Why the Cat kills Rats: 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 rat, who fell in love with a servant girl and stole from the king to win her affection. 

Ansa was King of Calabar for fifty years. He had a very faithful cat as a housekeeper, and a rat was his house-boy. The king was an obstinate, headstrong man, but he was very fond of the cat, who had been in his store for many years.

The rat, who was very poor, fell in love with one of the king’s servant girls, but since he had no money he was unable to give her any presents.

At last he thought of the king’s store. Being quite small, he had little difficulty sneaking through a hole in the roof during the night. He then stole corn and native pears, and presented them to his sweetheart.

At the end of the month, when the cat had to render her account of the things in the store to the king, a lot of corn and native pears were missing. The king was very angry at this, and asked the cat for an explanation. But the cat could not account for the loss, until one of her friends told her that the rat had been stealing the corn and giving it to the girl.

The cat told the king, who had the servant girl flogged. He then handed the rat over to the cat to deal with, but dismissed them both from his service. The cat was so angry at this that she killed and ate the rat.

Ever since that time cats try to kill and eat rats wherever they find them.

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