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Afrii-Diaspora Dialogue
  • Afrikan Folktales

    General Afrikan Folktales

    The Man Who Never Lied

    An Afrikan Folktale

    Once upon a time there lived a wise man by the name of Mamad. He never lied. All the people in the land, even the ones who lived twenty days away, knew about him.

    The king heard about Mamad and ordered his subjects to bring him to the palace. He looked at the wise man and asked:

    “Mamad, is it true, that you have never lied?”

    “It’s true.”

    “And you will never lie in your life?”

    “I’m sure in that.”

    “Okay, tell the truth, but be careful! The lie is cunning and it gets on your tongue easily.”

    Several days passed and the king called Mamad once again. There was a big crowd: the king was about to go hunting. The king held his horse by the mane, his left foot was already on the stirrup. He ordered Mamad:

    “Go to my summer palace and tell the queen I will be with her for lunch. Tell her to prepare a big feast. You will have lunch with me then.”

    Mamad bowed down and went to the queen. Then the king laughed and said:

    “We won't go hunting and now Mamad will lie to the queen. Tomorrow we will laugh on his behalf.” But the wise Mamad went to the palace and said:

    “Maybe you should prepare a big feast for lunch tomorrow, and maybe you shouldn't. Maybe the king will come by noon, and maybe he won't.”

    “Tell me will he come, or won't he?” - asked the queen.

    “I don't know whether he put his right foot on the stirrup, or he put his left foot on the ground after I left.”

    Everybody waited for the king. He came the next day and said to the queen:

    “The wise Mamad, who never lies, lied to you yesterday.”

    But the queen told him about the words of Mamad. And the king realized, that the wise man never lies, and says only that, which he saw with his own eyes.

    Ghanaian Folktales

    Anansi Does the Impossible

    By Lisa Desimini, Verna Aardema

    The continent of Africa is in a shape of a parrot and at its throat height lies a country of Nigeria. The country’s coast borders with the Gulf of Guinea. And this is where two major rivers of Nigeria come together and empty into the Niger Delta. It is one of the largest river deltas in the world. In this area of the Gulf of Guinea indigenous people called Ashantiland tell many tales about a cunning spider, who is their hero. And here is one of those stories.

    A long time ago, all folktales where owned by the Sky God.

    One day, Anansi the Spider announced to his wife Aso that he would win all those folktales and gift them to the earth people.

    The next day, Anansi set to meet with the Sky God. As he reached the highest peak, he raised his head toward the sky and spoke loudly, “The highest deity in the bluest sky, how can I win all your folktales for our earth people?”

    “What makes you think you can win it,” bellowed the voice from high above. Not waiting for an answer he continued, “I’ll give you three most impossible tasks if you think you’re so smart. Bring me a live python, a real fairy, and thirty-seven stinging hornets.”

    “I can manage that,” answered Anansi confidently, then hurried home.

    As soon as he arrived home, all his confidence was gone, “Oh dear wife, how am I supposed to achieve all those impossible tasks?”

    “Hmm, let me think. Remember one task at time…one task at a time,” she kept repeating as she was hatching a plan in her head. “I know how to catch a python,” and she whispered into his ear.

    They ran into a nearby river and sat on a log. Soon after a python slithered its way to the water’s edge. As he sipped water, he overhead the couple arguing, “What is the problem?”

    “There is no problem,” retorted Anansi. “Only my wife says that you’re not as long as this log and I begged to differ.”

    The snake hissed, “I know I am longer than this log.” Without any further convincing, he stretched his long body along the log.

    “Your tail is a bit too short, let me stretch it,” proclaimed Aso tying the snake to the log at one end.

    At the other end, Anansi declared, “You need to stretch your nose a bit towards me. Let me help you.” He quickly tied the snake to the log on his end. “Keep stretching,” encouraged Anansi while winding the rope and moving toward the middle where he met his wife.

    “Done,” they whispered and smiled. And off Anansi was with a life python trotting his way to the Sky God.

    The Sky God darkened the sky into a navy blue color and sent a bright lightning as he couldn’t believe that Anansi had achieved his first task. “Well, you have two more impossible tasks to perform.”

    Upon his return home, Anansi asked his wife, “But how are we going to catch a fairy?”

    “Hmm let me think…let me think,” after taking a few deep breaths and scratching her head, she announced, “I have an idea.” And she whispered it to Anansi’s ear.

    Anansi not wasting any time, followed his wife’s directions and carved a wooden fairy and covered it with sticky gum from a mimosa tree. Aso placed a tiny dish of banana between two wooden hands of the fairy. And when the sky was dark and the moon was bright, Anansi placed the wooden-fairy on the odum tree and hid behind bushes.

    Shortly after some fairies came and surrounded the wooden-fairy. “She is pretty quiet and she doesn’t flap her wings,” said one.

    “No, she doesn’t,” nodded another, “But she has something sweet in her basket. Shall we try it?” No waiting for an answer, she reached for the sweet, “Oh, no my hands are stuck to the sweet. I can’t pull them.”

    “Oh, no,” lamented the fairies.

    Meanwhile, Anansi pulled the strings and the real fairy attached to the wooden one flew straight into his hands. He then rushed to the Sky God.

    The Sky God roared, “I really don’t know how you perform those impossible tasks, but you still have one more left.”

    Anansi went back home and said to his wife, “I have no idea how we are going to catch forty-seven hornets.”

    Aso thought and thought and finally whispered the plan into Anansi’s ear.

    As suggested Anansi picked a bottle guard in a shape of long melon with a wooden cork and walked to the cold stream to fill it with water. Then he climbed high up a nearby tree and tipped the bottle letting the water gurgle down upon the hornets. The hornets immediately flew in all directions. “My dear hornets here is a bottle guard where you can find a safe and dry shelter here,” encouraged Anansi.

    The hornets buzzed around. As one entered the bottle, another followed and then some more. Anansi kept a count of each hornet entering the bottle. As soon as he counted forty-seven of them, he popped the stopper in and off he was to the Sky God.

    Upon seeing Anansi, the furious Sky God flashed his lightning and beat his thunder.

    Anansi tasting his victory, kept calm and with extreme politeness announced, “The dearest Sky God, here are the forty-seven stinging hornets. Would you like to count them?”

    “No!” thundered the Sky God. “You have won the stories. Now take your leave,” boomed the Sky God.

    Anansi thanked the Sky God and took his leave.

    That night, the people of the village gathered in a circle around a bonfire and listened to the stories told by Anansi.

    People upon hearing how Anansi won the stories for them rejoiced, singing, “Honor to Anansi! Honor to Anansi and Aso!”

    And from that day on, the folktales of West Africa have been called Anansi Tales.

    Nigerian Folktales

    The Cock Who Caused a Fight Between Two Towns

    Ekpo and Etim were half-brothers, that is to say they had the same mother, but different fathers. Their mother first of all had married a chief of Duke Town, when Ekpo was born; but after a time she got tired of him and went to Old Town, where she married Ejuqua and gave birth to Etim.

    Both of the boys grew up and became very rich. Ekpo had a cock, of which he was very fond, and every day when Ekpo sat down to meals the cock used to fly on to the table and feed also. Ama Ukwa, a native of Old Town, who was rather poor, was jealous of the two brothers, and made up his mind if possible to bring about a quarrel between them, although he pretended to be friends with both.

    One day Ekpo, the elder brother, gave a big dinner, to which Etim and many other people were invited. Ama Ukwa was also present. A very good dinner was laid for the guests, and plenty of palm wine was provided. When they had commenced to feed, the pet cock flew on to the table and began to feed off Etim's plate. Etim then told one of his servants to seize the cock and tie him up in the house until after the feast. So the servant carried the cock to Etim's house and tied him up for safety.

    After much eating and drinking, Etim returned home late at night with his friend Ama Ukwa, and just before they went to bed, Ama Ukwa saw Ekpo's cock tied up. So early in the morning he went to Ekpo's house, who received him gladly.

    About eight o'clock, when it was time for Ekpo to have his early morning meal, he noticed that his pet cock was missing. When he remarked upon its absence, Ama Ukwa told him that his brother had seized the cock the previous evening during the dinner, and was going to kill it, just to see what Ekpo would do. When Ekpo heard this, he was very vexed, and sent Ama Ukwa back to his brother to ask him to return the cock immediately. Instead of delivering the message as he had been instructed, Ama Ukwa told Etim that his elder brother was so angry with him for taking away his friend, the cock, that he would fight him, and had sent Ama Ukwa on purpose to declare war between the two towns.

    Etim then told Ama Ukwa to return to Ekpo, and say he would be prepared for anything his brother could do. Ama Ukwa then advised Ekpo to call all his people in from their farms, as Etim would attack him, and on his return he advised Etim to do the same. He then arranged a day for the fight to take place between the two brothers and their people. Etim then marched his men to the other side of the creek, and waited for his brother; so Ama Ukwa went to Ekpo and told him that Etim had got all his people together and was waiting to fight. Ekpo then led his men against his brother, and there was a big battle, many men being killed on both sides. The fighting went on all day, until at last, towards evening, the other chiefs of Calabar met and determined to stop it; so they called the Egbo men together and sent them out with their drums, and eventually the fight stopped.

    Three days later a big palaver was held, when each of the brothers was told to state his case. When they had done so, it was found that Ama Ukwa had caused the quarrel, and the chiefs ordered that he should be killed. His father, who was a rich man, offered to give the Egbos five thousand rods, five cows, and seven slaves to redeem his son, but they decided to refuse his offer.

    The next day, after being severely flogged, he was left for twenty-four hours tied up to a tree, and the following day his head was cut off.

    Ekpo was then ordered to kill his pet cock, so that it should not cause any further trouble between himself and his brother, and a law was passed that for the future no one should keep a pet cock or any other tame animal.

    Master Man

    A Tell of Nigeria

    Once there was a man who was strong.

    When he gathered firewood, he hauled twice as much as anyone else in the village. When he hunted, he carried home two antelopes at once.

    This man’s name was Shadusa, and his wife was named Shettu. One day he said to her, “Just look at these muscles. I must be the strongest man in the world. From now on, just call me Master Man.”

    But Shettu said, “Quit your foolish boasting. No matter how strong you are, there will always be someone stronger. And watch out, or someday you may meet him.”

    The next day, Shettu paid a visit to a neighboring village. On the walk home she grew thirsty, so she stopped by a well. She threw in the bucket—splash—then she pulled on the rope. But though she tugged and she heaved, she could not lift the bucket.

    Just then a woman walked up with a baby strapped to her back. Balanced on her head was a calabash, a hollow gourd for carrying water.

    “You’ll get no water here today,” said Shettu. “The bucket won’t come up.”

    The two women pulled together, but still the bucket would not budge.

    “Wait a moment,” said the woman. She untied her baby and set him on the ground. “Pull up the bucket for Mama.”

    The baby quickly pulled up the bucket and filled his mother’s calabash. Then he threw in the bucket and pulled it up once more for Shettu.

    Shettu gasped. “I don’t believe it!”

    “Oh, it’s not so strange,” said the woman. “After all, my husband is Master Man.”

    When Shettu got home, she told Shadusa what had happened.

    “Master Man?” yelled Shadusa. “He can’t call himself that! I’m Master Man. I’ll have to teach that fellow a lesson.”

    “Oh, husband, don’t!” pleaded Shettu. “If the baby is so strong, think what the father must be like. You’ll get yourself killed.”

    But Shadusa said, “We’ll see about that!”

    The next morning, Shadusa set out early and walked till he came to the well. He threw in the bucket—splash—then he pulled on the rope. But though he tugged and he heaved, he could not lift the bucket.

    Just then the woman with the baby walked up.

    “Wait a minute,” said Shadusa. “What do you think you’re doing?”

    “I’m getting water, of course,” answered the woman.

    “Well, you can’t,” said Shadusa. “The bucket won’t come up.”

    The woman set down the baby, who quickly pulled up the bucket and filled his mother’s calabash.

    “Wah!” yelled Shadusa. “How did he do that?”

    “It’s easy,” said the woman, “when your father is Master Man.”

    Shadusa gulped and thought about going home. But instead he thrust out his chest and said, “I want to meet this fellow, so I can show him who’s the real Master Man.”

    “Oh, I wouldn’t do that,” said the woman. “He devours men like you! But suit yourself.”

    So Shadusa followed the woman back to her compound. Inside the fenced yard was a gigantic fireplace, and beside it was a pile of huge bones.

    “What’s all this?” asked Shadusa.

    “Well, you see,” said the woman, “our hut is so small that my husband must come out here to eat his elephants.”

    Just then they heard a great ROAR, so loud that Shadusa had to cover his ears. Then the ground began to shake, until Shadusa could hardly stand.

    “What’s that?” he shouted.

    “That’s Master Man.”

    “Oh, no!” wailed Shadusa. “You weren’t fooling. I’ve got to get out of here!”

    “It’s too late now,” said the woman. “But let me hide you.”

    By the fence were some large clay pots, each as tall as a man, for storing grain. She helped him climb into one, then set the lid in place.

    Shadusa raised the lid a crack to peek out. And there he was, coming into the compound with a dead elephant across his shoulders. It was Master Man!

    “Did you have a good day, dear?” asked the woman.

    “Yes!” bellowed Master Man. “But I forgot my bow and arrows. I had to kill this elephant with my bare hands.”

    As Shadusa watched in terror, Master Man built a huge fire in the fireplace, roasted the elephant, and devoured every bit of it but the bones.

    Suddenly he stopped and sniffed. “Wife! I smell a man!”

    “Oh, there’s no man here now,” said the woman. “One passed by while you were gone. That must be what you smell.”

    “Too bad,” thundered Master Man. “He would have been tasty.” Then he rolled over on the ground, and before long the leaves were trembling from his snores.

    The woman hurried over to the pot and slid off the lid. “Quick!” she whispered. “Get away while you can.”

    Shadusa leaped out and bolted down the path. But he hadn’t gone too far when he heard a distant ROAR and felt the ground tremble beneath him. Master Man was coming!

    Shadusa ran till he came upon five farmers hoeing a field.

    “What’s your hurry?” called one.

    “Master Man is after me!”

    “Take it easy,” said the farmer. “We won’t let anyone hurt you.”

    Just then they heard a terrible ROAR. The farmers all dropped their hoes and covered their ears.

    “What was that?” asked the farmer.

    “That was Master Man!”

    “Well, then,” said the farmer, “you’d better keep running!” And the five farmers fled across the field.

    Shadusa ran on till he met ten porters carrying bundles.

    “What’s your hurry?” called one.

    “Master Man is after me!”

    “Relax,” said the porter. “No one can fight us all.”

    Just then the ground quaked, and they all bounced into the air. The porters fell in a heap, all mixed up with their bundles.

    “What was that?” asked the porter.

    “That was Master Man!”

    “Then run for your life!” And the ten porters bolted from the path.

    Shadusa ran on till he rounded a bend—then he stopped short. There beside the path sat a stranger, and there beside the stranger lay a huge pile of elephant bones.

    “What’s your hurry?” growled the stranger.

    “Master Man is after me,” moaned Shadusa.

    “You better not say so—’cause I’m Master Man!”

    From behind Shadusa came another ROAR, and once again he bounced into the air. The stranger caught him in one hand as Master Man ran up.

    “Let me have him!” bellowed Master Man.

    “Come and get him!” growled the stranger.

    Master Man lunged, but the stranger tossed Shadusa into a tree. Then the two strong men wrapped themselves around each other and wrestled across the ground.

    The noise of the battle nearly deafened Shadusa. The dust choked him. The trembling of the tree nearly shook him down.

    As Shadusa watched, the two men struggled to their feet, still clutching each another. Then each gave a mighty leap, and together they rose into the air. Higher and higher they went, till they passed through a cloud and out of sight.

    Shadusa waited and waited, but the men never came back down. At last he climbed carefully from the tree, then ran and ran and never stopped till he got home safe and sound. And he never called himself Master Man again.

    As for those other two, they’re still in the clouds, where they battle on to this day. Of course, they rest whenever they’re both worn out. But sooner or later they start up again, and what a noise they make!

    Some people call that noise thunder. But now you know what it really is—two fools fighting forever to see which one is Master Man.

    The Tortoise, the Dog and the Farmer

    Once upon a time, there was a famine in the land of Kurumi in southwestern Nigeria, everyone was looking rather thin and unhealthy because very limited food was available. However the tortoise observed that his friend, the dog has looking very rosy and fat. He wondered what the secret of the dog?s well being was and decided to pay him a visit and find out:

    Tortoise: My good friend, you know we have been friends for a very long time, please tell me the secret of your rosy cheeks and your fat stomach so that I do not die of hunger.

    Dog: There is no secret to it my good friend, it’s just hard work and living a peaceful and serene life.

    Tortoise: My friend, do you like as I?m looking haggard, I know that you have found a way to beat this general hunger, please tell me, I can keep a secret.

    Dog: Tortoise my friend, I have told you there is no secret or do you think I?d lie to you?

    The tortoise wasn?t satisfied, he knew that somehow, the dog had managed to find a source of living not known to anyone. So he decided to shadow the dog?s movements the next day. He observed the dog leave home very early in the morning with a basket and tailed him all the way to the neighboring village making sure he was at some safe distance behind the dog all the time.

    The dog made way to a farm and after looking around to make sure that no one was watching started harvesting yam off the farm into his basket. The tortoise then made his presence known to the Dog:

    Tortoise: (shouting) So my friend, this is the secret of your rosy living and you refused to tell me!!

    Dog: (Jumping up in fright) Tortoise, why did you follow me here? Well now you know my secret. But if you want to come with me you must come only with me and leave before 6pm when the farmer comes.

    Tortoise: I promise! I promise

    So did the tortoise follow the dog each day to the farm and came back with a basket full of yam. However each day the quantity of yam harvested by the tortoise increased and with the increase both the dog and the tortoise had left the farm for home a little later each day than the day before. The dog then decided to caution the tortoise:

    Dog: My good friend tortoise, The quantity of yam you take home each day is becoming too much, yesterday, we left for home at 5.45pm, the farmer may catch us and then we are done for.

    Tortoise: Don?t worry my friend, I?m storing enough yam at home for the rainy day. The farmer will never catch us.

    Dog: I don?t think you should be greedy; you could get us killed if we harvest too much yam than we can carry easily enough to escape being caught by the farmer.

    Tortoise: You dare call me greedy! I don?t? think it’s any of your business how much yam I carry.

    So the next day, at 5.30 prompt the dog announced that he was leaving for home. But the tortoise pleaded for some more time to harvest yam. At ten minutes to six the dog put his basket on his head and started heading home. The tortoise noticed this shouted after the dog.

    Tortoise: Wait for me, wait for me, I can?t carry my basket alone, it?s to heavy. I need you to assist me put it on my head.

    However the dog refused to listen and made haste to avoid the farmer, then the tortoise started crying and singing asking the dog to come back to help him lift his basket or else he (the tortoise) would start a raucous that will attract he farmer?s attention which will mean the death of both of them.

    But the dog by then had long gone. The farmer arrived his farm and met the tortoise with a basketful of his yam crying and singing. He promptly descended on the tortoise crying THIEF!! THIEF!!

    Immediately a crowd gathered around and the tortoise was brought before the king who decreed that the tortoise be hanged in the market square.

    Tanzanian Folktales

    The Ape, the Snake, and the Lion

    Long, long ago there lived, in a village called Keejee′jee, a woman whose husband died, leaving her with a little baby boy. She worked hard all day to get food for herself and child, but they lived very poorly and were most of the time half-starved.

    When the boy, whose name was ’Mvoo′ Laa′na, began to get big, he said to his mother, one day: “Mother, we are always hungry. What work did my father do to support us?”

    His mother replied: “Your father was a hunter. He set traps, and we ate what he caught in them.”

    “Oho!” said ’Mvoo Laana; “that’s not work; that’s fun. I, too, will set traps, and see if we can’t get enough to eat.”

    The next day he went into the forest and cut branches from the trees, and returned home in the evening.

    The second day he spent making the branches into traps.

    The third day he twisted cocoanut fiber into ropes.

    The fourth day he set up as many traps as time would permit.

    The fifth day he set up the remainder of the traps.

    The sixth day he went to examine the traps, and they had caught so much game, beside what they needed for themselves, that he took a great quantity to the big town of Oongoo′ja, where he sold it and bought corn and other things, and the house was full of food; and, as this good fortune continued, he and his mother lived very comfortably.

    But after a while, when he went to his traps he found nothing in them day after day.

    One morning, however, he found that an ape had been caught in one of the traps, and he was about to kill it, when it said: “Son of Adam, I am Neea′nee, the ape; do not kill me. Take me out of this trap and let me go. Save me from the rain, that I may come and save you from the sun someday.”

    So ’Mvoo Laana took him out of the trap and let him go.

    When Neeanee had climbed up in a tree, he sat on a branch and said to the youth: “For your kindness I will give you a piece of advice: Believe me, men are all bad. Never do a good turn for a man; if you do, he will do you harm at the first opportunity.”

    The second day, ’Mvoo Laana found a snake in the same trap. He started to the village to give the alarm, but the snake shouted: “Come back, son of Adam; don’t call the people from the village to come and kill me. I am Neeo′ka, the snake. Let me out of this trap, I pray you. Save me from the rain to-day, that I may be able to save you from the sun to-morrow, if you should be in need of help.”

    So the youth let him go; and as he went he said, “I will return your kindness if I can, but do not trust any man; if you do him a kindness he will do you an injury in return at the first opportunity.”

    The third day, ’Mvoo Laana found a lion in the same trap that had caught the ape and the snake, and he was afraid to go near it. But the lion said: “Don’t run away; I am Sim′ba Kong′way, the very old lion. Let me out of this trap, and I will not hurt you. Save me from the rain, that I may save you from the sun if you should need help.”

    So ’Mvoo Laana believed him and let him out of the trap, and Simba Kongway, before going his way, said: “Son of Adam, you have been kind to me, and I will repay you with kindness if I can; but never do a kindness to a man, or he will pay you back with unkindness.”

    The next day a man was caught in the same trap, and when the youth released him, he repeatedly assured him that he would never forget the service he had done him in restoring his liberty and saving his life.

    Well, it seemed that he had caught all the game that could be taken in traps, and ’Mvoo Laana and his mother were hungry every day, with nothing to satisfy them, as they had been before. At last he said to his mother, one day: “Mother, make me seven cakes of the little meal we have left, and I will go hunting with my bow and arrows.” So she baked him the cakes, and he took them and his bow and arrows and went into the forest.

    The youth walked and walked, but could see no game, and finally he found that he had lost his way, and had eaten all his cakes but one.

    And he went on and on, not knowing whether he was going away from his home or toward it, until he came to the wildest and most desolate looking wood he had ever seen. He was so wretched and tired that he felt he must lie down and die, when suddenly he heard someone calling him, and looking up he saw Neeanee, the ape, who said, “Son of Adam, where are you going?”

    “I don’t know,” replied ’Mvoo Laana, sadly; “I’m lost.”

    “Well, well,” said the ape; “don’t worry. Just sit down here and rest yourself until I come back, and I will repay with kindness the kindness you once showed me.”

    Then Neeanee went away off to some gardens and stole a whole lot of ripe paw-paws and bananas, and brought them to ’Mvoo Laana, and said: “Here’s plenty of food for you. Is there anything else you want? Would you like a drink?” And before the youth could answer he ran off with a calabash and brought it back full of water. So the youth ate heartily, and drank all the water he needed, and then each said to the other, “Good-bye, till we meet again,” and went their separate ways.

    When ’Mvoo Laana had walked a great deal farther without finding which way he should go, he met Simba Kongway, who asked, “Where are you going, son of Adam?”

    And the youth answered, as dolefully as before, “I don’t know; I’m lost.”

    “Come, cheer up,” said the very old lion, “and rest yourself here a little. I want to repay with kindness to-day the kindness you showed me on a former day.”

    So ’Mvoo Laana sat down. Simba Kongway went away, but soon returned with some game he had caught, and then he brought some fire, and the young man cooked the game and ate it. When he had finished he felt a great deal better, and they bade each other good-bye for the present, and each went his way.

    After he had traveled another very long distance the youth came to a farm, and was met by a very, very old woman, who said to him: “Stranger, my husband has been taken very sick, and I am looking for someone to make him some medicine. Won’t you make it?” But he answered: “My good woman, I am not a doctor, I am a hunter, and never used medicine in my life. I cannot help you.”

    When he came to the road leading to the principal city he saw a well, with a bucket standing near it, and he said to himself: “That’s just what I want. I’ll take a drink of nice well-water. Let me see if the water can be reached.”

    As he peeped over the edge of the well, to see if the water was high enough, what should he behold but a great big snake, which, directly it saw him, said, “Son of

    Adam, wait a moment.” Then it came out of the well and said: “How? Don’t you know me?”

    “I certainly do not,” said the youth, stepping back a little.

    “Well, well!” said the snake; “I could never forget you. I am Neeoka, whom you released from the trap. You know I said, ‘Save me from the rain, and I will save you from the sun.’ Now, you are a stranger in the town to which you are going; therefore hand me your little bag, and I will place in it the things that will be of use to you when you arrive there.”

    So ’Mvoo Laana gave Neeoka the little bag, and he filled it with chains of gold and silver, and told him to use them freely for his own benefit. Then they parted very cordially.

    When the youth reached the city, the first man he met was he whom he had released from the trap, who invited him to go home with him, which he did, and the man’s wife made him supper.

    As soon as he could get away unobserved, the man went to the sultan and said: “There is a stranger come to my house with a bag full of chains of silver and gold, which he says he got from a snake that lives in a well. But although he pretends to be a man, I know that he is a snake who has power to look like a man.”

    When the sultan heard this he sent some soldiers who brought ’Mvoo Laana and his little bag before him. When they opened the little bag, the man who was released from the trap persuaded the people that some evil would come out of it, and affect the children of the sultan and the children of the vizir.

    Then the people became excited, and tied the hands of ’Mvoo Laana behind him.

    But the great snake had come out of the well and arrived at the town just about this time, and he went and lay at the feet of the man who had said all those bad things about ’Mvoo Laana, and when the people saw this they said to that man: “How is this? There is the great snake that lives in the well, and he stays by you. Tell him to go away.”

    But Neeoka would not stir. So they untied the young man’s hands, and tried in every way to make amends for having suspected him of being a wizard.

    Then the sultan asked him, “Why should this man invite you to his home and then speak ill of you?”

    And ’Mvoo Laana related all that had happened to him, and how the ape, the snake, and the lion had cautioned him about the results of doing any kindness for a man.

    And the sultan said: “Although men are often ungrateful, they are not always so; only the bad ones. As for this fellow, he deserves to be put in a sack and drowned in the sea. He was treated kindly, and returned evil for good.”

    Afrikan Folktales



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