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1001 Stories Collection

Meat of the Tongue

1001 meatofthetongue
Added on 14th August 2020

Oral tradition Kenyan folktale

A story that demonstrates the importance of telling stories.


In a village lived a Chief with his wife and daughters. They were very wealthy and were able to afford anything they desired.

However, the Chief worried because his wife was thin, weak and unhappy. The Chief noticed the wife of a poor tailor who was healthy, robust and happy despite living in a small, cramped hut with little food. The Chief asked him, ‘What is the secret?’

‘Meat of the tongue’, the tailor replied, ‘that will make your wife happy and healthy’.

The Chief bought in every kind of tongue meat for his wife but none of it worked. The Chief was very upset and ordered the tailor to swap wives for a month. The tailor’s wife grew thin and tired; the Chief’s wife became healthy and happy.

The king had failed to understand that ‘meat of the tongue’ is the nourishment we get from songs sung and of tales told and listened to. It is stories that can help you grow.

Why we chose it

A story that shows the importance of talking, listening and telling stories. Folktales were, and still are, meat and drink to many people.

Where it came from

An oral story from Kenya.

Where it went next

A retelling of the folktale was published by April Lesher (2016, Cricket Media). It tells of a king who is jealous of a peasant boy’s lush and productive garden. The boy feeds his plants with singing and stories.

Added on 14th August 2020

Oral tradition Kenyan folktale