The Zankallala is a terrifyingly mighty creature from the folklore of the Hausa people. He is only the size of two clenched fists, but he wields a snake as a walking-stick, a pair of scorpions as spurs, and a swarm of bees as a hat. His mount is a jerboa. Wherever he goes, he is followed by birds that sing his praises and attack his enemies. He is also implied to have supernatural powers.
Even the dodo, the fearsome monster, the Swallower-of-Men, is powerless before the Zankallala. Once a boy was being chased by a dodo along a riverbank, and he came upon the Zankallala.
“Where are you going?” asked the Zankallala. “I’m running away from Dodo”, said the boy. “Stay”, said the creature. “The Dodo will not harm you”. And immediately a silk-cotton tree grew over the Zankallala, and the birds in it sang in praise.
“The Lion is afraid of the Zankallala,
The Hyena is afraid of the Zankallala,
Dodo is afraid of the Zankallala”.
When the dodo caught up with his quarry, he was nonplussed. “Where is my property?” he demanded. But the Zankallala responded impudently, saying “What property have you given me?” This infuriated the dodo. “If you will not give me my prey, then you will be my meal!”
With that the dodo gobbled up the tiny creature, only for the Zankallala to emerge from his stomach, accompanied by the joyous chorus of the birds. Then the dodo ate him again, but the Zankallala came out of his back, telling the birds to continue singing his praises. The third time the dodo swallowed him, the Zankallala emerged from the monster’s head, killing it.
“You may leave in safety”, the Zankallala told the boy, “you have seen that one is stronger than another, you escaped because you met me”.
This tale of a small trickster creature outwitting the dodo is sometimes told with a centipede or hedgehog replacing the Zankallala.
Tremearne, A. J. N. (1913) Hausa Superstitions and Customs. J. Bale and Sons and Danielsson, Ltd., London.