Once upon a time, long time ago, animals used to live together in the jungle and were friends to each other. They would talk together and come around fireplaces as we do and share stories too. One day, the animal kingdom suffered from lack of firewood. The termites had eaten all the trees within the jungle and what was left was only grass, yet the animals had to cook their food. Although they lived together in the jungle, each animal had to look after her own family and cook for the family.
Hyenas gathered for a meeting and the eldest said that twenty Hyenas should go and look for firewood in a distant land. They left the jungle and on they went, in search of firewood. On their way, they found Hare hopping slowly and they asked her where she was going. Although Hare was also going to look for firewood for her family, she said she was just stretching her muscles. The hyenas passed her and rushed ahead, for they had to come back that same day.
The hyenas were lucky enough to get firewood in the distant land, after they had walked beyond four hills. They gathered enough firewood and tied them in bundles. Soon it was time to leave, but one hyena said that she was thirsty and another responded that she too was thirsty. All the twenty hyenas agreed that they needed water and so they slopped to a river they had seen as they collected firewood. They left their bundles in one place and went.
They came back feeling better since the water was cold and had given them relief. One Hyena suddenly cautioned the rest.
“We have to count ourselves and make sure that we do not leave one of us.” One cautioned.
“Yes, let’s find out how many we are.” Another one seconded.
“We came when we were twenty in number” Said one hyena.
One Hyena counted the rest but forgot to count herself. She announced that one of them was missing.
One other hyena said “I think you counted wrongly. Let me do it.” She also counted but forgot to count herself and announced that one of them was missing. After five attempts of recounting and each hyena that counted failing to count herself, they all became worried and started to cry loudly, and others shouted so that the lost hyena could find track of where the rest were. They did this in vain.
Hare, who had just arrived in the woodland, knew that the time she would spend gathering firewood would end up earning him a night in the foreign land. He had the cries of the hyenas and came forward.
“What is the problem? I see you already have firewood but you are crying instead of being happy” Hare spoke and the hyenas we silent a while.
“One of us is missing” said one hyena with her eyes wet from wailing.
“Yes, one person is missing” responded the rest.
“How many were you?” Hare asked.
“Twenty” was the general reply from Hyenas.
Hare counted the hyenas from her mind and saw that they were twenty.
“I am going to try my best and look for the one who is lost,” She said. “But it is not easy to find her since this is a foreign land. I have to talk to my gods first.”
“Please do and we will give you anything you want”, respond the hyenas.
“Okay. You will do two things for me. First, you will carry me back to our kingdom and secondly, you will give me five pieces of firewood from each bundle once we reach our kingdom. If not, I am continuing with my walk.”
“We will carry you back and give you five bundles each”, the hyena’s promised.
Hare then asked them to lie down facing the ground and they did so.
“My gods have warned that if you reach the kingdom and do not give me five pieces of firewood from each bundle, all of you will go missing from the kingdom and will wander in lands far from this one.”
“We will give you the five pieces of firewood.” The hyenas reconfirmed.
Hare then picked a bundle by bundle and put each aside. She told the hyenas to make deafening ululations, to help her conjure spirits. They ululated and after some time, Hare told them to stop. She asked them to stand up and face her.
“I want you to count with me”, she said as he touched the first bundle. “One, Two, …” The hyenas counted in correspondence to Hare’s touch of every bundle and saw that the bundles were twenty. Hare then asked each Hyena to come, as the rest counted, and hold on a bundle each. They did so and confirmed that they were now twenty and that one of them had been found. They were very happy and carried Hare back to their kingdom and once there, they gave her five pieces of wood from each bundle. Hare ended up with more pieces of firewood than each hyena had.