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.
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.