Painting of a bat making a soup.

Why the Bat Flies at Night (A Classic Nigerian Fable)

The fable of Oyot the bush rat and Emiong the bat is a traditional Nigerian folktale passed down through generations. This is an adaptation by Juan Artola Miranda.

Slashes made by an enraged barbarian fabulist.

Once upon a time, in a small Nigerian village, there lived a bush rat named Oyot and his cunning friend, Emiong the bat. Oyot and Emiong were inseparable, sharing a great love for savoury soups and indulging in them often.

One day, while feasting on a delicious soup prepared by Emiong the bat, Oyot the rat couldn’t restrain his curiosity any longer. “My dear friend,” he asked, “how do you make your soups so incredibly tasty?”

Emiong, who harboured a hint of jealousy toward Oyot, decided to play a trick on the rat. “Ah, Oyot,” he said with a sly grin, “the secret lies in my own sweet flesh. I simply boil myself in the water, and my flavor makes the soup truly delectable.”

Oyot listened in amazement and begged Emiong to show him this wondrous technique. Emiong agreed, and together they went to prepare the soup. Before the fire broiled the water, Emiong jumped into the soup, roiling it with his claws to make it seem as if the water were indeed boiling. Oyot was fascinated, staring raptly at this strange feat, but Emiong told him to go set the table. When Oyot left, Emiong jumped out of the now-hot water and quickly finished preparing the soup. It was delicious, though perhaps somewhat muskier than usual.

Eager to replicate Emiong’s culinary prowess, Oyot returned to his home and shared the newfound secret with his wife. He instructed her to boil a pot of water. He would then enhance the soup with his own essence.

As soon as his wife turned her back, Oyot leaped into the boiling pot, believing he would emerge unscathed, as Emiong had. Sadly, Oyot perished in the pot, becoming a true ingredient in the soup. When his wife discovered her husband’s lifeless body, she was filled with grief and anger.

Distraught, she reported the tragic incident to the village king. The king, furious at Emiong’s deception, ordered his subjects to capture the bat and bring him to justice. The villagers set out en masse, searching high and low for Emiong.

Anticipating the trouble that awaited him, Emiong had already taken flight, seeking refuge deep within the bush. For days, the villagers hunted for him, but Emiong remained elusive. Venturing out only in the cover of darkness.

Unable to find Emiong, the bush animals began taking their anger out on the other bats, hunting them down and making delicious soups of them. And so, bats no longer come out during the day.

That reminds me of my favourite African fable, The Snake, the Farmer, and the Heron.

Juan Artola Miranda

I am Juan Artola Miranda, a fabulist living in the Mexican Caribbean. My friends know me by the name of my father's father, but that name grew into something bigger, my writing reaching tens of millions of readers. It was too strong for me to control. Artola Miranda is the name of my mother's mother. It's a better name for a fabulist.

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