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  • 5/29/2005

Bouqui and Ti Malice

A Haitian folktale

Everyone is supposed to know that a long time ago there were no people in the world. The forest was populated with beasts; among them were Bouqui and Ti Malice.

It was the time that God had begun to change animals into men that He called the animals and told them to build a great house to keep out rain and storms and to live like one big happy family.

The animals were eager for this change. At once they set out to cut some wood for poles and split some into shingles for the walls and roof. But Ti Malice, who was lazy even then, refused to help. All the animals talked it over and decided that if he refused to help, when the house was finished they'd not let him in, in rain, in storm or in sunshine.

They built the house quickly because of all the willing hands working. Ti Malice, seeing the great achievement, became envious, and curious to see inside it. He tried to go in but was barred. They even threatened to beat him with a cocomacaque, which contains some sort of charms that kill anyone who receives its blow.

Ti Malice, who never gave in to anyone, made up his mind to get in the house if it was the last thing he did. So, he made himself a small wooden whistle. When night came he slipped into the house and lay under Uncle Bouqui's bed. At midnight, when all were sound asleep, he blew on the instrument--toot, toot, toot, toot. It sounded like a ferry-boat's whistle.

Then, in a disguised voice, he said, "I'm from God's house. He sent me to tell you to leave this house at once or it will fall upon you."

The animals were scared sick and fled pell-mell into the forest, pushing one another out of the way as they fled. Uncle Bouqui, however, just turned over and continued to snore.

Ti Malice blew again, toot, toot, toot, toot". I say I'm from God's house! He sent me to tell you, too, to get out, or you'll be killed. You lazy scoundrel, get out!"

Bouqui grumbled at being disturbed from his sleep; but he finally got out and joined his comrades in the jungle.

Since the animals were very democratic then, the first thing they did in the morning was to call a meeting to decide what to do about their house. The meeting resulted in sending a pair of cats back to see what happened.

The cats went along and from a distance saw Ti Malice walking to and fro on the veranda of the house, whistling. Ti Malice saw them, too, and had to think quickly how to handle the couple. At that moment he saw pieces of a broken bottle on the ground. An idea came to him of how he might get to keep the house forever. He picked them up, and waited for the visitors.

"Compere and Commere Cat, how are you?"

"Not so bad, Compere Malice" responded the cats.

"I came to see my friend Uncle Bouqui and found the doors of the house open, so I walked in and found not even a fly around. But, since you're here, maybe you could do me a little favor?"

"What's the nature of this favor?" asked Compere Cat suspiciously.

"I would like for you to shave me," he said, handing the broken bottle pieces to the cat.

Compere Cat shaved Ti Malice in the shake of a lamb's tail. Then the latter stuck out his tongue and asked the cat to scrape it for him too. "I'm going to a Rada dance tonight and I want to be spick-and-span."

Compere Cat did Ti Malice's bidding. Malice then said, "I'd like to take you two along with me to the dance, but, Compere Cat, your face must be shaved clean and your tongue too, like mine."

"Oh, oh," said Commere Cat, "you'll shave him and scrape his tongue, won't you, Compere Malice?"

"Sure, indeed," said Ti Malice.

Compere Cat stuck out his tongue and in one stroke Ti Malice sliced half of it off, together with part of his throat. Then, with another stroke, he reached over for Commere Cat's throat, but he missed her. The two cats leaped through the door like a gale. Compere Cat ran to his comrades in the jungle and tried to tell them what had happened, but nothing came out but the rattle of a piece of tongue, and he soon died.

Commere Cat was so scared that she never tried to find the others. She went further and further into the woods, coming out at night to steal people's chickens. All the animals became more scared and never returned again to the great house, and don't even like houses to this day.

If the men in the Haitian hills knew what happened to Compere Cat's throat, maybe they wouldn't still be shaving with bits of broken glass.

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