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Animals' Kingdom In Hausa Folktale: Hyena In The Personification Of Events


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Hyena is a wild and non-domestic animal that possesses some human attitudes and appears in most Hausa folktales. It was always recognized as fool and foolish, cawed, greedy and conservative, tempered and child loving among it’s habits to mention but a few. There are some human attitudes projected by hyena known as personification in the sense that it manifests actual human characters in their day to day routines. More so, hyena is only cited as example but in reality human opinions are noticed. It is what Hausa people called ‘A la~a ga sabara a harbi barewa’. This paper therefore is aimed at discussing some human attitudes that are undertaken by hyena with supported examples in Hausa folktales activities. At the end of the paper, it could be recognized that, there is personification in Hausa folktales that would make society to understand wherever hyena is used in folktale is directly referring to people.


Every creature (human or non-human) living on the surface of the earth or inside water, has some characteristics that make people to understand their behaviors. There are natural and non-natural behaviors in all human and animal beings. Sometimes we get rewarded or punished for exhibiting certain behaviours.
For example, a person walking naked is seen to be ‘a mad man’. A person who intends to kill himself is termed to be frustrated. There are attitudes in animals that project human characters in Hausa folktales. A situation where animals speak directly points to human character. Also in a situation where human beings behave like animals is a pointer to abnormality. In line with the above, this paper intends to look at the animal’s kingdom in Hausa folktales with specific reference to the hyena. Giving human attitudes to the hyena is known as personification, which is called. ‘A la~a ga sabara a harbi barewa’ in Hausa.. Hyena behaves and acts which is discussed in this paper.


Different dictionaries define folktale as ‘a very old traditional story from a particular place that was originally passed on to people in a spoken form.
It is also defined as ‘a story passed on by word of mouth rather than by writing and thus partly modified by successive re-telling before being written down or recorded. The category include ‘legend’, jokes, tell stories and fairy tales or marcher. Many folktales involve mythical creatures and magical transformation.
Beside above, there are Hausa definitions of folktale. The definition of the word is well explained and understood like that of English.


A wild animal like a dog that feeds on the flesh of other dead animals and cry like a human laugh. Hyenas are animals that live in Africa and Asia. From the above definition we can understand that the hyena is not a domestic animal but a wild one.


Many languages has the name of kura. It is obvious that all languages that speaks has names of everything. The following are names of hyena in the languages below:
Hausa – Kura
English –Hyena
Fulatanci –Buru
Larabci- Dhab’u / Zi’ibu
Faransanci – Hyena (Heyin), the same spelling with English but sound defers
Buzanci- Tuzori
Yarbanci – Ikoko
Zabarmanci – Koro
Jukunanci - Tame


Hyena, like other wild animals, has its own epithets used by Hausa people. Some of the Hausa epithets ( kirari) of hyena (Kura) are as follows:
1.Kura cikinki babu halali
2.Kura mai kayan kunya
3. Kura ga tsoro ga ban tsoro
4. Kura ke ci kasuwanni da yawaa, ke ci ta jini ke ci ta tsoka
5. Laifin kura goma banda satar wa]ari
6. Kura mai a ci wawai, a yi miki duhu abin wani ya ~ace.


The practice of representing objects, qualities etc, as human beings in art and literature is called personification.


On many occasions the hyena is used to manifest human mind though, other animals are also used in rare cases for the same reason. The hyena is selected because its attitude in folktale resembles that of human beings. Hyena is also popular to people in the animal kingdom because of the earlier interaction. It is also one of the wild animals that visits villages at the night for a purpose which will be discussed later

5.1 CRAVING FOR FOOD (Kwadayi)

Hyena complains of hunger all the time and hardly gets satisfied with what she ate. In most of the folktales hyena is the only animal that cannot be satisfied with food. It is looking for food to eat at all times. Hyena never invites any animal to her home for lunch but, always goes round other animals’ houses looking for food. There are some Hausa tales that projects some human attitudes. For example, in a folktale of the hare

and the hyena where they went to the bush look for food to eat where hyena said, she must follow different direction. In the folktale the hyena followed the normal road and the hare followed in the grasses. They all follow their way to look for what to eat. The hare continue walking in the grasses up to the time he met bees in a cave. When they were going out from the cave they say something and the time of going back into their cave.. The sequerrel memorize all the words of bees where he entered by saying the words of bees. Any time he enter he got a honey which he drank and got some he came along with. At the time he met with the hyena, she did not get anything to eat. The hyena looked at the hare and said, where did you get the honey? He gave her some to take, and forced him to take her to the place he got the honey. They went there together where he told the hyena how to go in and how to get out from the bees house after getting the honey. The hyena entered and forget what to say to come out up to the time of bees return. Accidently, the bees met hyena in their house where they bite her to the extent. At the of bees return, the hare vanish away and left the hyena in trouble, where the face of hyena swelled and later came back home bitterly. There are many examples of this but this paper cannot accommodate all.

5.2 OPPRESSION AND SELFISHNESS (Zalunci, cin amana da son kai)

These are other attitudes of the hyena in folktales, but indirectly referring to people’s attitudes. The first and best example of personification of events in hyena is talking and we know only human beings are blessed to talk. Hyena is oppressive and selfish in the sense that, it always oppressed small animals and showed cruelty to them. This can be seen and understood by referring to the tales of kura da karya and others like kare da kura da damo and tatsuniyar kura da zomo. Oppression and selfishness are two sides of the same coin. One cannot go without the other in the tale of kura da kurege. There is oppression and selfishness in this tale. The tale shows that, one day hyena was in the bush looking for what to eat. In the process the hyena was caught in a trap where she spent the whole night. The following day a squirrel came out looking for food met kura in the trap. By the time kura saw the squirrel, she requested for help and told the squirrel that she was hungry because did not eat since the previous day. The squirrel complained to hyena that, his fear in helping her was that, she might victimize him. The hyena replied “No!” The squirrel removed her from the trap but she caught him instantly to kill him for her food. With the help of Malamin Dawa (Dila) the squirrel escaped the danger. This reflects the habit of human beings and that is why ‘Hausawa’ say “Kada in yi maka rana ka yi mini dare”. This happens a number of times and is the habit of the people which hyena is used indirectly to represent. (A la~a ga sabara a harbi barewa). No doubt there is oppression and selfishness by hyena according to this folktale.
Another folktale which shows hyena’s oppressive manner is that of a learned man who intends to go to Mecca on horseback. He meets a hyena on his way when his horse is tired of the journey. The hyena meets Malam while the horse is resting and asks him, “Malam where are you going?” Malam replies that he was going to Mecca but his horse was tired and was resting for a moment. The hyena requested Malam to give her the horse to eat and she would carry him to Mecca. Malam was doubtful of hyena’s intention and felt it was a plan to cheat him but the hyena told the Malam that it was not a plan. Malam gave his horse to the hyena and ate it. The hyena told Malam to wait for her to come. She went to her house and told her children that whoever came and asked for her should be told that she was not at home. Malam waited for the hyena for a long time but it did not come. Malamin Dawa met Malam and asked him what happened. He narrated all that transpired between him and the hyena but the hyena did not come so that he can continue with the journey.’Malamin dawa’ told Malam to wait for him to come with the hyena for him to continue with his journey to Mecca. Malamin dawa used his wisdom and brought the hyena to him. He gave Malam the instruction to ride on the hyena’s back to take him to Mecca and to abide by the instructions lest the hyena runs away. The Malam followed the instructions until he reached Mecca. He asked some boys to look after the hyena while he went to pray. While Malam was in the mosque, the boys rode the hyena and left. They ran into the bush where the hyena left them and went away. By the time Malam finished his prayers, he came out and saw neither the boys nor the hyena. The hyena oppressed Malam when it ate the Malam’s horse and made a promise to take him to Mecca but refused. This is a great oppression and most of the people of this time are like the hyena. There is also a tale of Ruwan Ladi between a boy and a hyena. One day the hyena killed the boy’s sister. The boy went to Ruwan Ladi (where bush animals drink water and took off the whole lake and carried it with him. He stopped at the side of the road leading to Ruwan Ladi to fish out the animal that killed his sister. As he waited, the elephant came, and the boy asked about his sister. The elephant declared that she did not know about his sister and even vomited what she had eaten for the boy to see. Nothing is seen with regard to his sister. The boy told the elephant that there was no water for her until he knows about his sister. Next, came the lion. The boy asked the lion about his sister and the

lion did the same as the elephant and it was declared that lion did not kill the boy’s sister. A moment later came the hyena and the boy asked about his sister. The hyena kept quiet and the lion was angry with the hyena for not answering the question. The lion immediately caught and opened the stomach of hyena where the boy’s sister was seen. After the clarification of who killed the boy’s sister, he returned the water for the rest of the animals to drink, and they all drank and went away. Indeed there was oppression to the boy due to the fact that the hyena is not supposed to do that since they were living together. This case reminded me of one Hausa saying that, Maci amana yana tare da kunya, which is very true.

5.3 FEAR AND FRIGHTENING/SCARING (Tsoro da ban tsoro)

There is fear in the mind of hyena and at the same time it frightens people in so many ways. Hausa people have epithets for hyena as follows: kura ga tsoro ga ban tsoro. In the case of personification in folktale, hyena is the right example of fear and frightening/ scaring but in reality it is manifesting people’s attitude. Hyena is known to be sarkin tsoro in animals’ kingdom and also frightening to other animals that lived in houses and the bush. Because of hyena’s fear, Hausa people used to say “Tsoro kamar farar kura”. Let us take one example from the tale of Taure da Kura. It reads as follows: Once upon a time, goats (males and

females) wanted to turban their leader. They all agreed on whoever went to the hyena’s home and spent three days there and came back alive would be turbaned as the king. The rest of the male goats declined but one stood on its foot to go. He was accompanied by male humans to the hyena’s house/village but stayed at the side of the village. They immediately returned home leaving taure to enter the village. The male goat met the hyenas and greeted them, telling them that he was their leader’s visitor. They led him to their king where he saluted him. Taure told the king that he visited him in other to build rapport of living in harmony. The king welcomes him and received him. Taure told the king that he liked to go to the market place to buy some items. The king told three hyenas to accompany him to the market. He went there and bought some flies and put into his bag. By the time they came back, after staying in the village for three days, he told the king that he would like to go back to his village in order to come along with his family. The king selected three hyenas to accompany him to the village byepass again. After reaching bypass, two hyenas went back but one of them refused to go back so that he could kill the male goat (Taure). By the time Taure understood the intention of the hyena, he branched off to greet the king of lions. The lion told Taure that he was hungry. By the time the hyena saw the lion, it started defecating because of fear. At that time, Taure asked the lion whether he would eat hyena’s skin and flies. The lion answered “No”. The Taure asked the lion to taste it. The lion cut hyena’s skin while Taure gave him some flies to taste. The lion enjoyed it and cut hyena’s skin again. At that juncture Taure vanished and ran away to his village and was turbaned as king.
In the case of frightening, in one tale of kare da kura da damo the dog went out hunting because he hungry and met damo (alligator). On his way house, the dog saw the hyena and immediately threw the alligator away and ran from the hyena, because of the fear he had for the hyena. This is directly telling people that there are some people who are afraid of others and also who frighten others.

5.4 ANGER AND TIMIDITY (Chicken-hearted) (fushi da raki)

The hyena is mentioned in folktales to manifest some human traits. The hyena gets angered and intimidated for some reasons, (Chicken-hearted). Human beings also get angered and intimidated sometimes due to some reasons too. There is a tale of a hyena and a hare whereby they lived close to each other and were all pregnant. One day the she-hare visited the hyena and told her she would like to bring their children together after delivery. This was for the security reason and to live peacefully. The hyena accepted and welcomed the idea. After they had delivered they resolved between themselves that, the hare was to look after the new born whereas hyena was responsible for getting food. It was agreed that, zomanya should not show any difference. Hyena continue bringing food every day, but the she-hare (zomanya) ate and gave her babies denying hyena’s babies. At any time the hyena wished to see her babies, zomanya denied her and told her they were all fine. The hare babies became fat and healthy but hyena’s own became constipated due to lack of food. One day the hyena insisted on seeing her babies and she met hare’s babies looking fine and good unlike her own babies. The hyena became provoked and told zomanya that she cheated her greatly. From that time she told zomanya that they were going to kill them all and eat their meat. Zomanya was confused over what the hyena said. She finally escaped death with all her babies from the trap of hyena. Here, the hyena must be angered for what zomanya had done to her babies. This is also true of human beings where promises are made with them and in the long run they refused to honour them intentionally due to some reasons.
Intimidation (Chicken –hearted) in other words called raki in Hausa, is one of a hyena’s attitudes. There is a tale of wrestling between domestic animals and wild animals. Hyena chase to wrestle with a goat and a donkey. First, it was planned that the hyena was going to start with a goat. When they were about to start, the goat ran away knowing fully that the hyena would defeat her. Next, the donkey came to the front of the hyena and planned to shoot the hyena on the face with it right leg. At the time they confronted each other, the donkey turned back as if he was going to run away like the goat and, the hyena immediately followed to catch the donkey not knowing the plan made. The hyena rushed to catch the donkey and the donkey took his right leg and shot to the face of the hyena. The hyena started crying and shouting for what the donkey did to her. The crying and shouting of the hyena for what the donkey did to her is termed to be timidity or chicken-heartedness which is called raki in Hausa. The hyena was not expected by all animals to get sudden shot by the donkey but it happened like a dream. It is also observed that anger and timidity are common in human beings. The hyena is only used but in reality it is explaining the minds of the people.


There is absurdity in hyena’s attitudes toward the way it confronts issues. Hyena is a foolish animal in the sense that a small animal could put her in trouble and go away. Here one example is going to be cited on the foolishness of the hyena. In a folktale of farming the hyena and squirrel were farm neighbors. They planted beans on their farms and the beans grew well. The squirrel was not happy with the hyena’s farm because he saw a nice bean in it. The squirrel wanted the hyena to loose it beans completely. In this case, he planed and told hyena that, stars from the sky came down in their farm to destroy their beans. The hyena asked the squirrel the way out of the problem. He answered that it was better if early in the morning, the following day, they got their sticks to go and beat the stars off, and added that they were to start with his farm. The hyena replied “no, we start with my farm since you are smaller while I am the bigger”. The squirrel agreed. The next day early in the morning, they came with their sticks and cut away all the beans’ flowers in the hyena’s farm, intending to come to the squirrel’s farm the next day, but he planned to prevent them from going to his farm. Early in the morning the hyena came to the squirrel’s house to call him out to the farm. He complained to her that he was sick so he would not be able to go and ask her but she had to come the following day. She came again in the morning, where he complained the like the previous day. So, he did not want to go because he was ill. One day he quickly went to see his farm and found that the bean seeds had grown. He told the hyena that the stars had shown sympathy on him and went back to the sky due to his sickness. At the time of harvest, they went to their farms and found hyena’s farm with no seed but squirrel’s farm with seeds in abundance. The hyena requested him to give her a little bean but he told her that she must help him to harvest before he gave her any. After harvesting he gave her a little out of the abundant he got. The folktale identifies the absurdity or foolishness of the hyena for accepting the idea of squirrel without understanding what was good or bad for her.


This paper discusses personification of events with respect to the hyena in Hausa folktales. Human attitudes were manifested by hyena in many Hausa tales whereby the hyena practiced human attitudes in order to serve as a lesson to the people. It could be understood that the hyena acts like human beings in issues like craving, oppressing, selfish, fear and frightening, anger and timidity, absurdity and foolishness which are common habits of people. Human beings are blessed to think, talk, run, walk, eat, drink, to mention a few. At this juncture, Hausa people use the hyena in a folktale to teach people a lesson since folktale is the first school for the Hausa people. The system of personification where hyena manifests some human attitudes is helpful to the people because it makes people to correct mistakes of the past. It is also helpful where it tells us about people’s mind. There are people that are good and those that are not good. Good character is manifested for the people to copy while bad ones are not allowed. In conclusion, personification exists in Hausa folktales and is very much useful to the audience in particular and people in general.


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