How Hyena Got its Name

May 18, 2008
By Mercy Totty, Springfield, MO

This is the tale of how the hyena got its name, and why the lion and hyena are constantly at war with each other.

Once upon a time, there was a wise lion named Taisho. Although he had a lot of knowledge, he was very mean. He did not like any of the animals in the jungle. All day, Taisho sat around and growled at any slight movement or noise he heard. All the other creatures of the animal kingdom stayed out of his way, and told their children likewise. They older animals knew from experience, whenever Taisho was angry, he would give an earsplitting roar that could be heard miles away. The older animals also knew Taisho was a troublemaker. For example, if an animal were passing in a close radius of Taisho, the lion would get up and start quarreling with the by-passer. He would say the animal had disturbed his sleep or woken him up. Most of the time, Taisho was only feigning that he was asleep. But he would put up such an argument and yell so loud that the other animal would be scared silly. Taisho also hated when new animals came to his jungle. He thought they might try fighting him to gain possession of the powerful position he had held for many years.

One day a new animal wondered into the jungle. When the normal contingent of animals came to greet and welcome him, as was custom, they asked from where he had come, and what his name was. The animal put his paw on his temples and seemed to be in thought for a second. But when he opened his mouth to talk, a high-pitched laugh came out. The animals were surprised at this. They began to whisper among themselves. "Why is he laughing at us." "Is he mocking us?" Again the animal opened his mouth to speak. This time he told the group of animals his name was En. "What kind of ludicrous name is that?" the counsel inquired. "It means, one who laughs." The animal said, feeling very important. All the animals of the counsel shook their head in agreement at this.

Suddenly, a nervous hush went up through the animals. The circle the animals had formed around En dissembled. Left and right, the animals shifted, forming a path right up to where En stood alone. Stalking up the path with light footsteps was Taisho. He looked to his left. Then he frowned over at the animals at his right. The once presumptuous animals cowered at the sight of the great lion. Even the great elephant cast his eyes down when he beheld the great lion. Taisho stepped up to the new animal. "Who are you, and why do you dare invade my jungle." he demanded. He looked ready to pounce on the poor creature at the blink of an eye. Never been faced with a situation, as the one he was in, En could not force any words out of his mouth. He so badly wanted to say something, but the sight of the great lion caused his tongue to cleave to the roof of his mouth. Instead, En stared transfixed at the two long rows of razor sharp teeth in Taisho's mouth. "Why answer you not?" it was evident in the way his jaws snapped back and forth that Taisho was losing his patient. One of the elder giraffes saw how great the fear was in the eyes of En. Feeling compassion for the young animal, she quickly stepped forward and answered Taisho's question. "Oh, king of the Jungle," she began, her eyes cast to the ground. "His name is En. Please forgive him for fear hath caused his mouth to remain shut." The lion thought upon this for a moment. He then turned to En and replied with a note of understanding in his voice, "En. That means one who laughs." Instead of answering, En involuntarily burst into fit of laughter. A gasp rose-up from all the animals present. For a second Taisho seemed stunned at the outburst. Disbelief was written all over his face. Not a sound was heard. Then, the rustling of the wind broke the silence. All of a sudden, Taisho gave a mighty roar. "Why did you laugh at me?" the lion demanded. "You have made a mockery of me and will pay for that." Taisho lunged at the animal, but En who was smaller darted out the way. Taisho made a move to bite En, but he only succeeded in biting the dirt as he fell over. At first En could not understand why the lion was so mad. He darted from side to side laughing as he kicked up dirt. Suddenly a loud smack rang out. All was still for a moment. When all the dust had settled the counsel of animals crowded in closer and to their shock saw En lying on the floor holding one of his cheeks. His long tongue hung like a lop-sided rag at the side of his mouth. He seemed to be dazed, and for a few heartbeats just lay there. Instantly the animals turned to sound of feet rumbling. They saw to their dismay, Taisho charging at the wounded animal as if to hit him again. En seeing his life was in danger jumped up, and made a mad dash for the open fields that lay outside the clearing in the jungle. His long tongue dangled behind him as he sped away. Taisho started to run after him but decided against it when he saw how fast the little animal bound away. "How dare that pest come into my jungle, with that annoying woman-like laugh of his. We should call him the Hyena seeing how high pitched his laugh is. No one makes a mockery of me in front of my subjects. I am the king of this jungle. The loudest, the strongest, the toughest…" Turning around, he saw all the animals were staring at him with wide eyes. What are you looking at?" he growled angrily. "If not for your incompetence, that animal should have not been invited to stay in our village." The animals hurriedly began to scatter. They went on their way as another exciting day in the jungle ended.

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