Bush stories are traditional tales passed down through generations of South African tribe members and residents. Often, they take the form of parables designed to convey a moral message or truth of nature. Here, Gail shares seven bush stories: the tale of the hippopotamus; of dogs and their tails; the tale of a young man and a snake; the Ranger’s revenge; the marula tree; the Hadeda bird; and the talking stick.

Listen to Gail’s Bush Stories here:



The first story is the tale of the hippopotamus: how it came to live in the water during the day, and how it began to spread its tail through its dung on land. [00:00:59 – 00:03:18]. The second story explains how dogs came to sniff each other’s tails in greeting [00:03:18 – 00:04:39]. The third story is one which Gail asserts has variations in many different cultures across the world. It is the story of a young man who, after undertaking a meditative vision quest up a mountain to determine the future of his life, agrees to carry a snake with him on his way back down (against his better judgement). At the bottom of the mountain, the snake bites the man “because it’s in my nature.” The story contains “a very powerful message, of do be careful of when something is simply in one’s nature” [00:04:40 – 00:0:8:08].

Gail then goes on to describe a common Ranger’s revenge on a group of “townies”: urban visitors who stay up too late talking around the camp fire. [00:08:10 – 00:09:19]

Gail then talks about the marula tree, whose quickly-fermenting berries cause grazing animals to become very intoxicated.[00:09:20 – 00:10:46]

Next, Gail mentions the Hadeda bird, which “makes this dreadful screech […] at five o’clock in the morning when you’re trying to sleep” because it is, apparently, afraid of heights [00:10:48 – 00:11:33]. She then talks about the principle of Ubuntu: “a philosophy that ‘I am because of you’, which basically says no man is an island.” Gail describes the decline of the principles of helping each other that are held within Ubuntu, but notes that “if you can learn it and take it back to wherever you’re from, that’s very exciting because you’d be helping the spread of Ubuntu.” [00:11:35 – 00:13:18].

Finally, Gail describes the function of the talking stick in Indabas (meetings). Talking sticks function in this manner: “the person that holds the stick is the person that has the right to speak. And that way, you have no interruptions, no over-talking, and a person gets a clear space to say what they’ve got to say. But it’s also considered very inappropriate to hold on to the stick for any length of time” [00:13:22 – 00:15:40]. To finish, Gail discusses the adaptation and benefits of using the talking stick within a household.

To read a transcript of the Bush Stories, click the image below: