Title Why Man and Dog Are Friends an – An Ovambo Tale

Author Nick Greaves

Date release 2006

Type Short Story

About the Story

This story is from a series of books detailing African legends. These legends were started out as oral legends or spoken stories. The elders in the tribes would tell younger people these stories as a way of teaching them the lessons of life.

Nick Greaves, the author was born and educated in England. His work as a geologist took him too many parts of South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia, where he developed a long term interest in the local wildlife and fragile habitats of Africa. He re-tells the legends spoken to him from folk lore. He has recorded the spoken stories drawn from mythology and history of various South African tribes over a number of years.

His latest book “How Crab Lost his head” contains a legend about how man and dog become friends.

In the beginning dog and jackal are friends. They hunted together, they drank together and they slept together. One night it was too cold for dog but jackal was fine.  As dog was too cold and uncomfortable he could not sleep and the fact that he and jackal didn’t catch anything to eat that day didn’t help. “One such day they returned empty handed and ravenously hungry. To make matters worse a cold winter wind was blowing through the country and animals could not find adequate shelter from the gale”

Because dog couldn’t sleep he was looking around when he saw a small glow in the distance. After getting a better look at it dog realised it was a fire from a human camp and he could smell old bones as well.  So dog ran back and told jackal what he found. Jackal was not particularly interested in it so he said that dog could go and steal some fire and old bones, and jackal would call him when it got too late to be running around.

Dog went off to steal some fire. When he got close to the fire-place he was spotted be a man who picked up his spear, but before he could throw it dog said “Please don’t kill me. I only want to sit by your fire. When I’m warm I will leave and go back to the wild”. Man agreed to this so he went to his hut and left dog by the fire.

After a time man stuck his head out of his hut and asked dog if he was warm yet. Dog said “not yet I’m still a bit cold”, so man ducked his heed back in his hut. As some more time passed man stuck his head out of his hut and said “are you done getting warm yet”, and dog replied with “not just yet”, so man stuck his head back in his hut again.

Dog was actually already warm and he knew that if he over staid his welcome man would attack him to get rid of him so he walked over to the man’s hut and scratched on the side of the hut. Man came out and looked at dog. Dog then said that he had actually been warm for a while now but he didn’t want to go back to the wild so he will teach man how to track and how to find animals and that he would guard man’s home as well as sounding an alarm if anyone comes. In exchange he wants to sit by man’s fire and eat the scraps that man leaves. Man agreed to these terms and dogs have lived with people to this day.

Interesting characters

I didn’t find all the characters particularly interesting although I find the fact that Dog chose to compromise instead of just stealing some fire and old bones and making a run for it. He was willing to compromise with man, but why didn’t he say anything to Jackal. He might have decided Man was more trustworthy than Jackal?

Challenges the characters had to overcome

Dog had to overcome his fear of man. Once the bitter cold and growling of his empty stomach got the better of him he became desperate and this made him go to man’s fire, risking his life if he was seen and man decided to kill him. “Just as her reached the dying embers of the fire outside one of the huts some fowls roosting in a nearby tree saw him and sounded the alarm. A man rushed out and caught the dog lifting a spear and saying. What are you doing in my compound you thieving mongrel” the dog has to plead for his life. “Oh please don’t kill me he begs”

After man allowed him to stay for a while, dog’s second challenge was to find a way to stay there permanently. He had to decide how he could convince man to let him stay by making a bargain that was useful to man and not just about dog. “I shall help you hunt for birds in the forest. I shall teach you the ways of wild animals so you can hunt them for food. And I will promise you that unlike my cousin the Jackal I will not rob you of your goats and chickens”

Messages I took from the Text

The message I took from the text was that bargaining or some ” give and take” from both parties in a relationship can get each party more of what they want than simply taking what you want without asking or offering anything in return.

The dog came to understand that be-friending the man, trusting him and being able to offer something from himself would form a more enduring bond. This would mean a more stable and comfortable life in the long run. “The dog decided that honesty would be the best policy, so he looked the man in the eye and said, yes I am warm now, but I don’t want to go back to the bush. I am so often cold and hungry there. Will you please let me stay in your village with you?”

The bargain meant there would be compromises on both sides, as each would have to give up something. E.g. Dog gave up some freedom and man gave up some food. The compromise would be worth it for both the man and the dog and they would definitely each get something they wanted from the relationship.

Dog got get a warm fire to sit by and regular food, and company. Man got an alarm system, new hunting skills and a partner to protect his domesticated animals.

Who I would recommend this Book For

I would recommend this story for people who like the old legends about how things in our world came to be. Someone who enjoys old-fashioned values would also enjoy this book.

Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. Can I discuss the type of text this is with you?


  2. 1) Explain the series of books that the story comes from. Folk Legends.
    2) Explain that they were oral legends.
    3) Develop with more sophistication the message you took from the text – relate it to your own understanding of the world and your own life experience.
    4) Make sure you have at least two quotes for every text.

  3. Achievement Achievement with Merit Achievement with Excellence
    Form developed personal responses to independently read texts, supported by evidence. Form developed, convincing personal responses to independently read texts, supported by evidence. Form developed, perceptive personal responses to independently read texts, supported by evidence.



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