Story – Gaborone, Botswana

So a long, long time ago…when there were a lot of animals in the African bush…all animals existed except what we know as the dog. So one day God made this thing ekse, made the dog. So the dog came into the African bush. Every time an animal comes by the dog was always sleeping. And the monkey – if you know the monkey – is a very curious animal. So the monkey goes up in the tree where the dog was sleeping under and suspended itself by the tail from the tree to get a better look at the dog. The monkey stared at the dog and was like, “What the hell is this?” He needed expertise so he called to all the animals in the bush saying, “Something strange has arrived.”

The dog – this animal – was still sleeping. So the elephant came to examine this animal and said, “This is not an elephant. It doesn’t have a long trunk like I do.” So the opaki – it’s like a combination of a zebra and a horse but is not actually that, that’s just the physical mixture. So the opaki came up to examine the animal and said, “It’s not an opaki. There’s no stripes.” Then the anteater examined it and said, “Can’t be an anteater – I’ve never seen anything like it. There’s no long snout.” Now the tortoise had been there a long time. So the tortoise examined the animal and said, “Can’t be a tortoise. There’s no shell.” The tortoise told the animals, “Until we find out its name why don’t we call it dog.”

So all the animals were gathered ‘round puzzling. And so the monkey came up to the animal to wake it up and ask. The monkey was really scared. And by now the dog was sleeping for a long, long time. So the monkey poked it and all the animals went silent. Then the dog slowly opened his eyes and was startled by the animals and started barking. He was frightened. He thought he was being attacked because there were all these animals around it. All the animals watching were also startled. The dog was angry and the animals ran away so the dog was chasing and chasing and chasing. And that’s why dogs chase everything, because he was woken up from his sleep. The name of this story is why the dog chases everything.

Ruchira explained that he had to reveal the name of the story at the end or else the audience would see what is coming. He first heard this story when he was around the age of ten from a lady named Auntie Betty. She was from a village in Botswana that was rich in African folklore. The members of the village know the folklore and pass it down the generations. Auntie Betty worked at the elementary school in Gaborone, Botswana that Ruchira attended. Auntie Betty looked after the children after school to make sure that they were not kidnapped while they were waiting for their parents to pick them up. So while she was taking care of them, she would tell the children stories.

This tale of the dog was one of the stories told by Auntie Betty after school. Ruchira remembers thinking that it was a really good story when he first heard it. Although he does not believe that this is truly the reason why dogs tend to chase many things, he believes that it is a really interesting way to think about it. It is a unique perspective from which to see the situation. He added that the more absurd a story is, the more he is likely to believe it. Beyond a certain level of absurdity, he feels that it is reality because he wonders why a person would say such absurd things if they were not true. Ruchira feels that this dog story fulfills the purpose of folklore, which, according to him, is to take people away for a while. He feels that folklore causes people to forget about their lives for a while to delve into a different world for a moment in time. Also, Ruchira added that Africa had developed a lot slower than other regions. Therefore, back then, there was not a lot for people to do but tell stories. He says that the stories were told for entertainment.

This story of why the dog chases things is told for entertainment as well, which is one of the reasons why it can be considered marchen. Another reason the story can be considered marchen is because it is not set in the real world, which is proven by the talking animals. Also, there is pedagogy or a lesson in the story that explains why dogs behave a certain way. The motif of the number three can also be seen within this story. Three different animals, including the elephant, the opaki, and the anteater approach and examine the dog before a name is proposed by the tortoise. Overall, this marchen is generally told to entertain children.

A story almost identical to the one Ruchira told can be found in the book African Folktales by Roger D. Abrahams. In the book, the story is titled “Why the Dog Always Chases Other Animals.” Besides the title, there are a few other small differences between the two versions, which show multiplicity and variation of this story. Although the monkey and elephant are still present in the story, the opaki that Ruchira mentioned is called an okapi in the book and the anteater is replaced by a pangolin. Also, the turtle in the book actually knew that the animal was a dog, was the one to wake the dog up, and actually ordered the dog to chase all the animals away. Yet, despite these few differences, Ruchira’s version and the version in the book were extremely similar and essentially the same story.

Abrahams, Roger D. African Folktales. Pg. 163-164. New York: Pantheon Books, 1983.