Mantis steals fire from the Ostrich

According to the Bushman what first drew Mantis’s attention to the ostrich was that the place where it ate its food always smelt exceptionally good. One day Mantis crept close to the ostrich while it was eating and saw it for the first time roasting food on fire. When the ostrich had finished eating, it carefully picked up the fire and tucked it deep into the pit under his wing. Mantis immediately realised the advantages of fire and wondered how he could get it from the ostrich. For days he went about, scheming in his mind. At last he hit on a plan.

Mantis now went up to the ostrich and told it: I have found a tree with the most wonderful fruit on it; a kind just made for the taste of a person like you. Come with me and I will show it to you. He persuaded the ostrich to follow him to a tree in the desert on which grew the lovely yellow wild plums. The grateful ostrich began eating at once, but Mantis said: pick your fruit with more care. Eat higher up; the tastiest ones are at the top. The ostrich reached higher and higher, but still Mantis urged it on:you silly person, that’s not high enough. Look at that yellow one shining up there. It is the grandfather of them all. The excited ostrich stood on tip-toe, opening wide its wings to balance itself as it tried to get at the exalted fruit. At that instant Mantis snatched some of the fire from underneath its wing. Before that moment the ostrich flew; afterwards, the bird never flew again, lest in opening its wings for flight it should lose the little it had left of fire.