Tag Archives: origin

The Lion, the Hare, and the Hyena

Main Text

KK: “One of them was called The Lion, the Hare, and the Hyena and that story essentially goes there was this lion named Simba, um, not from the Lion King, but you know he had gotten injured on a hunt and he was living in his cave and he was, you know, starving to death because he couldn’t really go out and get anymore food. And eventually this hare, um, came up to him and was like ‘Hey, you know, I’m a really well-renowned doctor around these parts. I can heal you up, just you know, I can lure some animals in here and you can hunt them because I can’t really get my own food and we can help each other out.’ And the lion was hesitant at first because he was a solitary creature, his pride wasn’t really with him anymore. But eventually the hare moved into the lions cave and they started helping each other out. The lion would hunt whenever he could and provide food for the both of them, while the hare nursed his wound. And then eventually this hyena, who was kinda a notorious trickster around the area, walked up and was like ‘Oh hey, Mr. Lion. I noticed that you’re, like, a little injured. Have you been getting treatment?” So the lion explained that he was getting treated by the hare who was famous around as like a doctor. And the hyena said ‘Well, you know, if he’s that good then I feel like your leg should have been healed a lot quicker.’ And the lion thought for a second and he was like ‘Yeah, you know if he is that good my leg should have been healed way quicker.’ The hyena was then like ‘You know, maybe me and you could go out hunting together sometime and I could help you out with your leg. And at this point the lion kind of sussed out that something was going on so he sent the hyena away. And the hyena came back the next day, but the hare was also there, and so the hyena said ‘Oh Lion, like, you wanna go hunting? I can help you out, you can help me out, etcetera.’ And he was eyeing up the hare in a really kind of predatory way, you know like he wanted to eat him. And the lion noticed and was like ‘No. Get out, you need to leave.’ Hyena came back the next day while the hare was out doing something and he said ‘Hey Lion, you know, like I promise you this guy’s a really good doctor and he could have healed your leg in a couple of days, but I think he’s keeping you injured so you two, um, so you can keep supporting him.’ And then what happened was the hare came back. and the hyena left, and the lion explained to the hare, he was like, ‘Hey, you know, if you’re such a good doctor, why, haven’t you healed me quicker?’ And the hare, and the hare was like ‘Well, where’d you hear this from, you know, I’m doing the best I can. I’m trying to help you out.’ And the lion said ‘Oh, from the hyena he keeps coming to visit.’ And then the hare kind of got the idea. He said ‘Oh, okay, well that’s actually really convenient, because if I get the skin off the back of a hyena, I can use it to patch your leg up instantly. I just haven’t had the chance to get it.’ So the hyena came back the next day and was like ‘Hey, lion!’ And he saw the hare next to him. He was like ‘We don’t have any need for this stupid hare anymore. We should just eat him, and you know I can heal your leg.’ And the the lion just immediately clocked what was going on and just jumped on the hyena, you know, tore the skin off his back and gave it to the hare. The hyena ran away embarrassed and you could tell that’s kind of like an origin story, for why hyenas have those like coarse hairs along their back, because the lion ripped it out and so the the hare was like ‘Hey I’ll patch your leg up all good’ and with the power of magic, and the hyenas skin the lion was healed, and they lived happily ever after.”


KK is a 21 year old USC student studying psychology on a pre-med track. Of Indian descent, he was originally born in South Africa but has lived in England, the UAE and now in New York, Ny. KK heard this story for the first time as a child still living in South Africa from his grandmother. He says that it was one of Nelson Mandela’s favorite folk tales, and it has since become one of his.


KK says that this tale is most commonly told as a bedtime story for children and that it also serves as a myth for the origin from the raised hairs running along the backs of wild hyenas. This story also serves to impart a moral onto its listeners that lying has bad consequences and telling the truth is always the noble path.

Interviewer Analysis

I could not find the ATU type number for this story exactly but there are plenty of folktales out there that carry similar themes and morals. Hyenas and jackals are often trickster characters in these stories, trying to convince the stronger, sometimes less clever, lion into helping them in some way. These stories usually end in the same way as well, with the lion realizing he has been tricked and then punishing the hyena thus showing the listener of the story, most often a child, that lying is an undesirable trait and that it leads to your own downfall. Stories with morals for children are not groundbreaking novelties, but the added bonus that this story also serves as an origin for a natural phenomenon is interesting.

Why Chinese People Have Short Names

This is a story that I heard from a barber when discussing folklore origins. S is a middle aged Chinese woman who used to live in China before immigrating to the United States.

S: There was one about a boy with a super long name who fell down a well and almost died because his name was too long. I think his name was “Tiki-tiki-tembo-no-sar-embo-charri-barri-boochi-pip-perry-pembo” or something like that. It was Chinese.. custom to say the full name of a firstborn child. So the boy with the long name had a brother with a short name, and they were playing next to a well by their house. The younger brother fell into the well, so the older brother ran to their mom and said Chang fell into the well! Oh, and Chang was the name of the younger brother.

Me: Oh nooo! Were they able to save him?

S: Yes! They got a ladder to help Chang climb out of the well right away and he was just fine. Then another day, the two brothers were playing next to the well again when this time it was the older brother who fell!

Me: (groans) come on guys, do better. Silly little kids!

S: So this time, Chang runs to his mom and tries to tell her that Tiki-tiki-tembo-no-sar-embo-charri-barri-boochi-pip-perry-pembo fell into the well. But since he ran there, he was so out of breath that he could only say tiki-tiki-tembo… before running out of breath. His mom was so intent on respecting her first-born son’s name that she would not listen until he was able to say (inhales largely) Tiki-tiki-tembo-no-sar-embo-charri-barri-boochi-pip-perry-pembo. Whew! That was hard hahha.

Me: (trying to say it with her) Tiki-tiki-tembo-no-sar-embo-charri-barii-boochi alala blehhh. I couldn’t imagine having a name that long. That must suck!

S: Yeah anyways, they finally got the ladder after Chang was able to pronounce his brother’s name, but he was basically almost drowned by this point. They were able to save him, but it took him a long time to recover. And that’s why Chinese people have short names!

Me: Wow, what a cool tale! I hope that the mom learned her lesson, that could’ve ended really badly.

The Origin of the Řízek

Interviewer: So you just gave me a recipe for… I’m not going to try and pronounce it. You said you also have a story about its origin?

Informant: Yeah, during some battle of the Austrian-Hungarian army in Italy, the general that led his battalion there from the army saw the locals making some sort of food where they would take a piece of meat and cover it in parmesan and fry it. He thought, “well how could I recreate this for our emperor when we don’t have parmesan back home?” So, when he got back from the war, he had the chef at the royal palace recreate the recipe and that’s how this recipe came about

Interviewer: I assume the general was Czech?

Informant: Yeah, yeah.

Context: My informant is a nineteen year old Czech national attending school in the United States. He’s lived in Prague for most of his life, and Czech is his first language. The interview was conducted face-to-face in a college dorm room.

Background: My informant probably learned this story from his grandmother. He remembers it because Řízek is a traditional food that every Czech person knows how to make. He places great importance on this story because it disputes the Austrian and Hungarian claims to Řízek, a food widely considered by the Czech population as their national dish.

Analysis: I personally find this legend very believable. Řízek the food closely resembles chicken parmesan from Italy, and the story itself is quite believable from a historical sense. The Austro-Hungarian army was in Italy, and a general would conceivably had seen the traditional Italian dish prepared. From a more objective perspective, this story legend is also interesting because, despite being a Czech legend, it refers to a time period before the Czech people had an actual sovereign nation, but is still used to reinforce the claims of the Czech people on Řízek.

The Polish Eagle

Informant IT is a sophomore studying Computer Science and Business Administration at the University of Southern California. She is of Polish descent and has lived in many parts of the world. She is fluent in several languages including Polish, English, and Mandarin, and she considers herself very good at learning languages. In this piece, she tells the interviewer (AK), about a Polish myth concerning the founding of Poland.

IT: So, this is the story of the Polish Eagle, and how Poland is set to be founded. So the three brothers Lef, Czech, and Bruce were living in small villages. But it came to the point where the villages were just too small to live comfortably. So they set out with some troops and they started going through mountains and rivers and they couldn’t find anyone. And it had gotten to the point where they got to the top of a mountain top and they decided to go 3 separate ways. Lef went straight ahead, Czech went left, and Bruce went right. And Lef went down the mountain and went over another valley, and at the top of another mountain, he saw an eagle flying in the sunset and the light apparently fell very beautifully. Uhh on the head of the crown of the eagle head. That’s why it has a crown on its head on the Polish flag. And he decided that this is where they would settle and they brought all the people there, and they called themselves the Polonians. Which means “The people of the fields”. Yeah, that’s the story of the Polish Eagle and how Poland was founded.

AK: So would you say this is more of a legend, or is it almost accepted as fact of how Poland was created?

IT:  I don’t know if I would say it’s accepted as fact, but every single Polish person knows this story, like there’s movies and games and comics about this.

AK: But it’s just been passed down through generations?

IT: Yeah, yeah and they had flown the flag with the eagle on it and the eagle with the crown on its head when they had founded it way back then. And it’s definitely accepted by everyone now.

I really enjoyed listening to this Polish myth about its creation. It definitely invoked a sense of nationalism and pride in my informant and she even mentioned that every Polish person has definitely heard this story. This is one of the aspects of it that makes it into a myth. It has a sacred truth value since everyone knows the story and has accepted it. I knew just about nothing about Polish culture, so it was really interesting to learn a bit through this piece.

Origin of a Name

D is a 57 year old man. He is a practicing cardiologist at a hospital in the northern suburbs of Illinois. He identifies as American as he grew up in Boston, but he strongly associates with his Scottish heritage as well. D completed his undergraduate studies at Dartmouth University and he attended Cornell University for his degree in medicine. During his studies, both undergraduate and med school, D studied abroad in France two times. While in medical school, D studied at the Faculté de Médecine et de Maïeutique de Lille in Lille, France. English is his primary language, yet he is also fluent in French.

Me: Can you tell me about your Scottish heritage?

D: Well, my last name is Campbell, and it’s, well, the name is Scottish. Um, the name comes from the Clan Campbell.

Me: Do you know what the name means?

D: Campbell, or, well, I guess it was Cambéal if you want to to get specific, which is made up of two Scottish Gaelic words that when put together translate to mean “crooked mouth.”

Me: Why crooked mouth?

D: It (Cambéal) was more of a nickname than anything. It took the place as a surname later on.

Me: But then why were they nicknamed “crooked mouth.”

D: Oh, yeah, well the Clan Campbell wasn’t a very popular group in Scotland highlands. They supported the British government, so the highlanders didn’t really get along with them. Mostly the name is taken to mean, untrustworthy or tricksters, other things alongs those lines.

Me: Why? I mean, can you give me some history?

D:  The Campbell’s were responsible for many massacres, and many people hated for their support of the British government, but I think the most prominent one is probably the Massacre of Glencoe. In the late 1600’s, the British government used their supporters, the Campbells, in a plan to suppress Jacobitism. After spending over a week in Glencoe, taking advantage of the MacDonald’s hospitality, the Campbells killed around 40 unarmed Clan MacDonald men, women, and children. And I visited Glencoe during a backpacking trip with my buddies in college. I remember asking for Campbell plaid. The saleswoman at the shop gave me a dead stare and told me “we don’t sell that here.” There were also signs in some store windows that said “no dogs or Campbells allowed.”

Me: Wow, they really don’t like Campbells there do they?

D: I think Glencoe is a specific case because the massacre was so terrible. I didn’t get the same reaction in other parts of Scotland. For the most part, it was a long time ago and people don’t care so much anymore. I found Campbell plaid pretty easily as soon as we travelled closer to Edinbourgh.

Me: How do you know all of this?

D: My father mostly, and this little green book he gave me. It that talks all about the history of the Campbell Clan. I gave the book to my kids to read as well. It’s important to know where you come from.

D’s heritage obviously means a lot to him, most of it ties into his last name. He knows a lot about Clan Campbell and their history. He has the tartan specific to the Clan Campbell as well, so he is proud of his heritage. Regardless of the questionable things that his ancestors did, the family still has a rich history. He wants his kids to know about their ancestry as well because he passed down the book about their family that his father gave him to his children.

Here is the link to the book D is talking about: http://www.amazon.com/The-Campbells-Campbell-Scottish-Mini-book/dp/1852170360