Once upon a time, a huge river flowed slowly over the earth. It was filled with many fish, and all the birds of the world gathered on the river banks.
Death was there too. He was the best fisherman in the world.
All the animals who saw him said hello.
“U pande ve?” (How are you?) all the animals called to Death, and he replied, “M pande di do.” (I’m doing very well).
In those days, it was important to greet your neighbors, and everyone followed the routine.
Every time animals passed his fishing spot, Death called them over to see his catch.
“Look at all these huge fish I caught!” Death boasted, holding his net up. “It would take you weeks to catch all these fish, but it only took me a day. I have perch, crabs, and even catfish!”
It was a big boast. Sometimes, one of the braver animals would call him a liar, saying, “That’s not true. I’ve never seen anyone who can do that!”
Death would stare at the animal and say, “Die.” Every time, the animal fell over, dead as a rock.
One hot morning, Bird was passing by the river on her way to the market. Death called Bird over to show off his catch and boast about his fishing skills, like he always did.
Bird smiled, but didn't say anything. She politely excused herself, and flew back to her farm. Bird was going to teach Death a lesson!
After searching around her farm for a few minutes, she found a huge termite mound. Bird dug down to the bottom of it and found the termite queen's chamber.
It was filled with crawling termites.
Bird flew back to the river where Death was fishing.
“Hey, Death! I wanted to catch some termites for dinner, but it was taking too much time to get them all," said Bird. "I just grabbed the entire termite mound and squeezed it down into this little ball. Now I can eat one whenever I want.”
“R… really?” Death asked, a worried look on his face.
“Let me see.”
Bird held out the little termite chamber to Death.
“Put your ear close to it- you can hear all the thousands of termites scratching around in there," she said. "I'm so strong, I can crush anything I want… including you, Death!”
For the first time, Death got really scared.
He didn’t want to get crushed! He decided to get as far away from Bird as he could. Turning around, Death ran for a long time.
The first place he came to was the village of Man. He saw the open doors, and crept inside to hide.
These days, Death sneaks around in the shadows, never resting.
Sometimes, when he sees Bird, Death hides inside one of Man’s homes for a little while.