How Ji Choose a Mate
Leopard’s daughter Ji was the most beautiful of all the animals; the young male animals made love to her, and the other girls were jealous.
Leopard arranged that a great feast should be held in honor of his daughter, and at the feast Ji would choose the animal whom she wished to marry. The animals washed and dressed in fine raiment and quarreled jealously among themselves as to which among them would win the fair Ji’s hand; there was palaver everywhere and no one’s head was safe. For a long time Tortoise could not make up his mind whether to go or not; he was a humble animal but was becoming rather tired of being a rubbish heap for everyone else’s rude remarks. He knew he was ugly and did not mind very much. He just became tired of being told so.
But, since he secretly loved Ji, he finally decided he would go to the feast and pay her his respects, for even in affairs of the heart Tortoise was a gentleman. He bathed in a stream and scrubbed his back till it gleamed and glinted with a glass-like polish. He rubbed his paws and his head till they shone, perfumed his shell, and set off for the meeting.
Ji was dancing with Denyne the Antelope when Tortoise arrived, and when the music stopped Tortoise gave her his seat and gravely bowed to her with humble dignity. Among the bold and brash young animals who courted her, Tortoise’s polished manners stood out like flowers on rocky ground.
“A shy and retiring personality,” she thought, “but oh, such pretty manners!”
Antelope tried to talk with her, but she had eyes only for Tortoise’s shining shell. Antelope followed the direction of her gaze, and decided to bring shame on Tortoise. He quickly made up a song, and then began singing in a loud voice for everyone to hear.This was the song which Antelope sang:
“Ne Kwla na?“Is this Tortoise?
Nynepei wlala ti.All the animals are present.
Tee Ji pe wlala ti.All the Leopards are present.
Denynepo wlala ti,All the Antelopes are here,
O Ji nyene pen.And he comes to look for a wife.
A hji ne.All of you see him.
Ne Kwla na,This Tortoise here,
O sa ten ken.”He has no pride.”
But even before Antelope had finished his song, Ji crossed over to Tortoise and put her arms around him. She turned to Father Leopard, saying
“Father, this is the animal I wish to marry . . . if he will agree. He is an animal of dignity and noble manners, and I beg that he will let me be his wife.”
So it was that Tortoise won the fair and lovely Ji, and the pride and vanity of other animals grew pale and died.