How the Leopard got its spots.

Narrated by Hannatu Gamba

Early one morning, the leopard decided to go hunting. As he got to the edge of the forest, he could smelt the aroma of roasted fish. It seemed to be coming from the river, so he turned towards the river to investigate the smell. He found Gizo (the spider) roasting fish on the riverbank. The spider had put out his nets the previous night and had made quite a big catch.


” Hi! Very good morning to you my brother”, said the leopard pleasantly. The spider wondered when they became brothers but politely answered back, ” A very good morning to you too.”

The leopard sat down beside the spider and tried to make some conversation. The spider was not really interested in the leopard but had no choice but to be polite lest the leopard ate him up. He said, ” The smell of your cooking has attracted me. You must be a very good cook.”

The spider said, “I did not know that it smelt that good. Actually, I am surprised because other animals complain that my food tastes awful. You see this may not taste as good it smells.” He was trying hard to discourage the leopard from eating his fish.

The leopard said, “the taste of the pudding is in the eating, let me taste a piece of fish and then decide whether you are a good cook or not.”

The spider gave him one fish, he ate it, and said, “mmmmmmmmmmm!” It tastes delicious. Can I have one more?”

” Sure”, said the spider unhappily.

The leopard asked for another piece and then another one. The spider could see his fish stock was going down fast but there is nothing he could do about it. The leopard was stronger than him and a dangerous animal. The spider was so upset that he began to cry. Tears streamed down his face.

“Why are you crying”, asked the leopard. “Is something the matter?”.

The spider answered, ” I am not crying. The smoke is irritating my eyes.

Little by little the spider watched his morning’s work went down into the stomach of the leopard. He was thinking of a way to repay leopard when he saw Zabo (Guinea Fowl a bird with black and white spots on his feather) flew past. An idea struck him.

The spider turned to the leopard and said, ” I cannot believe that guinea fowl flew past without greeting me.”

The leopard did not understand.

He asked, “What is the big deal? Why should the guinea fowl greet you?”

The spider said, ” Because I decorated those feathers of his.”

“You did that?” asked the leopard.

“Of course I did”, said the spider.

” Can you decorate my skin for me too? asked the leopard.

The spider answered, ” I am not sure if I have the strength or time to do it for you.”

“Please, please do it for me, I will do anything you say.” said the leopard

“Oh all right then”, said the spider, “but you must bring a strong rope, one that has never been used before and an iron rod.

The leopard hurried off and came back with a very strong rope and iron rod. They found a very strong tree nearby.

The spider said, “This is a bit tricky. I need to tie you very tightly to the tree so that you do not move when I am doing this decoration. I don’t want to make any mistakes” The spider tied the leopard very well. He made sure that the leopard had no room to move at all. The leopard even parted out where the knots were a bit loose and the spider tied them tighter.


The spider branding the leopard.


The spider now stuck one end of the iron rod into the fire and when it was red hot he brought it out and stuck it on the leopard skin.


The leopard shrieked with pain and screamed out so loudly that the deer and other animals grazing nearby scattered in all directions and started running.

The spider said, ” This is for the first fish you ate.”
“This is for the second fish you ate,” he said. He continued to bran the leopard for each of the fish the leopard ate. The leopard could not move because he was tied up very tightly with a strong rope. The spider made the burnt mark over the leopard’s skin and left the leopard to his fate.

Some other leopard’s heard his screams and they came to find out what was happening. They found him reeling in pain, but the spider was nowhere to be seen. They took him home to nurse his wounds and went looking for the spider. When the spider and his family heard the roars of the leopards, they clambered up the ceiling of their hut. The walls were too straight or smooth for the leopards’ to climb up.

To this day, the spider’s descendants continue to hide in ceilings and other dark corners of buildings where leopards cannot reach them.
As for the leopard’s descendants, they still bear the reminder of their great ancestor’s encounter with the spider.

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