh, ow, ow, ow, if only I had a beautiful coat like yours,” the hyena lamented, “I would never be hungry again.”

And that, dear reader, is what you call, “wishful thinking.”