Why the Crocodile Has a Hard, Scaly Skin - Zimbabwean Children's Songs - Zimbabwe - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Intro Image


This rhyme can be found in "Negro Folk Rhymes, Wise and Otherwise," with a Study by Thomas W. Talley of Fisk University (New York, USA, 1922). Here's what it said about this tale and also another called "The Turkey Buzzard":

"Dr. C. C. Fuller: a missionary at Chikore Melsetter, Rhodesia, Africa, was good enough to secure for the compiler this rhyme [The Turkey Buzzard], written in Chindau, from the Rev. John E. Hatch, also a missionary in South Africa… Along with this rhyme came the following [Why the Crocodile has Hard, Scaly Skin] in his kind and obliging letter: 'We thought the story of how the Crocodile got its scaly skin might be of interest also'.' Talley wrote about the tale, 'This is about as literal an outline of the American Negro story 'Why the Alligator's Back is Rough' as one could have. The slight difference is that the direct African version mixes people in with the plot. This along with Mr. Harris's evidences practically establishes the fact that the Negro animal story outlines came with the Negroes themselves from Africa and would also render it practically certain that many animal rhymes came in the same way since these Rhymes in many cases accompany the stories.'"

If anyone knows the original version of this tale in Chindau, please email it to me. Thanks! Mama Lisa


You can read the African-American version of this tale called "Why the Alligator's Back Is Rough," in "Nights with Uncle Remus" (1917) by Joel Chandler Harris. Most of it is written in dialect.