(a South African legend)
Long ago, when the world was new, Kudu was searching for the perfect place to live. He had been walking for a long time when he came upon a hut on a lovely hill with a beautiful view of The Valley of 1,000 Hills.
“I wish I could live here,” he said just as Hare happened to come hopping past.
“This is a fine house, isn’t it?” Hare said.
“Indeed,” Kudu answered. “The perfect home.”
Hare’s whiskers twitched, for he had a plan. He always did. “Move in, then,” Hare suggested.
“But who does this house belong to?” Kudu asked. He was proud, and he didn’t like to intrude, but he loved the hut.
“It’s Leopard’s house,” Hare whispered. “But he wouldn’t mind sharing it.”
“What?” Kudu exclaimed. “I cannot share a house with a ferocious beast. Why on earth would Leopard share with me?”
“Ah, you see,” Hare began, making up the tale as he went along. “Leopard gets lonely, and besides, I’m sure I can convince him that you would make a fine roommate. Who wouldn’t want to live with you?”
Kudu cocked his head, and Hare admired those magnificent spiral antlers. Hare was Kudu’s friend. And Kudu was accustomed to Hare’s schemes. “I’m a fine roommate, of course,” he agreed.
“Well then, make yourself at home, and I’ll talk to Leopard,” and off Hare ran.
Before long he found Leopard sleeping in the branch of a rock fig tree. “Hey Leopard,” he called. “Good news!”
Leopard opened one eye, and then another. “What news?” Leopard asked, though he was still half-asleep.
“The king has sent someone to live with you.”
Leopard woke and leaped out of the tree. He padded menacingly toward Hare. “What kind of trick are you up to today?”
Hare opened his eyes wide. He shrugged and said, “No trick at all! The king announced that every animal must share a home. He wants you to share with Kudu for with those big antlers of his, he’ll be able to protect you.”
Leopard burst out laughing. “No one needs to protect me!”
“Ah, but you’re wrong,” Hare whispered. He looked around as if to make sure no one was listening. “You have many enemies who are out to hunt you down.”
“Who?” Leopard asked, narrowing his eyes. This was alarming.
“I wouldn’t know, but you should be grateful to the king. He’s found you a guard.”
“Kudu?” Leopard murmured, beginning to warm to this idea. After all, the king was all-knowing, and if the king had sent someone to protect him, he must need protecting. “Very well, then,” he said, and he dashed home.
Sure enough, there was Kudu.
“I hear we are to live together, so I’ve come to welcome you and offer thanks,” Leopard said.
This was amazing. Not only had Leopard allowed Kudu to live here, he was thanking him for being there. That Hare! Kudu knew he must have played a trick, but he asked no questions.
And so for many weeks Kudu and Leopard shared a home, but increasingly Kudu became nervous, because leopards naturally prey on deer.
One day Kudu spied Hare out walking. He trotted over to him and said nervously, “I’m afraid Leopard might turn on me. I’m not sure what to do to calm my fears.”
“Never fear!” Hare comforted Kudu. “I’ll take care of things.”
That very day Hare sidled up to Leopard. “I have to tell you one secret that you must promise never to tell,” he whispered.
Leopard narrowed his eyes. “What is it? I promise, I’ll never tell.”
“Well, you know those big antlers of Kudu’s? They’re good for protecting you, but if he loses his temper, he will charge anyone nearby. If those horns go through you, well …”
Leopard could imagine. Those antlers were magnificent and dangerous. “How will I know if he has lost his temper?” Leopard whispered.
“If he takes a step backward, and if he snorts, the next thing you know, he’ll be charging right for you. Run for your life!”
After that Leopard watched Kudu closely. Then, one afternoon Leopard heard a clap of thunder. A streak of lightning flashed across the sky. He raced toward his house, seeking shelter from the storm heading his way. Inside he found Kudu, too.
And as they watched, the sky opened and rain poured down upon their thatched roof. Leopard and Kudu trembled and kept a close eye on each other.
When the storm had passed, they stepped outside. Suddenly Kudu slipped in the mud and he began to slide down the hill. As he was sliding, the rock Leopard was standing on let loose, and Leopard too began to slide.
“Don’t bump into me!” Kudu cried.
Leopard did his best to steer the rock, but he and the rock bumped right into Kudu, and Kudu and Leopard fell flat on their faces in the mud.
“Look what you’ve done!” Kudu roared angrily. “I may have broken bones!”
Leopard trembled. Now he would have to be careful.
Just as he was thinking about that, Kudu tried to get his footing in the mud beneath his hooves. He lowered his head and those enormous antlers faced Leopard.
“Don’t do it!” Leopard cried as Kudu regained his stance and backed up to get traction to race up the hill.
“Don’t hurt me!” Leopard begged once more, as Kudu let out one great snort.
Leopard bounded off as fast as he could — and Leopard could run fast –all the way to the far side of the valley. He ran until he was too tired to go any farther. He found a quiet cave. “I’ll live here on my own,” he said. “That will be safer for me.”
And ever since that day Leopard has lived in quiet caves. As for Kudu? He never did understand what had frightened Leopard away, but he was glad to live alone in the hut.