pourquoi tale – Storytelling for Everyone

An Aboriginal Legend

Artist, Patricia Blee

A very long time ago, there was Crocodile. He was not so nice and not so courteous. He had the control of fire. Fire was very important for living. It was giving you light during the night and keeping you warm when you were cold. What can you do when you deal with a mean, ill-mannered crocodile? Many animals pleaded with Crocodile, but the more they begged, the meaner Crocodile would get.

One day even a little kangaroo pleaded with Crocodile, “Please give us some fire.”

You know what was Crocodile’s response? He exhaled some fire from his throat, scaring little kangaroo.

High up on a tree, there was a very nice Bird, who was observing everything. The Bird Woman also suffered from the lack of fire. She didn’t like eating her food raw. So, Bird Woman also pleaded with Crocodile to give some light not only to the animals, but also to the people.

“Please share some light with others,” begged Bird Woman on many occasions.

Once, Crocodile blew some fire at Bird Woman, almost burning her feathers. Another time, it snapped, “What do you need the fire for?”

“Well, for example, to cook our food,” she was nicely explaining to Crocodile.

“Eat it raw,” retorted Crocodile.

“Well, it tastes so much better, when it’s cooked,” continued Bird Woman.

“I will cook you with my fire, if you don’t disappear right now,” Crocodile replied angrily.

So she flew away not to anger Crocodile even more.

However, Bird Woman continued to observe Crocodile from her house in the tree. She was patiently watching and waiting. Then, one early morning, Crocodile was still half asleep, stretching and yawning. At his last yawn, he opened his jaw so wide that it took him quite some time to close it.

During that time, Bird Woman quickly flew down, snatching the fire-stick.

Before Crocodile realized what had just happened, Bird Woman was already flying up with the fire-stick. She flew around each tree putting fire into tree’s core. This way a tree could be used as wood to create fire. So people could cook their food, stay warm, and light their way through darkness.

This creation was very magical. It looked as Bird Woman was creating a rainbow with the yellow fire, flying around green trees and with the blue sky shining on her.

“Now, the people can have fire,” said Bird Woman proudly.

Bird Woman flew back to Crocodile and warned him, “From now on, you need to stay in the swamps. Don’t you dare to come out on land or I will light you up.”

The scared Crocodile now stays deep in the swamp. From time to time, he only ventures with his eyes above the water, curious what is going on with the other animals on the land.

So now you know why crocodiles live in the swamps and why the heroine bird is called Rainbow Bird.


Source: Rainbow Bird: An Aboriginal Folktale from Northern Australia by Eric Maddern.
An Aboriginal fire legend of the Dalabon people of Beswick Reserve, telling how Bird Woman stole fire from Crocodile Man, and at the same time, turned herself into the beautiful Rainbow Bird, a dreamtime myth.

Author adminPosted on January 13, 2023January 13, 2023Categories Animal, Legends, Myth, NatureTags Aboriginal Australians, Indigenous people, pourquoi tale, rainbow bird, stealing fireLeave a comment on Bird Woman and Crocodile

Filipino folktale


More than a hundred seasons ago, a Tinguian went one day to the mountains to hunt. Accompanied by his faithful dog, he made his way steadily up the mountain side, only halting where it was necessary to cut a path through the jungle. And the dog ran here and there searching in the thick underbrush.

On and on he went without seeing any game, and then, when he was almost at the top of the highest peak, the dog gave a sharp yelp, and out of the brush leaped a fine deer. Zip! went the man’s spear, and it pierced the animal’s side. For an instant he waited, but the deer did not fall.

On it ran with unslackened speed, and a moment later it plunged into a hole in the ground with the man and dog in close pursuit.

A short distance from the entrance, the cave opened out into large, spacious rooms, and before he realized it the man was hopelessly lost. In the distance he could hear the baying of the dog; with no other guide, he hurried on through the darkness.

Following the sound, he went for a long time from one unfamiliar room to another, stumbling in the darkness and striking against the stone walls, and then suddenly his outstretched hands grasped a small tree on which berries grew.

Astonished at finding anything growing in this dark place, he broke off a branch, and as he did so the shrub began to talk in a strange language. Terrified, the man ran in the direction he had last heard the dog, and a moment later he found himself in the open air on the banks of the Abra River, with the dead deer at his feet.

When he examined the twig which he still held in his hand, he saw to his great surprise that the berries were agate beads of great value. And packing the deer on his back, he hastened home where he told his wonderful story.

The sight of the beautiful beads convinced the people that he told the truth, and a number of men at once returned with him to fell the tree.

Their quest, however, was unsuccessful, for ere they reached the spot, they saw the evil spirit had taken the tree away. On the walls of the cave it had made strange carvings which even to this day can be seen.


Source: Philippine Folk Tales by  Mabel Cook Cole. A.C. McClurg & Co., Chicago, 1916.

Note: This folktale seems to tell of an early discovery of mysterious cave art: Discovered again in 1965, the Angono Petroglyphs are believed to be the oldest known artworks in the Philippines. Dating to the third millennium BCE, they are a collection of 127 figural carvings engraved on the wall of a shallow cave of volcanic tuff.


Author adminPosted on September 2, 2022September 2, 2022Categories Folktales, Legends, NatureTags cave art, Filipino, Hunt, magic, petroglyphs, Philippines, pourquoi tale, prehistoric, quest, rock art

A Brazilian Folktale

Years and years ago at the very beginning of time, when the world had just been made, there was no night. It was day all the time. No one had ever heard of sunrise or sunset, starlight or moonbeams. There were no night birds, nor night beasts, nor night flowers. There were no lengthening shadows, nor soft night air, heavy with perfume.

In those days the daughter of the Great Sea Serpent, who dwelt in the depths of the seas, married one of the sons of the great earth race known as Man. Yemaya left her home among the shades of the deep seas and came to dwell with her husband in the land of daylight.

Her eyes grew weary of the bright sunlight and her beauty faded. Her husband watched her with sad eyes, but he did not know what to do to help her.

“O, if night would only come,” she moaned as she tossed about wearily on her couch. “Here it is always day, but in my father’s kingdom there are many shadows. O, for a little of the darkness of night!”

Her husband listened to her moaning. “What is night?” he asked her. “Tell me about it and perhaps I can get a little of it for you.”

“Night,” said Yemaya, “is the name we give to the heavy shadows which darken my father’s kingdom in the depths of the seas. I love the sunlight of your earth land, but I grow very weary of it. If we could have only a little of the darkness of my father’s kingdom to rest our eyes part of the time.”

Her husband at once called his three most faithful slaves. “I am about to send you on a journey,” he told them. “You are to go to the kingdom of the Great Sea Serpent who dwells in the depths of the seas and ask him to give you some of the darkness of night that his daughter may not die here amid the sunlight of our earth land.”

The three slaves set forth for the kingdom of the Great Sea Serpent. After a long dangerous journey they arrived at his home in the depths of the seas and asked him to give them some of the shadows of night to carry back to the earth land.

The Great Sea Serpent gave them a big bag full at once. It was securely fastened and the Great Sea Serpent warned them not to open it until they were once more in the presence of his daughter, their mistress, Yemaya.

The three slaves started out, bearing the big bag full of night upon their heads. Soon they heard strange sounds within the bag. It was the sound of the voices of all the night beasts, all the night birds, and all the night insects. If you have ever heard the night chorus from the jungles on the banks of the rivers you will know how it sounded. The three slaves had never heard sounds like those in all their lives. They were terribly frightened.

“Let us drop the bag full of night right here where we are and run away as fast as we can,” said the first slave.

“We shall perish. We shall perish, anyway, whatever we do,” cried the second slave.

“Whether we perish or not I am going to open the bag and see what makes all those terrible sounds,” said the third slave.

Accordingly they laid the bag on the ground and opened it. Out rushed all the night beasts and all the night birds and all the night insects and out rushed the great black cloud of night. The slaves were more frightened than ever at the darkness and escaped to the jungle.

Yemaya, daughter of the Great Sea Serpent, was waiting anxiously for the return of the slaves with the bag full of night. Ever since they had started out on their journey she had looked for their return, shading her eyes with her hand and gazing away off at the horizon, hoping with all her heart that they would hasten to bring the night.

In that position she was standing under a royal palm tree, when the three slaves opened the bag and let night escape.

“Night comes. Night comes at last,” she cried, as she saw the clouds of night upon the horizon. Then she closed her eyes and went to sleep there under the royal palm tree.

When she awoke she felt greatly refreshed. She was once more the happy princess who had left her father’s kingdom in the depths of the great seas to come to the earth land. She was now ready to see the day again.

She looked up at the bright star shining above the royal palm tree and said, “O, bright beautiful star, henceforth you shall be called the morning star and you shall herald the approach of day. You shall reign queen of the sky at this hour.”

Then she called all the birds about her and said to them, “O, wonderful, sweet singing birds, henceforth I command you to sing your sweetest songs at this hour to herald the approach of day.” The cock was standing by her side. “You,” she said to him, “shall be appointed the watchman of the night. Your voice shall mark the watches of the night and shall warn the others that the madrugada comes.”

To this very day in Brazil we call the early morning the madrugada. The cock announces its approach to the waiting birds. The birds sing their sweetest songs at that hour and the morning star reigns in the sky as queen of the madrugada.

When it was daylight again the three slaves crept home through the forests and jungles with their empty bag.

“O, faithless slaves,” said their master, “why did you not obey the voice of the Great Sea Serpent and open the bag only in the presence of his daughter, your mistress? Because of your disobedience I shall change you into monkeys. Henceforth you shall live in the trees. Your lips shall always bear the mark of the sealing wax which sealed the bag full of night.”

To this very day one sees the mark upon the monkeys’ lips, where they bit off the wax which sealed the bag.

And in Brazil night leaps out quickly upon the earth just as it leapt quickly out of the bag in those days at the beginning of time.


Source: Fairy Tales from Brazil: How and Why tales from Brazilian folk-lore by Elsie Spicer Eells, Dodd, Mead and Company, Inc., Chicago, 1917.

A Brazilian story with African roots tells how an ancient African sea goddess brought the gift of night to the land of daylight. A story from Bahia, Brazil featuring the goddess Yemaya of the Yoruba, known in Candomble as Yemoja or Iemanja, sometimes as a mermaid.

Author adminPosted on August 31, 2022Categories Folktales, Legends, MythTags Africa, Brazil, creation, goddess, Mermaids, pourquoi tale

An African American Folktale


Back in the old days, Brer Lizard was an awful lot like Brer Frog, meaning he could sit upright. Things were like this for quite a spell.

Then one day when they were walking down the road by their swamp, Brer Lizard and Brer Frog spotted some real nice pasture land with a great big pond that was on the far side of a great big fence.

Ooo did that land look good. Looked like a great place for Brer Lizard to catch insects and other good food.  And Brer Frog wanted a swim in that big ol’ pool. 

Brer Lizard and Brer Frog went right up to the fence, which got bigger and bigger as they approached. It kinda loomed over them, as big and tall as they were little and small. And the boards of that fence were mashed together real tight, and deep into the ground. 

It was too tall to hop over, and neither of them was much good at digging, so they couldn’t go under.  That fence said Keep Out pretty clear, even though no one had put a sign on it.  

Well, Brer Lizard and Brer Frog sat beside that tall fence with their bottoms on the ground and their front ends propped up, ‘cause Brer Lizard could still sit upright then, and they tried to figure out how to get through the fence. 

Suddenly, Brer Frog saw a narrow crack, low to the ground. “I’m going ta squeeze through that crack over there,” he croaked. “Lawd, help me through!” And Brer Frog hopped over and pushed and squeezed and struggled and prayed his way through that tiny crack until he popped out on t’other side.

“Come on Lizard,” Brer Frog called through the crack.

“I’m a-comin’!” Brer Lizard called back. “I’m a-goin’ to squeeze through this here crack, Lawd willin’ or not!” 

Brer Lizard scurried over to the crack in the fence and he pushed and squeezed and struggled and cursed. Suddenly, a rail fell down and mashed him flat! 

After that, Brer Lizard couldn’t sit upright no more. And he never did get through that fence to eat them insects, neither!


Source: https://americanfolklore.net/folklore/2011/07/why_lizards_cant_sit.html

Retold by S.E. Schlosser

Author adminPosted on February 9, 2022Categories Animal, FablesTags African American, Black history, Brer Frog, Brer Lizard, pourquoi tale

Nigerian Folktale


Many years ago the sun and water were great friends, and both lived on the earth together. The sun very often used to visit the water, but the water never returned his visits.

At last the sun asked the water why it was that he never came to see him in his house, the water replied that the sun’s house was not big enough, and that if he came with his people he would drive the sun out.

He then said, “If you wish me to visit you, you must build a very large compound; but I warn you that it will have to be a tremendous place, as my people are very numerous, and take up a lot of room.”

The sun promised to build a very big compound, and soon afterwards he returned home to his wife, the moon, who greeted him with a broad smile when he opened the door. The sun told the moon what he had promised the water, and the next day commenced building a huge compound in which to entertain his friend.

When it was completed, he asked the water to come and visit him the next day.

When the water arrived, he called out to the sun, and asked him whether it would be safe for him to enter, and the sun answered, “Yes, come in, my friend.”

The water then began to flow in, accompanied by the fish and all the water animals.

Very soon the water was knee-deep, so he asked the sun if it was still safe, and the sun again said, “Yes,” so more water came in.

When the water was level with the top of a man’s head, the water said to the sun, “Do you want more of my people to come?” and the sun and moon both answered, “Yes,” not knowing any better, so the water flowed on, until the sun and moon had to perch themselves on the top of the roof.

Again the water addressed the sun, but receiving the same answer, and more of his people rushing in, the water very soon overflowed the top of the roof, and the sun and moon were forced to go up into the sky, where they have remained ever since.


Source: Outa Karel’s Stories: South African Folk-Lore Tales retold by Sanni Metelerkamp, Macmillan and Co., Limited St. Martin’s Street, London, 1914.

Author adminPosted on May 26, 2021Categories Folktales, LegendsTags African, Nigeria, pourquoi tale, South African

Nigerian Folktale

Art print by Kanayo Ede

Old Town, Calabar, once had a king called Essiya, who, like most of the Calabar kings in the olden days, was rich and powerful. Although he was so wealthy, he did not possess slaves. He therefore used to call upon the animals and birds to help his people with their work.

In order to get the work done quickly and well, he determined to appoint head chiefs of all the different species. The elephant he appointed king of the beasts of the forest, and the hippopotamus king of the water animals, until at last, it came to the turn of the birds to have their king elected.

Essiya thought for some time which would be the best way to make a good choice, but could not make up his mind, as there were so many different birds who all considered they had claims. There was the hawk with his swift flight, and of hawks there were several species. There were the herons to be considered, and the big spur-winged geese, the hornbill or toucan tribe, and the game birds, such as guinea-fowl and the partridge.

Then again, of course, there were all the big crane tribe, who walked about the sandbanks in the dry season, but who disappeared when the river rose, and the big black-and-white fishing eagles. When the king thought of the plover tribe, the sea-birds, including the pelicans, the doves, and the numerous shy birds who live in the forest, all of whom sent in claims, he got so confused.

He decided to have a trial by ordeal of combat. He sent word round the whole country for all the birds to meet the next day and fight it out between themselves, and that the winner should be known as the king bird ever afterwards.

The following morning many thousands of birds came, and there was much screeching and flapping of wings. The hawk tribe soon drove all the small birds away, and harassed the big waders so much, that they very shortly disappeared, followed by the geese, who made much noise, and winged away in a straight line, as if they were playing “Follow my leader.”

The big forest birds who liked to lead a secluded life very soon got tired of all the noise and bustle, and after a few croaks and other weird noises went home.

The game birds had no chance and hid in the bush, so that very soon the only birds left were the hawks and the big fishing eagle, who was perched on a tree calmly watching everything.

The scavenger hawks were too gorged and lazy to take much interest in the proceedings, and were quietly ignored by the fighting tribe, who were very busy circling and swooping on one another, with much whistling going on. Higher and higher they went, until they disappeared out of sight. Then a few would return to earth, some of them badly torn and with many feathers missing.

At last the fishing eagle said—

“When you have quite finished with this foolishness please tell me, and if any of you fancy yourselves at all, come to me, and I will settle your chances of being elected head chief once and for all.”

But when they saw his terrible beak and cruel claws, knowing his great strength and ferocity, they stopped fighting between themselves, and acknowledged the fishing eagle to be their master.

Essiya then declared that Ituen, which was the name of the fishing eagle, was the head chief of all the birds, and should thenceforward be known as the king bird.

From that time to the present day, whenever the young men of the country go to fight they always wear three of the long black-and-white feathers of the king bird in their hair, one on each side and one in the middle, as they are believed to impart much courage and skill to the wearer.

And if a young man is not possessed of any of these feathers when he goes out to fight, he is looked upon as a very small threat indeed.


Source: Folk Stories from Southern Nigeria by Elphinstone Dayrell. Longmans, Green and Co., London, New York, Bombay & Calcutta, 1910. Introduction written by Andrew Lang.

Author adminPosted on February 5, 2021Categories Animal, FolktalesTags Africa, Black history, Fishing eagle, Nigeria, pourquoi tale


Once upon a time Uncle Rabbit, who is called Tio Conejo, was searching in the forest for berries. His stomach growled, for winter was coming on, and fruit was growing scarce. The other forest creatures stayed out of Tio Conejo’s way, for he was a trickster, and no one ever knew what he would do next.

Soon Tio Conejo began to mutter. “I walk so much, but I find so little.” He sighed and wondered what trick he could play to find himself some food. Suddenly he came to a tiny bush that was still green, and on its branches grew a few berries.

“Mmmm, this is exactly where I want to be,” Tio Conejo said, and he began to nibble at the berries and forgot all about tricks.

Suddenly Uncle Buzzard, who is called Tio Zopilote, was flying overhead, looked down and saw Tio Conejo. He swooped low.

“Glad to see you, Tio Conejo,” Tio Zopilote called, though he wasn’t glad to see him at all. He was angry with Tio Conejo, who had played many tricks on him in the past. Tio Zopilote had been waiting for a long, long time to take his revenge.

“Ahh, this fruit is good, Tio Zopilote,” Tio Conejo said as he munched and sighed contentedly. “I’m a very hungry rabbit today.”

Tio Zopilote smiled to himself. “Tio Conejo, if you are truly hungry, I know just the place for you. Up in heaven are the best feasts. Yes, my old friend, if you want the best food in the world, it’s up here above the clouds you want to be.”

“I have never been to those feasts,” Tio Conejo said dejectedly. “I can’t fly, so I have no way of getting there.”

“Well, I’ll tell you what,” Tio Zopilote said, though he could barely contain his laughter. “There’s a great feast happening up there right now, and if you’ll bring along your guitar and play for me, I’ll fly you there. I’m sure my friends in heaven would love to hear your fine music.”

“Hold on and I’ll get my guitar,” Tio Conejo said, and hopped back to his warren as fast as he could. He returned even faster, bringing with him his guitar.

“Now climb on my back. Hold onto me beneath my wings,” Tio Zopilote told Tio Conejo.

Tio Conejo strapped his guitar around his neck, climbed on Tio Zopilote’s back and held on tightly. Tio Zopilote flew into the sky. Up and up he flew, higher and higher. And all the time he was flying through that wintry sky, he was planning his revenge on Tio Conejo.

“Wait until you see the size of the fruit in heaven,” Tio Zopilote said, and chuckled to himself. Oh, how sweet it will be, he thought, to fool Tio Conejo just the way he fools everyone else.

Down below, they could see the beautiful world spread out beneath them. The trees seemed only tiny specks. The other creatures looked like ants. The fruit wasn’t visible at all, and soon Tio Conejo’s mouth began to water as he thought of the huge fruit in heaven.

“Why don’t you play a song for me?” Tio Zopilote coaxed. “The trip will go faster that way.”

“Well, not now,” Tio Conejo said. “I’d prefer to hold onto your back.”

“Oh, I’ll fly carefully,” Tio Zopilote said, and so Tio Conejo reached for his guitar. Settling himself carefully on Tio Zopilote’s back, he began strumming a tune.

Tio Zopilote smiled wickedly, and suddenly began to fly in tight circles. Then he flew in a zigzag. He turned upside down and circled again. He flew as fast as he could. He did everything possible to make Tio Conejo fall off.

“Stop your crazy flying,” Tio Conejo cried. “I’m dizzy and I’m going to fall,” but he let go of his guitar, and it swung wildly around his neck. He held onto Tio Zopilote’s neck as tightly as he could.

“I always fly this way when I’m near heaven,” Tio Zopilote said. “It’s the winds, you see. The winds of heaven are very different from the winds of earth.”

“Ohhh,” Tio Conejo moaned. His stomach churned and his head began to spin. “Stop, Tio Zopilote. I’m dying …”

“We’re near heaven,” said Tio Zopilote as he swooped and twisted and whirled some more.

“Go back to earth,” shouted Tio Conejo, but Tio Zopilote spun again.

Tio Conejo grabbed his guitar and banged it on Tio Zopilote’s head. Tio Zopilote’s head went right inside the guitar, and he couldn’t see a thing. He began to spin and twirl, but now he was falling back toward earth.

Tio Conejo held Tio Zopilote’s wings out so they floated gently to the ground below.

When they landed on the soft earth, Tio Conejo jumped off Tio Zopilote’s back. “Take the guitar off my head!” Tio Zopilote cried.

“Ask your friends in heaven to take it off,” Tio Conejo laughed. And he skipped away.

Tio Zopilote pulled at that guitar. He twisted and turned. He stood on his head. But he could not shake that guitar loose.

At last he slunk home. His wife laughed at him, but she pulled his head out of the guitar. With it came most of his feathers. Tio Zopilote’s neck was stripped bare.

Those feathers never grew back, and Tio Zopilote’s children never had feathers on their necks, either. And that’s the way it’s been with buzzards ever since.

As for Tio Conejo? Well, he’s still playing tricks, but the other creatures understand. After all, Tio Conejo is a trickster. And they never try to take revenge on him.


Source: Venezuelan Folktale

Stories of animal tricksters have been told in Venezuela for centuries. Among all the characters that populate Venezuelan folklore, Tio Conejo was the quintessential favorite of children and grown-ups alike. But Tio Conejo was not a Venezuelan: His roots are deeply attached to African tricksters, like Anansi the spider. The multiple shapes this character adopted in the Americas have to do with the brutal, socio-historical circumstances the Africans faced who brought their folktales to the continents. Brer Rabbit is a trickster character with the same African roots, in stories told in the Southern United States.

Arraiz, Antonio. Tío Tigre y Tío Conejo. Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1980.

Author adminPosted on February 25, 2019February 25, 2019Categories Animal, TricksterTags African, pourquoi tale, tio conejo, Venezuela