The Clever Farmer, an African Fable

One day a farmer decided to take his cow to the market to be sold. When he met the merchant, he greeted him and told him he had a cow he wished to sell. The merchant asked how much he wanted for his cow, to which the farmer replied “Fifty measures of grain”. The merchant began to laugh and said that the farmer must be a fool to ask such a price since the cow was only worth a single measure of grain.

The two began to barter the price and their tempers rose as the argument continued. A crowd began to gather around the two men. Then the farmer said that he wasn’t a fool; because no fool could know where the center of the earth was or how many stars there were in the heavens.

The merchant got very angry and tried to punch him. At this point a few men in the crowd took both of the men to the judge so that he could decide.

The judge heard the version of both men then turned to the farmer to ask “If you are able to tell us the number of stars in the sky and where the center of the earth is; then here is your chance.” The farmer paused and reached for his cane which he lifted and plunged deep into the ground. “This is the center of the earth”, he said, “and anyone who can prove the contrary is welcome to do so now.

He then reached down and took a handful of dust from the ground. “The number of stars in the heavens is equal to the number of dust particles in my hand and anyone who can prove me wrong is welcome to speak now.”

The judge understood that he was dealing with a very clever man. So he ordered the merchant to pay the clever farmer fifty measures of grain for his cow.

Eritrean Fable: Even the Flies and Spiders

“Mother, I hate spiders and flies!” said the prince. The queen replied wisely, “There is a purpose for everything God made.”

Although he knew his mother was a wise woman, he doubted her words this time. After all, what purpose could either of those annoying creatures serve? He continued his day, giving it no more thought.

A month passed and something very horrible happened. There was a rebellion in the kingdom and the king’s family was killed. The only one to escape was the young prince. He knew that his enemies were not far behind him and that they would never let him escape. Having the prince alive would mean that he could one day gather an army to take the king’s place and rule the land.
He decided to go and live with an uncle who lived far away. He traveled only at night and through the countryside so that he would not be seen. But he soon learned that they were close behind. If only he could make it through one more day of travel, he would reach the safety of his uncle’s home.

On the last day he reached an open place with a small water hole where he could rest and take a drink. The long days of travel had made him quite tired; so soon he was asleep leaning comfortably against a tree.

A few hours passed and a fly landed on his face. He shooed it away; but it came back again and again. Finally, annoyed by the fly he opened his eyes and saw his enemies approaching in the distance. He had been sleeping so well that he didn’t hear them coming.

So, he jumped up and made his way into the hills as quickly as he could. There were many caves in the hills; so he chose one and made his way inside. He went deep into the cave and hid himself as best he could. Time passed and he heard his enemies talking outside of the cave.

One said to the other in a loud angry voice, “Don’t bother checking that one, can’t you see that there is a spider’s web? He could not have entered without disturbing the web and as you can see that the web isn’t broken! Let us leave and check the next cave!” So, they left and went to check the other caves.

As it turns out, just after he had entered the cave, a big spider had come to weave her web just at the cave’s opening. Since she was so large, it didn’t take her long to have a large web which covered most of the small opening.

As the prince escaped safely the next morning to his uncle’s home, he remembered the wise words of his mother. He wept remembering what she said each time that he had complained as a child saying he hated flies and spiders: “My dear son, there is a purpose for every creature God made… even the flies and the spiders.”

African Fable: How the Desert Came to Be

Kweku Ananse and his friend Akwasi were known to everyone to be very good farmers. They had such large farms that people came from all over to buy everything from them. As time passed they became rich.

Yet one year, everything turned bad as the rains stopped falling. Ananse and Akwasi didn’t know what to do. All the streams and rivers had dried up and people quit coming since there was nothing left to buy.

Akwasi decided to go to Nana Nyankopon, the creator of the universe, to solicit his help. So one morning, he called on Nana Nyankopon and said to him, “Nana, there has not been rain for a long time; so all the rivers and streams are dry. All the crops on my farm have dried up and wilted. Please, let me have some rain.”

God was touched and said to him, “I have delegated some of my work to people, because I get so tired of small requests all day long. I have given the chore of wind to Paa Kwesi, the chore of sunshine to Yeboah and the chore of rain to Nsiah, the hunchback. If you want rain, go and see Nsiah the hunchback and ask him to give you some rain.”

Akwasi was very happy and thanked Nyankopon. He went off to look for Nsiah, the hunchback. Eventually, he came across him sitting under a tree resting from the weighty task which God had given to him. Akwasi said hello then told him that God had sent him to ask the hunchback for rain. “If it is God who sent you, I cannot refuse. Take a small stick and beat my back” he said.
Aswasi picked two small sticks and gently tapped Nsiah’s back two times, thanked him and went home. In the morning, he went to his farm and sure enough, there had been a heavy spell of rain. All the plants were standing upright and green.

Ananse passed Akwasi’s farm the next morning and was so happy that he jumped up and down with joy. He punched the air and yelled “Yippee!” He thought the rain had fallen on his farm, too. But unfortunately when he got to his farm, he realized with shock that the rains had stopped at the boundary. There had not been any on his farm. But why had rains fallen on Akwasi’s farm? Surely, there must be an answer. He became suspicious of his friend and decided to go and ask him how on earth he got rains on his farm.

Akwasi did not want to tell Ananse about God’s rainmaker because of Ananse’s sly nature. But later he changed his mind, so he told Ananse about God’s rainmaker.
As soon as Ananse heard this, he too decided to go and look for the rainmaker. He combed the forest for many hours and at long last came upon him sitting under a tree taking a rest from the heavy task God had given him. As soon as Ananse saw him, he picked up a big stick and hit the hunchback’s back with all his might. The hunchback cried in pain. But Ananse continued hitting him at the back with all his might with the heavy club. The hunchback fell down panting, but still Ananse continued hitting him with brute force. After continuous beating, the hunchback lay still, not moving. Ananse called out to the hunchback, but there was no response. Ananse had killed the rainmaker. He had killed God’s rainmaker. He became frightened. “Oh dear, what have I done? I have killed God’s rainmaker.” He wanted to run, but realized that if he ran away he would put himself in difficult position. Because his friend Akwasi would know he had killed the rainmaker.
Ananse was so cunning though that, it wasn’t long before he came up with a solution. He picked up the dead body and went to hide it in the middle of a mango tree.
He then went to call on Akwasi and told him that he had seen a mango tree which was full of ripe mangoes. He told Akwasi that they should go and pick the mangoes. Akwasi liked mangoes very much but he was reluctant to go, because he didn’t trust Ananse. He later changed his mind and went with Ananse. When they got to the mango tree, Ananse told Akwasi to climb up the mango tree and shake it. So Akwasi climbed the mango tree and when he got to the top, started shaking it vigorously. Suddenly, there was a big crash. The body of God’s rainmaker had fallen from the tree top when Akwasi shook the tree. Ananse started shouting and wailing. “Akwasi, see what you have done. You have killed God’s rainmaker. He must have been hiding in the tree taking a rest from the heavy task that God had given him. See what you have done now, you have killed him. What will God say now?” Akwasi became confused; he didn’t know what to do.
He quietly got down from the tree; but then as he was getting down, his mind worked like lightening. He pretended to be shocked and said he was going to see God about it. Then, he went away. Ananse was very happy and jumped and clapped his hands. “Fool, I have put you into trouble. God will really punish you.” Little did Kwaku Ananse know that his friend Akwasi had gone to make a plan to teach Ananse that he wasn’t a fool after all.

Before long, Akwasi Owusu came back with some people and told Ananse that there was no problem at all. God was happy that the rainmaker was dead because he had been lazy at times and refused to work. “I am going to reward you for killing him” God said. Then Akwasi started singing and dancing happily. He said again that he had come with God’s messengers to carry the dead body to God. Ananse immediately became furious when he heard this. He said angrily “Look, Akwasi, don’t try to be too clever. I killed him! I was afraid God was going to punish me, that is why I hid the body in the tree. I am going to claim the reward.” So he carried the body on his shoulders and quickly went to God’s Palace to tell him that he had killed the hunchback and that he should be rewarded.

But when God heard the news He was so angry that he punished Ananse by never allowing rain to fall on his farm again. Ananse’s farm was where the desert is now.

Abu Nuwasi Sells His House, an African Fable

Abu Nuwasi built a two-story house for himself. He decided to live in the bottom and sold the top story to a merchant. After some years, he made the decision to move out of his house and live in a far-a-way town.

His hope was that the merchant who rented the upper story of his house would agree to buy the lower half so that Abu would have the means to build a new home elsewhere. But the greedy merchant refused Abu Nuwasi’s offer. The merchant hoped that if Abu could not find a buyer, he would simply leave anyway and the merchant would get the entire house for free.
After trying again to talk the merchant into buying the house with no success, Abu went to town. He returned with a dozen men whom he left outside and then went upstairs to talk to the merchant. “I have come to inform you that since I was unable to sell my part of the house I have hired some men to help me destroy it. I just wanted to let you know so that you could do what is needed to save your part.”

Needless to say, the greedy merchant changed his mind and decided to purchase the lower story from Abu Nuwasi at his original asking price and Abu was able to leave the town as planned.