Why a Hawk kills Chickens: A Folktale of Calabar, Nigeria

Calabar Nigeria - Folkli
Pinpoint Location: Calabar, Cross River State / Map data ©2019 Google

This folktale from Calabar tells the tale of the hawk, who married a hen but ended up hunting her offspring. 

one day a hawk was hovering round, about eleven o’clock in the morning, as was his custom, making large circles in the air and scarcely moving his wings. His keen eyes were wide open, taking in everything.

The hawk spotted a very fine young hen picking up some corn near her father’s house. He closed his wings slightly, and in a second was close to the ground; then spreading his wings out to check his flight, he perched himself on the fence, as a hawk does not like to walk on the ground if he can help it.

He greeted the young hen with his most enticing whistle, and offered to marry her. She agreed, so the hawk spoke to the parents, and paid the agreed amount of dowry (which consisted mostly of corn). The next day he took the young hen off to his home.

Shortly after this a young cock who lived near the hen’s former home found out where she was living. Having been in love with her, he determined to get her to return. He went at dawn, and, having flapped his wings once or twice, crowed to the young hen. When she heard the sweet voice of the cock she could not resist his invitation, so she went to him, and they walked off together to her parent’s house.

The hawk, who was hovering high up in the sky, quite out of sight of any ordinary eye, saw what had happened, and was very angry. He made up his mind at once that he would obtain justice from the king, and flew off to Calabar, where he told the whole story, and asked for immediate redress.

The king sent for the parents of the hen, and told them they must repay to the hawk the dowry they had received from him on the marriage of their daughter, according to the native custom; but the hen’s parents said that they were so poor that they could not possibly afford to pay. So the king told the hawk that he could kill and eat the cock’s children whenever and wherever he found them as payment of his dowry, and, if the cock made any complaint, the king would not listen to him.

From that time until now, whenever, a hawk sees a chicken he swoops down and carries it off in part-payment of his dowry.

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