by Abdulla Shaig (1881-1959)
Fox was getting so old. He would come back from hunting so hungry because he didn’t catch anything. Weeks would go by and he would have nothing to eat.
Then one day, he got an idea. “I’ll play a trick,” he thought. So Fox got some prayer beads and tied a shawl around his waist. He wore sandals on his feet, a turban on his head and a silk sash around his shoulders. In his hand he carried a cane. Fox wandered around with tears in his eyes.
Fox came to a large village and saw Rooster pecking at the ground. Rooster saw sneaky Fox and was surprised. He looked at Fox and stayed far away from him. He said, “Hey Fox! What happened to you? Why are you dressed like that?”
Fox cried and cried. “Oh rooster!” he said, “I’m so old. My life is over. I’ve caused so much trouble. Please don’t run away from me. I feel so guilty and ashamed. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I’ve killed a lot of chickens. No one will ever forgive me. Now I’m going on a holy journey to Mecca because I feel so sorry about what I did.”
Rooster felt sorry for Fox. “Dear Fox,” he said, “Don’t cry. I know that you are sorry. It’s a long way to Mecca and it looks like you could use some help. Let me go with you. I’ll take care of you on the trip.”
This sounded good to Fox. “Thank you, little rooster! Come along with me. You can help with the daily prayers.”
Rooster was happy. He opened up his wings like a fan. He flew down next to Fox and kissed his hands and face. Fox played with his prayer beads and smiled at Rooster. His eyes twinkled. They talked for a few minutes, then continued on their way.
They came to another village where they found some chickens pecking and scratching in the dust. The chickens were surprised to see Fox. He looked quite different. He had prayer beads in his hand and a shawl tied around his waist. He wore sandals on his feet, a turban on his head and a silk sash around his shoulders. In his hand he carried a cane. And Rooster was walking next to him!
The chickens all shouted and came a bit closer. One of them said, “Hey Fox! You’re so mean to us. Every night you come to our village and try to catch us. We’ve tried to protect ourselves from you. We’ve prayed and prayed. It looks like our prayers have been answered.”
Fox pretended to be sad. He leaned on his cane and looked at the ground. He began to cry. He said, “It’s true, dear chickens. I feel guilty. What I did was wrong. I’m so ashamed. I’ve been mean to you, but now I’m old. I feel so sorry about what I did that I’m going on a holy journey to Mecca.”
The chickens were very surprised. They believed Fox’s words and began to cry. They said, “Fox, you really have changed. Please take us with you on your journey.”
“Why not?” said Fox. “Come on!” So they all flew down next to him. There were chickens everywhere and they all crowed happily.
Rooster flew up on the rooftop of a house. He sang out, “What a wonderful day! We’re so lucky! Come and see for yourselves. Fox is sorry for the trouble he has caused us. He won’t kill us anymore. From now on, he will leave us alone.”
The rest of the chickens in the village heard his words, so they came right over. They all believed Fox and welcomed him. One kissed his sash; another pecked gently at his cane. They all celebrated the happy event. Fox was also very happy but for a different reason. He wasn’t paying much attention to the celebration.
Soon they began the journey. Rooster marched at the front, holding a flag and crowing loudly. The other chickens sang along with him.
Fox also started down the road. He watched the chickens carefully, and thought about how tasty they would be. He tried to figure out which ones were the fattest. He knew he had to wait for just the right moment to catch them.
They walked for a while until they reached a flat place. Fox stopped. He said, “Dear flock, it’s time to pray. We must wash ourselves quickly, and then pray here.” Rooster flew up to the tree and called all of the chickens to prayer.
“Hurry up,” said Fox. “Line up to pray. Rooster will lead us.”
The chickens put up a fuss. “But Fox, you should lead the prayer.”
Fox pretended to be angry. He said, “Not me! I’ve been so wicked. I’m no preacher! I’ve killed too many.”
One of the roosters came forward to lead the prayer. Fox made the chickens line up and put the fat ones close to him. He was so excited. His heart was on fire.
Fox told the chickens, “I should stand far away from you since I’ve been so bad. Go ahead and start the prayers.” He sat on the ground and began to cry.
The lines of chickens were ready. They started to pray. First they said a short prayer, then they all bowed down to the ground.
Fox raised his head. His face did not look sad or kind anymore. Fire was coming out of his eyes. He was ready to attack. He threw away his prayer book, sash, turban and cane. He jumped right into the middle of the chickens and snatched up 15 of them. The rest flew away and their cries filled the desert.
Fox’s plan had worked. He took the captured chickens back home and stuffed himself for 10 days.