The Red Book Of Animal Stories - online children's book

Stories of Animals, Fantastic and Mundane, Edited By Andrew Lang

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Long ago, travellers used to think that hyenas had a kind of magic about them, by which they could force their prey to stand in one place till they were ready to fall upon it. It was enough for the hyena to walk round an animal three times to make it as helpless as a bird in the power of a snake. Of course it may not always have been easy to get the creature to remain stock still while the hyena was performing this ceremony—for nothing less than three complete turns would induce the spell to work —but that does not seem to have occurred to the old writers. In the case of a man, he must be most careful, if he ever met a hyena, not to allow him to pass on the right side, for, if he did, he would be certain to fall sense­less off his horse before he had ridden very far.
All sorts of charms were considered necessary to preserve men against the wiles of a hyena, and curiously enough, the beast's own skin was held to contain a spell. A hyena's skin hung up on a gate or fence would ensure that the fruit trees within should be proof against either hail or lightning. No darts could pierce the man who went into battle with the skin of a hyena wrapped about him, and any farmer, anxious to increase his crop, had only to place his seed in a hyena bag, for his land to bring forth a three-fold quantity.
Travellers in these times do not put quite so much faith in the power of the hyena, dead or alive ; but they quite agree that, like most cowardly beasts, he is very cunning. One of his favourite tricks is suddenly to pop up his big, bristly body in the midst of the grass where
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