Yoruba folklore is often short and lacking in specifics, but they are always fun to read. The bulk of them aim to explain, in brief, simple phenomenon in the world around the Yoruba peoples. Nearly all of them include talking animals and take place during a time where "humans and animals lived together and could communicate with one another." What follows is a humorous tale from Yoruba folklore that explains why chimpanzees have swollen buttocks.

The Chimpanzee's Swollen Butt

One day the wise tortoise Ijapa was sleeping beneath a tree, enjoying the fine weather and the warmth of the sun. From above he heard someone call his name, "Ijapa, wake up. Wake up, Ijapa!"

Ijapa opened his eyes and looked up into the branches of the tree; there he saw Chimpanzee.

"Ijapa, I should be the king of the animals." Chimpanzee said.

"And why do you think that?" Iljapa asked in response.

"I should be the king of all the animals because I look the most like a man and man is king over the Earth." Chimpanzee replied.

Ijapa insisted that the Lion was the king of the animals and that a chimpanzee could never take his place, but still Chimpanzee would not let up. Concerned that Chimpanzee's idea might catch on, and wanting to teach him a lesson for daring to put himself above the Lion king, the wise Ijapa crawled home and began preparing a large batch of sweet akara.

Ijapa made so much akara that he was able to fill an entire reed basket with it. The tortoise then took the basket to the opening of the Lion's cave, left it there, and then crawled away to hide behind a tree and watch.

The delicious smell of the freshly prepared akara woke the Lion from his afternoon nap, "What is that delicious smell?" he asked himself. Wandering out of his cave, he found the reed basket full of delicious sweet akara. Lion tasted one of the akara and thought that it was the most divine thing he had ever tasted. He ate another, and another, and another, and soon all the akara was gone and the basket lay empty at his feet.

Lion roared, furious that there were no more sweet things for him to eat. "Who brought these akara!?" he demanded. But the tortoise did not answer. Lion began searching the surrounding area and it didn't take him long to find Ijapa behind his tree. Lion grabbed Ijapa by the shell and demanded, again, to be told where the sweet akara had come from.

"I promised I wouldn't tell." whimpered Ijapa.

"Promised you wouldn't tell?" asked Lion, "I'm the king of the animals, you can't keep secrets from me. Come now, tell me who made these akara? Where can I get more?"

Ijapa smiled and said, "Well if I must tell you, then I must tell you." Lion seemed pleased and awaited Ijapa's explanation.

"The akara," Ijapa began, "wasn't akara at all. It was actually the sweet droppings of Chimpanzee."

Lion found this odd but demanded to know where he could find Chimpanzee so that he might have more of his sweet droppings. The clever Ijapa was more than happy to tell Lion where Chimpanzee was hanging out. After listening to the directions carefully, Lion set out to find Chimpanzee.

When Lion arrived at Chimpanzee's tree he demanded that he come down from the branches. Chimpanzee obeyed and Lion grabbed him by the throat.


As terrified as Chimpanzee was, he had no difficulty providing some droppings right there on the spot. Lion bent down to eat them and found them to be utterly disgusting.

"Those are disgusting!" Lion roared.

"Of course they are." Chimpanzee said confused, "Droppings are disgusting to eat."

Believing that Chimpanzee had simply heard him incorrectly, Lion demanded again, "GIVE ME YOUR SWEET DROPPINGS!"

Again Chimpanzee provided a sample of droppings and again Lion bent down to eat them, finding for a second time how unsweet they were. Furious, Lion bent Chimpanzee over and kicked him many times in the rear until his buttocks swelled to three times their normal size. Lion then stomped off to the watering hole to rinse the horrible taste from his mouth.

Chimpanzee never again thought of being the king of the animals, and this is why the Chimpanzee's butt is large and swollen.



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