Here’s why the hen scratch and peck the ground while the hawk preys on her chicks.

Have you ever seen a hawk snatch a chick? Maybe, or not? As far as the animal kingdom is diverse, we’d say that’s how its always been. Whatever! Legend has it that, the hawk was once upon a time friends or lovers with the hen — the mother of chicks — until one unfaithful incident happen between them, when the hen betrayed the hawk that led to the hawk’s carnivorous nature against chicks. Dear friends, its story time: here’s the origin story of why the hen scratch and peck the ground while the hawk snatches her chicks away.

Related media: The Hawk And The Hen


The Things We Do For Love

There are so many versions of the myth from several cultures but we’d tell the ones from the Ghanaian (Akan) and Philippine folklore — let’s start with the latter. Once upon a long birdie time, there lived a mighty hawk who flew high in the sky until one day he suddenly fell in love with a beautiful hen. The hawk then decided to pitch on the ground and ask the hen out. “I shall marry the hen,” he thought.

So one fateful day, he swooped down and met with the hen. They exchanged some greetings and the hawk told the hen that he’d love to marry the hen. “I will agree to marry you, but I can’t marry you until I don’t have wings as huge as yours!” the hen replied to the hawk. The hawk then agreed and gave the hen a huge engagement ring — so huge that she couldn’t wear it. Hmmm!

The hen was so proud to be engaged to the hawk. She always wore the ring around her neck and let sunshine bounce off it. She made all the other birds jealous of her that she was going to be married. However, a cockerel had also already propose to her and did not seem pleased with the hen. “What is the meaning of this?” the cockerel asked. “Weren’t you supposed to marry me or have you already forgotten?”

The hen was suddenly ashamed. “Throw the ring away,” the cockerel demanded; and she did just that. The hawk then returned soon after with a pack of beautiful feathers for his bride to be. Neither did he knew what has happened, nor was he aware of the fact that the hen was already engaged to the cockerel. He found the hen and presented her with the feathers. “Now, we can get married,” he said.


Put A Ring On It

This was the awkward moment the hawk realized that the hen did not have the ring. Huh? “Where is the ring that I gave to you?” the hawk asked. “Why aren’t you wearing it?” This made the hawk furious; soon, the hen was thinking about what to say to calm the hawk. At last, she told the hawk that she was chased by a serpent the day before and might have lost it while she fled away to safety. So she did not lose it on purpose.

By now the hawk knew all too well what the hen was up to. So for her disappointing behavior, the hawk said:

“If and when you find the ring, I will come down and marry you. But as punishment for breaking your promise, you will scratch and peck the ground until you find the ring; and every chick of yours, I find, I will take it away from you!”

And ever since, the disloyal hen has been scratching and pecking the ground in search of the ring, and the hawk always preys on her chicks.


The Drumming Birds

Now here’s the Akan version: Legend has it that, the hawk and the hen were good friends who lived together. And one fateful day, the hawk decided that he wanted to make a drum so the two friends could have something for fun. So the hawk wanted them to go cut some wood for their drum.

”Let’s go into the forest, cut some wood and make a drum.” he asked the hen. “I’m sorry, I’m terribly sick and can’t come with you.” the hen replied. “Okay! Then lend me your axe and axle, so I can go into the forest and cut some wood for the drum.” the hawk asked again. “I’m sorry my axe and axle are both sick so they can’t work,” the hen replied again.

So the hawk had to borrow the tool he needed from elsewhere and had to work all by himself in carving the drum. He finally made the drum and kept under the sunshine to dry it. And as soon as he left, the hen went in for the drum and started to play the following rhythm:

Keerɛ Kɛtɛ Sooya, Keerɛ Kɛtɛ Soooya

My Friend’s Little Drum

Keerɛ Kɛtɛ Sooya

Because Of Am Not Well, Keerɛ Kɛtɛ Soooya

I Can’t Play And Play And Play,

Keerɛ Kɛtɛ Sooya.

(Fun fact: “Rhythm” is the longest word in the English language without a vowel).

This went on for several days in the absence of the hawk, until one day he told the hen that he was off to the farm and won’t be back for a few days (but hid inside his room). Lo and behold, as the hen was playing, the hawk came out and caught her red handed. The hen made a deal with the hawk to give away her chicks to the hawk if he spared her life. And ever since, that’s why the hawk always preys on her chicks. Which of these stories do you find amazing?


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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Thu, Oct 08, 2020.

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