How the zebra got its beautiful stripes: A story told by Webson Phiri (74 years old) (Longwe village, Zambia)

Long time ago, there was the zebra, the hyena and the tortoise. At that time the zebra was black as night. Tortoise was well known for charm and magic. The hyena ambushed the tortoise, whenever they met each other, while the zebra always greeted the tortoise and sometimes gave it some mushrooms to eat.

One day the tortoise invited the zebra to pay it a visit. The day came and the zebra went to see the tortoise. The zebra was warmly welcomed. Plenty of food was prepared and also drinks. After they ate the food, the tortoise raised the topic of zebras’s black skin. The tortoise offered zebra some charm that could transform its skin. The zebra did not believe that this could be true, hence it agreed to the offer.

Soon the tortoise brought a carabash with some charm inside it. “Close your eyes!” screamed the tortoise. The zebra closed its eyes for a moment. After a few minutes the zebra’s skin changed. It got some black and white stripes. Since that day the zebra got a beautiful skin.

Now the news was spread all over that the zebra got beautiful stripes from the magic provided by the tortoise. Without waisting time, the hyena rushed to the tortoise to ask for the same charm it used to change the zebra’s skin color, as it had plain brown skin. The tortoise did not refuse to change hyena’s skin color as well. The tortoise brought a carabash with some charm inside it. “Close your eyes!” the hyena was told. After a few minutes the hyena got ugly dots all over. This is why hyena looks more ugly than zebras.


Stroy recorded and translated by author: Longwe village, chief Chanje, Chipata, Zambia 11.09.2017

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