Dominica Dipio

The Story of Hare and Luhwara

Compiled by Dominica Dipio and Narrated by Owo Patrick

Editor’s Note: “The Story of Hare and Luhwara” has no single author. It belongs to the people of the Madi community of Uganda and their oral tradition of storytelling. Owu Patrick was thirteen when he told the story. From Patrick’s narration, Dominica Dipio wrote the story and translated it into English.

Hare and Luhwara (Hornbill) went to burn a bush. Hare told Luhwara, “If we set this bush on fire, you will burn in it, but I will not.”

The two stood in the middle of the bush and set it ablaze. When the fire intensified, Hare entered an anthill, and Luhwara flew into a tree. As the fire grew wild, it reached up to the tree branches and burned Luhwara to death, his body falling to the ground. After a time, Hare realized that the fire had died down, and he came out of the anthill. He looked around and saw Luhwara lying on the ground. He knew Luhwara was dead.

He said to the carcass of Luhwara, “My uncle Luhwara, did I not tell you?”

Hare removed Luhwara’s claw, together with his toes, and went off with them.

As he walked home, Hare composed a song and blew into Luhwara’s claw, producing a melodious sound: Tii-tile! Itogo ti odri onzi iba Luhwara. Tii-Tile, Itogo ti odri onzi, iba Luhwara! (Tii-tile! Luhwara, you let Hare come back to life, Luhwara!)

Hare then met Salamander (Osurumbembe), who politely asked: “My uncle Hare, where did you get such a melodious flute? Allow me to blow it just a bit.”

Hare gladly gave the flute to Salamander, who started playing his version of Luhwara’s song: Tii-tile! Luhwara, Osurumbembe ti odri onzi, iba Luhwara. (Tii-tile! Luhwara, you let Salamander come back to life, Luhwara!) 

Hare was offended that Salamander used his own name in the song. He told Salamander to keep the lyric of the song as he had composed it. Salamander, however, had a plan of his own: to sneak away with Hare’s melodious “flute.” When Hare was distracted just a little, Salamander took to his heels with Hare’s flute. Hare gave chase, but Salamander slid away through the leaves and jumped into a well.

To recover his property, desperate Hare went to consult Tortoise. He found Tortoise at home, seated under his granary. In accordance with the regulations for consulting Tortoise, Hare raised him as high as he could, and dropped him hard on the ground three times.

At the third throw, Tortoise lamented in pain, saying: “Do not damage me. Go and prepare a red-and-white bark-tree (maza) fiber and tie it round my waist to hold me together.”

Hare did as instructed. Tortoise then told him to follow the regular formula before he could listen to Hare’s issues.

Tortoise said: “I will fart and emit a pungent odor. When the stench of my gas hits your nostrils, you should spit in disgust. In fact, you can project your saliva far across all the small rivers in the land. Then I will fart and emit the most pungent of gases, but you are not to spit, even if you feel most disgusted. In fact, you must swallow your saliva, as if my gas were the sweetest of smells.”

Hare accepted the conditions given by Tortoise. When the first, less-pungent odor was emitted, he jetted his saliva far across the small rivers. And then Tortoise produced the most terrible of gases. Hare struggled with it.

He pleaded and begged Tortoise to allow him to spit in disgust: “My uncle Tortoise, let me spit!”

Tortoise responded with authority: “Don’t, if you want me to divine for you!”

Hare endured it and recounted the story of Luhwara and Salamander.

Hare said to Tortoise, “I have come to seek you for the wisdom to recover what is mine.”

Tortoise advised Hare to organize a dance party and invite the entire community. Salamander would attend, and Hare would find a way of repossessing his flute. Hare did as he was instructed, and a multitude of people responded to his call. The sound of excited dancing filled the village air, and Salamander, who heard it from afar, could not resist the call. He came blowing his favorite praise tune, as he joined the others in the dance arena.

Meanwhile, Hare had explained to his guests how he had lost his flute to Salamander and wanted it back. He told his guests that anyone who trampled Salamander and recovered the musical instrument would get a reward of a big bull. The guests agreed to the proposal. Buffalo was the first to attempt to murder Salamander, but he missed the target. Other smaller animals also tried without success. Elephant then offered to do the job. He moved forward and stepped heavily on Salamander, crushing him to death. He then picked up the flute and gave it back to Hare.

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