Created January 2010
Updated July 2012
Bats have a long history and venerable history of featuring in folk tales. Sometimes they emerge as heroes and sometimes they emerge in a much less kind light. Here are links to just a few of them
The bat and the drongo ( Madagascar)
The story of Vachap (Tangkhul)
The Grumpy Bat
A Taino legend – The vain bat
Echo the Bat
Why Flitter the Bat Flies at Night
Why the bat has no friends (Mongolia)
The wise old bat (Tibet)
Why the Bat flies by Night (Nigeria)
The Game of the Bats and the Mammals ( Cherokee)
The bat and the box of darkness (Sierra Leone)
Why the bat hangs upside down (Apache)
Why the bat hangs upside down ( Laos)
Creation myth (Aztec)
Why the bat is ashamed (Africa)
Narahdarn the bat (Australia)
The bat and the boomerang
Why the bat hangs upside down – Sudan
Why the Bat hangs upside down Lipan Apache Indians Texas
There was a great fire in God’s kingdom, and He sent all the birds to put it out. However, only the bat was successful—he beat the flame out with his large wings (which is also how he lost his feathers). The drongo, who was pure white, covered himself with ashes and hurried back to God before the bat could get there. He said, “I put out the fire. Look at how black I am.” God was pleased and made him the king of birds.
The bat arrived soon after, but God did not believe that he had put out the fire. The bat was understandably angry, and declared that he would forever turn his rear to God.
To this day, the drongo is regarded as a clever bird, and the bat remains upside down
Thanks to Viv Heys quoted in Scientific American
The story of Vachap (Bat) Tangkhul is a Naga tribe living in the Indo-Myanmar border area occupying Ukhrul district in Manipur, India, and the Somra Tangkhul hills in Myanmar
Once upon a time before daylight a bat cried “Chap, Chap.” The cock heard this and crowed ; the people heard the cock crow and began to sharpen their daos beside the river. The squirrel, hearing the people sharpening their daos, climbed to the top of the tree and began to eat fruit. One of the fruit fell on the crab and broke his shell. The crab, in agony, scratched up the ants’ nest; the ants rushed out and ran up the nostrils of the wild boar; the wild boar in his rage shook his head and cut down a plantain tree with his tushes. The moth which lived in the wild plantain tree flew out and went up the trunk of the elephant; the elephant got angry and killed a man on the road. Then they gathered together to decide about it. “The elephant killed him,” they said. “The moth flew up my nose,” said the elephant,” and made me angry: and I rushed about and met that man and killed him.” “The wild pig cut down my tree; therefore I flew up the elephant’s trunk,” said the moth. “Some ants ran up my nose,” said the boar, “therefore I cut down the plantain tree.” “The crab scratched up our nest,” said the ants,” so we ran up the boar’s nose.” “The squirrel knocked a fruit down and broke my shell, therefore in pain I scratched up the ants’ nest,” said the crab. “Why did you eat fruit before daylight?” they asked of the squirrel. “People began sharpening their daos, so I thought it was morning,” said the squirrel. “The cock crowed,” said the people,” so we thought it was morning.” “The bat cried ‘ Chap, Chap,’ so I thought it was morning,” said the cock. Then they asked the bat; and he said, “Yes, I thought it was morning, so cried ‘ Chap, Chap.’ “So to punish him they cut off his foot. Then they consulted who should eat the bat’s foot. “We all live by the power of the sun,” said they; “therefore we should give the foot to him as the greatest.” But the sun said, ” Though I keep you alive by my power, yet I cannot overcome the cloud: give it to him.” But the cloud said, ” Though I overcome the sun I fly before the wind: give it to him.” The wind said,” Though I can drive away the cloud I cannot move the rock: give it to him.” But the rock said, “Though I can withstand the wind, yet I am nothing before the bird who covers me with his droppings.” So they gave it to the bird as the conqueror of all. That is why the bat has only one foot, as you may see when it hangs asleep from a branch. http://www.nagajournal.com/folktalesstories/vachap-a-short-tangkhul-folktale/2368
top __________________________________________________________ This quirky and witty animation features a very grumpy bat.An adaptation of a Mexican legend, the film pokes fun at how we try to be “better” than others, at all costs, instead of accepting ourselves as we are. In this comic tale, a mischievous Bat makes himself a beautiful costume with the feathers his friends the birds generously give him. But when the Bat fails to be grateful, his envy and pride will bring him to a disastrous outcome. NB Bats are not blind, but let us not let that spoil a wonderful story Go to watch. The animator, Lucia Morgan, will send a DVD of her film in return for a £10 donation to Practical Action.
A Taino legend – The vain bat Taíno Indians, a subgroup of the Arawakan Indians (a group of American Indians in northeastern South America), inhabited the Greater Antilles (comprising Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola [Haiti and the Dominican Republic], and Puerto Rico) in the Caribbean Sea at the time when Christopher Columbus’ arrived to the New World. This is the same story as the one above. When time was yet in the cradle, there was no uglier creature in the world than the bat. The bat went up to heaven to look for God. He didn’t say, “I’m bored with being hideous. Give me colored feathers.” No. He said, “Please give me feathers, I’m dying of cold.” But God had not a single feather left over. “Each bird will give you a feather,” he decided. Thus the bat got the white feather of the dove and the green one of the parrot, the iridescent one of the hummingbird, the pink one of the flamingo, the red of the cardinal’s tuft and the blue of the kingfisher’s back, the clayey one of the eagle’s wing, and the sun feather that burns in the breast of the toucan. The bat, luxuriant with colors and softness, moved between earth and clouds. Wherever he went, the air became pleasant and the birds dumb with admiration. According to the Zapotec peoples, the rainbow was born of the echo of his flight. Vanity puffed out his chest. He acquired a disdainful look and made insulting remarks. The birds called a meeting. Together they flew up to God. “The bat makes fun of us,” they complained. “And what’s more, we feel cold for lack of the feathers he took.” Next day, when the bat shook his feathers in full flight, he suddenly became naked. A rain of feathers fell to earth. He is still searching for them. Blind and ugly, enemy of the light, he lives hidden in caves. He goes out in pursuit of the lost feathers after night has fallen and flies very fast, never stopping because it shames him to be seen. top __________________________________________________________
The story of Echo the bat is a very well known children’s story. You can buy still get a (very expensive) copy from places like Amazon, but you can also view it on NASA’s website __________________________________________________________
Why Flitter the Bat Flies at Night
Flitter the Bat made Peter Rabbit’s head dizzy. Peter couldn’t help watching him. He just had to. It seemed so wonderful that Flitter could really fly, that whenever he saw him, Peter had to stop and watch. And then, as he saw Flitter twist and turn, fly high, fly low, and go round and round, Peter’s head would begin to swim and grow dizzy, and he wondered and wondered how it was that Flitter himself didn’t grow dizzy.
It must be fine to fly,” thought Peter. “I wish I could fly. If I could, I wouldn’t spend all my time flying around the way Flitter does. I’d go on long journeys and see the Great World. I’d fly way, way up in the blue, blue sky, the way Ol’ Mistah Buzzard does, where I could look down and see all that is going on in the Green Forest and on the Green Meadows. And I’d fly in the daytime, because there is more going on then. I wonder, now, why it is that Flitter never comes out until after jolly, round, red Mr. Sun has gone to bed behind the Purple Hills. I never see him in the daytime, and I don’t even know where he keeps himself. I never thought of it before, but I wonder why it is that he flies only at night. I believe I’ll ask Grandfather Frog the very next time I see him.”
Now you know that once Peter Rabbit’s curiosity is aroused, it just has to be satisfied. No sooner did he begin to wonder about Flitter the Bat than he could think of nothing else. So he watched until the way was clear, and then he started for the Smiling Pool as fast as he could go, lipperty-lipperty-lip. He hoped he would find Grandfather Frog sitting as usual on his big green lily-pad, and that he would be good-natured. If he wasn’t feeling good-natured, it would be of no use to ask him for a story.
Why the bat has no friends A Mongolian folk tale Once, a long time ago, a terrible battle broke out between the Birds and the Beasts of this Earth. No one remembers any more what caused this battle to start, but the fighting was so furious that the whole earth shook and the land was covered with broken feathers, bloody hair, and the bodies of fallen creatures. On one side of the battle swarmed the animals of the air. All the birds, great and small, were massed in the heavens, from the most powerful eagle, sharp-eyed hawk, and swift falcon to the tiniest finch and fragile sparrow. Opposing the birds were formidable adversaries: The kingly lion, menacing tiger, mighty stag, massive bear, and all the other beasts of the land.The only animal in the whole world that did not choose sides in this war was the Bat. As a mouse with wings or a birdy beast, the Bat gambled on its dual nature, waiting to see which side would win. In this way when the time came, it could claim victory with the conquering army. When it looked as though the birds of the air were gaining the advantage, the Bat would become like a bird, flap its wings and screech: “I’m a bird, too! I’ll peck at the beasts below, pierce their skins, and dig my sharp talons into their flesh! Forward to battle, birds!” But when the tide of the great battle shifted, and suddenly it seemed as though the beasts would win, the Bat would hide its wings and flash its mouselike grin. Baring its sharp teeth, it would bark: “Beware! I am a dangerous beast! Come on beasts! Let’s attack the birds and bite them till they fall from the sky! Hooray for the beasts!” The animals had seen it fighting like this, first on one side, then on the other side of the battlefield. They were angry. Neither the birds nor the beasts would now, or ever, agree to claim the Bat as one of their own. Instead, for its disloyalty, they banished the Bat from their midst. The sorry Bat, a traitor to both birds and beasts, was now ashamed of its behavior during the feud. It curled up its mousy body and took flight. Seeking out a remote corner of the world, it entered the recesses of Mother Earth and concealed itself in her black and silent caves, venturing out only at night in search of food. From that day, the Bat has made its home in the dark, wrapped against the dampness in its leathery cloak, living out the life of a lonely outcast top __________________________________________________________
The wise old bat If you are a parable unto yourself–there exists no evil. Tibetan Proverb.
A long time ago, a very long time ago, when men and animals spoke to each other and understood the languages of one another, there lived a very powerful king. He lived far off in a corner of the world and alone ruled all the animals and men in his jurisdiction. Around his grounds and palace were great forests and in these forests many birds and animals lived. Every one seemed happy, except the king’s wife, and she said that so many birds singing at the same time made such frightful discord that it worried her. One day she asked the king to call them all in and cut off their bills so they couldn’t sing any more. “All right,” the king said. “We will do that in a few days.” Now, hanging under the eaves of the palace, close to the queen’s room, was a little bat, and though he seemed to be asleep, he heard and understood everything the queen had said. He said to himself, “This is very bad indeed. I wonder what I can do to help all the birds.” The next day the king sent letters by runners into every corner of the kingdom, telling all the birds that by the third day at noon–and it mustn’t be forgotten, so put this word down in the center of their hearts–that all of them were to assemble at the palace. The bat heard the order, but because he was very wise and understood everything he sat very still thinking and thinking about what the queen had said and didn’t go to the king’s audience on the third day, but waited until the fourth. When he entered, the king said angrily: “What do you mean by coming on the fourth day when I ordered every one to be here on the third day!” Oh, he was very angry indeed. The bat replied, “All these birds have no business and can come whenever the king calls, but I have many affairs to look after. My father worked and I too must work. My duty is to keep the death rate from ever exceeding what it should be, in order to govern the sex question, by keeping the men and women of equal numbers.” The king, much surprised, said, “I never heard of all this business before. How does it come that you can do this?” The bat answered, “I have to keep the day and night equal as well.” The king, more surprised, asked, “How do you do that? You must be a very busy and powerful subject to attend to all these matters. Please explain how you do it.” “Well,” the bat replied, “when the nights are short I take a little off the morning, and when the nights are long I take a little off the evening and so keep the day and night equal. Besides, the people don’t die fast enough. I have to make the lame and the blind to die at the proper time in order to keep the birth and death rate in proportion. Then sometimes there are more men than women, and some of these men say, ‘Yes, yes,’ to everything a woman asks them to do and think they must do everything a woman says. These men I just turn into women and so keep the sexes even.” The king understood very well what the bat meant, but didn’t allow him to know it. He was very angry with himself because he had agreed to do so quickly what the queen had asked, and thought perhaps the bat might change him into a woman. “I am not a good king,” he thought, “when I listen to a woman’s words and yield so easily, and I am terribly ashamed to have given this order. I’ll just not do what my wife asks, but send these birds all back home and not cut off their bills.” So he called the birds all to him and said, “Heretofore, men haven’t known how to mete out punishment and laws for you, but now I am going to make the Cuckoo your king, and what I called you up to-day for is this: I wanted to ask your King and the prime minister, the Hoopoe, to rule wisely, judge justly, and not oppress the people. If big or little come to you in a law-suit you must judge rightly between them and not favor either rich or poor. Now, you may all return to your homes.” But the king in his heart was still angry at the bat because he hadn’t obeyed him and came the fourth day instead of the third, and to show him he was the ruler and to be instantly obeyed he gave him a light spanking for his disobedience and then turned him loose http://www.sacred-texts.com/asia/tft/tft04.htm
Why the Bat flies by Night – A southern Nigerian tale
A bush rat called Oyot was a great friend of Emiong, the bat; they always fed together, but the bat was jealous of the bush rat. When the bat cooked the food it was always very good, and the bush rat said, “How is it that when you make the soup it is so tasty?” The bat replied, “I always boil myself in the water, and my flesh is so sweet, that the soup is good.” He then told the bush rat that he would show him how it was done; so he got a pot of warm water, which he told the bush rat was boiling water, and jumped into it, and very shortly afterwards came out again. When the soup was brought it was as strong and good as usual, as the bat had prepared it beforehand. The bush rat then went home and told his wife that he was going to make good soup like the bat’s. He therefore told her to boil some water, which she did. Then, when his wife was not looking, he jumped into the pot, and was very soon dead. When his wife looked into the pot and saw the dead body of her husband boiling she was very angry, and reported the matter to the king, who gave orders that the bat should be made a prisoner. Every one turned out to catch the bat, but as he expected trouble he flew away into the bush and hid himself. All day long the people tried to catch him, so he had to change his habits, and only came out to feed when it was dark, and that is why you never see a bat in the daytime. Source http://www.sacred-texts.com/afr/fssn/fsn09.htm top _______________________________________________________________
The Game of the Bats and the MammalsThis is one version of a story which exists in many cultures
The following story explains the origin of a custom of the Cherokee Indians of North Carolina. They used to prepare for a popular ball game by holding a dance the night before. While the drummers beat on their drums, the rest of the people chanted songs. Before the game, each player asked the help of the bat and of the flying squirrel. For good luck, each player tied a small piece of bat’s wing to the stick he would hit the ball with. Long ago, the animals sent a message to the birds. “Let us have a big ball game. We will defeat you in a big ball game.” The birds answered, “We will meet you. We will defeat you in a big ball game.” So the plans were made. The day was set. At a certain place, all the animals gathered, ready to throw the ball to the birds in the trees. On the side of the animals were the bear, the deer, and the terrapin or turtle. The bear was heavier than the other animals. He was heavier than all the birds put together. The deer could run faster than the other animals could. The turtle had a very thick shell. So the animals felt sure that they would win the game. The birds, too, felt sure that they would win. On their side were the eagle, the hawk, and the great raven. All three could fly swiftly. All three had farseeing eyes. All three were strong and had sharp beaks that could tear. In the treetops the birds smoothed their feathers. Then they watched every movement of the animals on the ground below them. As they watched, two small creatures climbed up the tree toward the leader of the birds. These two creatures were but a little bigger than mice. “Will you let us join in the game?” they asked the leader of the birds. The leader looked at them for a moment. He saw that they had four feet. “Why don’t you join the animals?” he asked them. “Because you have four feet, you really belong on the other side.” “We asked to play the game on their side,” the tiny creatures answered. “But they laughed at us because we are so small. They do not want us.” The leader of the birds felt sorry for them. So did the eagle, the hawk, and the other birds. “But how can they join us when they have no wings?” the birds asked each other. “Let us make wings for the little fellows,” one of the birds suggested. “We can make wings from the head of the drum,” another bird suggested. The drum had been used in the dance the night before. Its head was the skin of a groundhog. The birds cut two pieces of leather from it, shaped them like wings, and fastened them to the legs of one of the little fellows. Thus they made the first bat. The leader gave directions. He said to the bat, “When I toss the ball, you catch it. Don’t let it touch the ground. The bat caught it. He dodged and circled. He zigzagged very fast. He kept the ball always in motion, never letting it touch the ground. The birds were glad they had made wings for him. “What shall we do with the other little fellow?” asked the leader of the birds. “We have used up all our leather in making the wings for the bat.” The birds thought and thought. At last one of them had an idea. “Let us make wings for him by stretching his skin,” suggested the eagle. So eagle and hawk, two of the biggest birds, seized the little fellow. With their strong bills they tugged and pulled at his fur. In a few minutes they stretched the skin between his front feet and his hind feet. His own fur made wings. Thus they made the first flying squirrel. When the leader tossed the ball, flying squirrel caught it and carried it to another tree. From there he threw it to the eagle. Eagle caught it and threw it to another bird. The birds kept the ball in the air for some time, but at last they dropped it. Just before it reached the ground, the bat seized it. Dodging and circling and zigzagging, he kept out of the way of the deer and other swift animals. At last bat threw the ball in at the goal. And so he won the game for the birds. Source
The bat and the box of darkness (Sierra Leone)
Once it was always day – the sun would shine for half of it, and the moon for the other. One day a bat was given the task of flying a basket to the moon. He did not know what was inside but it was heavy. Pausing to rest and find food Bat left the box for a while and other animals approached it. Thinking there might be food inside they opened it. Bat saw them and came hurrying back but to late! Darkness spilled out of the box, bringing the first night. Now bat rests in the day in readiness to fly about all night, trying to collect all the tatters of darkness back into the box so they can be taken to the moon where they belong. Source top __________________________________________________________ Why The Bat Hangs Upside Down Apache
Once, long ago, Coyote thought he would take a wife, but did not know whom to choose. “Why not take the wife of Hawk Chief?” Bat said, for Hawk Chief was missing, and had not been seen for many days. But Hawk Chief returned and became angry with Bat for giving such ill-considered advice. He picked Bat up and slung him with full force into a juniper bush. Bat hung upside down in the bush, caught by his long, pointy-toed moccasins. He twisted and he turned, but however much he struggled, he could not get free. And from that time on bats hang upside down – even when they sleep.
Source __________________________________________________________ Why the bat hangs upside down A laotian story with illustrations http://www.highlightskids.com/Stories/Fiction/F1196_bathangs.asp top __________________________________________________________ Aztec Creation Myth
In the beginning the earth was flat and full of water, and therefore the corn rotted. The ancient people had to think and work and fast much to get the world in shape. The birds came together to see what they could do to bring about order in the world, so that it would be possible to plant corn. First they asked the red-headed vulture, the chief of all the birds, to set things right, but he said he could not. They sent for all the birds in the world, one after another, to persuade them to perform the deed, but none would undertake it. At last came the bat, very old and much wrinkled. His hair and his beard were white with age, and there was plenty of dirt on his face, as never bathes. He was supporting himself with a stick, because he was so old he could hardly walk. He also said that he was no equal to the task, but at last he agreed to try what he could do. That same night he darted violently through the air, cutting outlets for the waters; but he made the valleys so deep that it was impossible to walk about, and the chiefs scolded him for this. “Then I will put everything back as it was before,” he said. “No, no!” they all said. “What we want is to make the slopes less steep, and to leave some level land, and do not make all the country mountains.” This the bat did, and the chiefs thanked him for it. Thus the world has remained up to this day. (Quoted in Cordry, 1980, p. 186) Picture sources:- Photo by Donald Cordry from Mexican Masksby Donald Cordry, ©1980; courtesy of the University of Texas Press Source. This site has loads of information about the Aztecs top __________________________________________________________
Why the Bat is Ashamed to be seen in the Daytime (Africa)
THERE was once an old mother sheep who had seven lambs, and one day the bat, who was about to make a visit to his father-in-law who lived a long day’s march away, went to the old sheep and asked her to lend him one of her young lambs to carry his load for him. At first the mother sheep refused, but as the young lamb was anxious to travel and see something of the world, and begged to be allowed to go, at last she reluctantly consented. So in the morning at daylight the bat and the lamb set off together, the lamb carrying the bat’s drinking-horn. When they reached half-way, the bat told the lamb to leave the horn underneath a bamboo tree. Directly he arrived at the house, he sent the lamb back to get the horn. When the lamb had gone the bat’s father-in-law brought him food, and the bat ate it all, leaving nothing for the lamb. When the lamb returned, the bat said to him, “Hullo! you have arrived at last I see, but you are too late for food; it is all finished.” He then sent the lamb back to the tree with the horn, and when the lamb returned again it was late, and he went supperless to bed. The next day, just before it was time for food, the bat sent the lamb off again for the drinking-horn, and when the food arrived the bat, who was very greedy, ate it all up a second time. This mean behaviour on the part of the bat went on for four days, until at last the lamb became quite thin and weak. The bat decided to return home the next day, and it was all the lamb could do to carry his load. When he got home to his mother the lamb complained bitterly of the treatment he had received from the bat, and was baa-ing all night, complaining of pains in his inside. The old mother sheep, who was very fond of her children, determined to be revenged on the bat for the cruel way he had starved her lamb; she therefore decided to consult the tortoise, who, although very poor, was considered by all people to be the wisest of all animals. When the old sheep had told the whole story to the tortoise, he considered for some time, and then told the sheep that she might leave the matter entirely to him, and he would take ample revenge on the bat for his cruel treatment of her son. More
Narahdarn the bat (Australia)
Narahdarn, the bat, wanted honey. He watched until he saw a Wurranunnah, or bee, alight. He caught it, stuck a white feather between its hind legs, let it go and followed it. He knew he could see the white feather, and so follow the bee to its nest. He ordered his two wives, of the Bilber tribe, to follow him with wirrees to carry home the honey in. Night came on and Wurranunnah the bee had not reached home. Narahdarn caught him, imprisoned him under bark, and kept him safely there until next morning. When it was light enough to see, Narahdarn let the bee go again, and followed him to his nest, in a gunnyanny tree. Marking the tree with his comebo that he might know it again, he returned to hurry on his wives who were some way behind. He wanted them to come on, climb the tree, and chop out the honey. When they reached the marked tree one of the women climbed up. She called out to Narahdarn that the honey was in a split in the tree. He called back to her to put her hand in and get it out. She put her arm in, but found she could not get it out again. Narahdarn climbed up to help her, but found when he reached her that the only way to free her was to cut off her arm. This he did before she had time to realise what he was going to do, and protest. So great was the shock to her that she died instantly. Narahdarn carried down her lifeless body and commanded her sister, his other wife, to go up, chop out the arm, and get the honey. She protested, declaring the bees would have taken the honey away by now. “Not so,” he said; “go at once.”
Every excuse she could think of, to save herself, she made. But her excuses were in vain, and Narahdarn only became furious with her for making them, and, brandishing his boondi, drove her up the tree. She managed to get her arm in beside her sister’s, but there it stuck and she could not move it. Narahdarn, who was watching her, saw what had happened and followed her up the tree. Finding he could not pull her arm out, in spite of her cries, he chopped it off, as he had done her sister’s. After one shriek, as he drove his comebo through her arm, she was silent. He said, “Come down, and I will chop out the bees’ nest.” But she did not answer him, and he saw that she too was dead. Then he was frightened, and climbed quickly down the gunnyanny tree; taking her body to the ground with him, he laid it beside her sister’s, and quickly he hurried from the spot, taking no further thought of the honey. As he neared his camp, two little sisters of his wives ran out to meet him, thinking their sisters would be with him, and that they would give them a taste of the honey they knew they had gone out to get. But to their surprise Narahdarn came alone, and as he drew near to them they saw his arms were covered with blood. And his face had a fierce look on it, which frightened them from even asking where their sisters were. They ran and told their mother that Narahdarn had returned alone, that he looked fierce and angry, also his arms were covered with blood. Out went the mother of the Bilbers, and she said, “Where are my daughters, Narahdarn? Forth went they this morning to bring home the honey you found. You come back alone. You bring no honey. Your look is fierce, as of one who fights, and your arms are covered with blood. Tell me, I say, where are my daughters?”
Ashamed of it’s indecision during the battle of the beasts and birds Bat fled off into the darkness. The sun god was angered by the fighting and turned his face away, enveloping the world in darkness. Of all the animals only Owl and Bat were comfortable with the change to the world.The birds and animals went to Owl first to ask for help but the bird refused (he is noted as being a “Wicked” creature in the version I read).Bat, however, was eager to make amends for his earlier treachery so he agreed to help the birds and animals. Taking up his boomerang he threw it at the horizon as hard as he could. The animals jeered at him, saying “This is not a throwing competition. We asked for you to help bring back the sun.” Bat said nothing but threw his boomerang again, harder, and a third time, as hard as he could. The boomerang split the sky into night and day. Bat explained that he was happy to bring back the sun but wanted to keep some of the darkness for his own children. This is why there is night and day.
Why the bat hangs upside down – Sudan
Long ago, when the world was new, the Creator called all the creatures together and told them, “The earth is filled with wondrous places – go out and find the place that you would call home.”
So all the creatures went out and at first, all the animals decided to live together over in one place over here and all the birds decided to live together in another place over there.
Now – to celebrate their new home, the animals decided to have a party. Word went out that the animals would all gather that evening in a nearby clearing. When Bat heard about the party, he was very excited. He got so busy brushing his fur and shining his wings! And when he finally arrived, Bat fluttered to the branch of a nearby tree and looked down toward the clearing. Ooooh! All the animals were having a good time!
There were all sorts of tasty foods and sweet drinks laid out for everyone. And the animals were making their own music. Some were playing drums and reeds, roaring, barking, bellowing, howling and trumpeting – everyone singing. There were dancing in a line and stamping their feet. The place was hopping! Bat shivered with anticipation and fluttered down to the entrance where Zebra stood guard.
“Evening Zebra,” Bat squeaked. “Fine night for a party!”
“Stop right there, Bat!” neighed Zebra. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“We-, We-, Well into the animals party…” stammered Bat.
“Oh no you don’t! This party is ONLY for animals and YOU are NOT an animal!”
“Oh, but I am!” insisted Bat. “See, I’ve got fur and teeth – only animals have that.”
“And you’ve got wings! Only birds have wings. Now get out of here before I stomp you!” Zebra raised his hoof and Bat quickly fluttered out of the way, back up to that tree.
He sadly watched the animals feasting and singing and dancing… and the tears began to run down his fur, all the way to his feet. And Bat began to slip this way and that way… until he slipped all the way around and hung upside down. Bat was too sad to care. He just stayed upside down and his tears fell down to the ground.
Well, when the birds heard about the animals party, they decided this sounded like a great idea. They decided to have a party of their own! When word went out that all the birds would gather that night in a nearby clearing, Bat thought, “Now’s my chance to have some fun!” He spiffed himself up, shined his wings, buffed up his feet – he was ready!
He fluttered over to the clearing and landed in a nearby tree. The party was already in full swing. There were tables of wonderful seeds and berries and big seashells filled with sweet nectars to drink. The best singers of the bird kingdom were hooting, cawing, whistling, warbling and crooning away. The long legged birds were high stepping with the smaller birds dancing between their legs. And everyone was shaking their wings – feathers flying everywhere!
Bat couldn’t wait to get in there! He fluttered down to the entrance where Vulture stood guard.
“Evening Vulture” Bat said nonchalantly as he hurried inside.
“Stop right there, Bat! You can’t go in there!”
“Why not? It’s the bird’s party and I’M A BIRD! See, I’ve got wings – one, two, one on each side!”
“You also have dark fuzzy fur and sharp little fangs,” hissed Vulture. “Birds have feathers and beaks – not fur and teeth. Now get out of here before I peck you!” And Bat barely missed being pecked by Vulture as he quickly fluttered back up to the tree.
Bat was still trembling as he sadly watched the birds feasting and singing and dancing… and the tears began to run down his fur, all the way to his feet. And Bat began to slip this way… and that way… until he slipped all the way around and… hung upside down. But Bat was too sad to care. He just stayed upside down and his tears fell down to the ground.
And ever since that day, Bats have always stayed to themselves, and they only go out late at night when most of the other creatures are asleep. And they still hang upside down – so their tears will fall to the ground – to this very day.
My source for this tale is “The Party” in One Day We Had To Run by Sybella Wilkes, Brookfield, CT:Millbrook Press, 1994. In this book, refugee children tell their stories in words and paintings. Abraham Marial Kiol, an fourteen-year-old boy from the Dinka Bor Tribe of Sudan told Wilkes this tale. He ended with: “Tell the children of the world. We don’t want to be bats. We want to find our place. To be either an animal or bird so that we can be happy.”
Once, long ago, Coyote thought he would take a wife, but did not know whom to choose.
“Why not take the wife of Hawk Chief?” Bat said, for Hawk Chief was missing, and had not been seen for many days.
But Hawk Chief returned and became angry with Bat for giving such ill-considered advice. He picked Bat up and slung him with full force into a juniper bush.
Bat hung upside down in the bush, caught by his long, pointy-toed moccasins. He twisted and he turned, but however much he struggled, he could not get free.And from that time on bats hang upside down – even when they sleep.
Thanks to Roger Jones for finding this