KuKu and Mwewe: A Swahili Folktale by Marta Munte’ Vidal 34 pages
Foreign folktales are always interesting and this one teaches the reader a lesson. Like Aesop’s tales this story has a moral. It introduces you to two dear friends, KuKu the hen and Mwemwe the eagle who grew up together and were always the best of friends since the day they were born. Alas even friends can come to a point where differences can separate them and break the special bond they share. This happens to these two friends. KuKu finds this wonderful unique fabrique in the market place. No one had ever seen such beautiful work so she buys it, goes home and makes herself a fine outfit from the cloth. Everyone compliments her when they see her in her fine outfit. But one day as KuKu is walking happily across the savannah she catches her outfit on a mgunga tree and rips the beautiful cloth. Her outfit is ruined. She burst into tears and ran for her best friend Mwemwe. Mwemwe feels so sorry for KuKu that she tries her best to cheer her up but Kuku is inconsolable. Mwemwe takes KuKu inside her house to make her a cup of tea so she will feel better. While KuKu is sitting on cushions and resting her head on the wall she spies a sewing needle on a shelf. The needle is obviously very dear to her friend because she has it sticking out of a special velvet cushion that is sitting next to some of Mwemew’s most prized trophies. Kuku begs her friend to let her have it to use to sew her outfit back together. Now this is a very special sewing needle that has been passed down from generation to generation as long as there have been eagles. It is priceless! It is a family heirloom and it is quite impossible for Mwemwe to lend it to anyone regardless of the purpose they need it for. KuKu begs and begs her friend. Promising everything under the sun that she will take good care of it and not let it out of her sight and will only use it that day and return it to Mwemwe the next day. Kuku wheedles and begs more when her friend doesn’t budge saying but we are best friends and you can’t put a price on friendship! Mwemwe doesn’t want to do it but she finally gives in and reluctantly allows KuKu to borrow it reiterating that it is a most precious family heirloom and as soon as KuKu Is finished with it to bring it back to Mwemwe straight away! Kuku says alright and takes off home. Days go by with no word from KuKu and she has not come back to return the precious family heirloom needle. So, Mwemwe decides to fly over to the village where her friend lives to retrieve it herself. When she gets there KuKu is not home. One of her neighbors tells Mwemwe she saw KuKu in the market earlier that day. Mwemwe thanks her then goes to the market looking for her friend. Kuku is very happy to see her and says , “HI! Look at my dress! It’s as good as new! “ Mwemwe is a bit perturbed and says a little miffed that she can see that it looks great. Now she would like her needle back, please. KuKu says, Oh sure, I thought I had it right here. Playing for time. Why would she have had it at the market? Then Kuku says Well, wait I will get it for you. She comes back with empty wings telling Mwemwe, “Well it’s here, I just don’t know where here. I don’t know where it is but I will find it for you, don’t worry!” Mwemwe is dumbfounded. She can’t believe her friend is so unconcerned when she told her how important it was to her. She can’t believe her old friend would treat her so disrespectfully when she went out of her way to allow her to borrow something so dear. Why would her friend have not kept up with it? She used it. How could she be so uncaring as to not return it and not even to keep up with where she put it after she used it? When Mwemwe told her to bring it back to her straight away as soon as she was finished with it? Why would her friend treat her so cruelly? That was her special present handed down for generations and KuKu treats it like is meaningless. She asks KuKu if she leant it to anyone? Try to remember! Kuku is just playing dumb, “I don’t know. I don’t know what I did with it after I used it.” Yeah, well, if you had returned it like you supposed to and laid it on something where you could see it or put it in a jar or something so it could be seen easily and not roll off wherever you laid it and rolled who knows where? Love and respect for your friend who was there for you when you needed her might have led you to treat it like the valuable artifact that your friend felt it to be. Mwemwe is hot and rightly so. She yells, “That needle is irreplaceable! You had better find it or the fury of my ancestors will befall you!” Days, weeks and months pass. Kuku looked everywhere she could think of but did not find the needle. She bought a whole bunch of presents and took them to her friend to try to make amends for losing her needle but Mwemwe wasn’t having it. Nothing could make up for KuKu’s careless behavior and the loss of her beloved family heirloom. She told Kuku to go away and don’t come back without it! The needle was lost and so was their friendship. The folktale says that is why to this day chickens peck at and scratch the ground still to this day looking for the special needle that they still hope to return to the eagles one day. Moral of the story: Nobody loves your things like you do, so, if you really love something do not let someone talk you into letting them borrow it because it may not come back or if it does it may not be in the same shape it was when you loaned it.