Boagi’s Decision

Boagi’s Decision

12 June 2015,   By ,   0 Comments

A Tale from Africa

A hunter went out in the bush. He met an antelope. He killed the antelope. Boaji (the civet or mongoose) passed by. Boaji said: “Give me some of that meat. I am hungry. I beg you for it. I’ll do you a favor some other time.” The hunter gave Boaji some of the antelope’s meat. Boaji ran off.

The next day the hunter went out in the bush again. He came to a place where the bush was overgrown and it was hard to see where one was going. There, in the middle of the bush, he met a crocodile. The hunter said: “How did you get here? Don’t you belong in the water?” The crocodile said: “Last night I went out hunting and now I am far from the river. I cannot find my way back. I beg you, show me the way to the river. If you do I’ll give you five loads of fish.” The hunter said: “I’ll do that gladly.” The hunter tied a thong around the crocodile’s foot and led him to the Niger. At the water’s edge the crocodile said: “Now undo the thong and I’ll go into the water and fetch you your five loads of fish.” The hunter freed the crocodile, the crocodile went into the water and the hunter waited on the bank.

The crocodile came out of the water with a great big fish and laid it high on the bank. The crocodile slipped back into the water. The crocodile returned with a second load of fish and laid it lower on the bank. The hunter climbed down and carried it higher. The crocodile re-turned with a third load which he left at the water’s edge. The hunter carried the third load up the river bank. The crocodile brought a fourth load and laid it in the shallows. The hunter came down, picked the fish out of the shallows and carried it high up the bank. The crocodile returned with a fifth load of fish which it laid on the edge of the deep water. The hunter came down from the bank, waded through the shallows and came to the edge of the deep water. As he was about to pick up the fish the crocodile snapped at his foot, caught it fast and dragged the hunter under the water.

The crocodile brought the hunter to his brother crocodiles who lay on a sandbank in midstream. The crocodile called all his friends and said: “We have caught a hunter. We are going to eat him. Come, all of you.” The croco-diles came from every side and swarmed around the hunter. The hunter said: “Is that fair? This crocodile lost his way in the bush. I brought him back to the river. And now he wants to eat me.” The crocodiles said: “We will ask four other people what they think about it.”

Down the river floated a woven rug. The rug was old and torn. The hunter cried: “Rug, help me!” The rug said: “What is the matter?” The hunter said: “This crocodile here was lost in the bush and I brought him back to the river. I saved his life and now he wants to take mine. Is that fair?” The rug said: “You are a man. I know men. When a rug is young and useful, they keep it clean, do not step on it with their feet, roll it up when they have used it and lay it carefully to one side. But when a rug is old they forget what it used to be like. They throw it away. They throw it into the river. The crocodile will do well if he treats you as men have treated me.” The rug drifted on.

The crocodile said: “Did you hear what the rug said?”

A dress, old, torn and worn, came floating down the stream. Someone had thrown it away. The hunter cried: “Dress, help me!” The old dress said: “What is the matter?” The hunter said: “I brought this crocodile here, who had lost his way, back to the river. And now he wants to eat me. I saved his life and now he wants to rob me of mine. Is that fair?” The dress said: “You are a man. I know men. So long as a dress is young and beautiful they wear it everywhere, accept its beauty for their own and say, ‘Aren’t we lovely?’ But it is the dress which is lovely. And the people know that they lie for they fold the dress carefully, smooth out the wrinkles and wrap it up. But as soon as the dress is old they forget what it used to be before. They throw it in the river. The crocodile will do well if he treats you as men have treated me.” The old dress drifted on downstream.

The crocodile said: “Did you hear what the old dress said?”

An old mare came down to the river to drink. The mare was old and thin. Her masters had turned her out because she was no longer of any use to them. The hunter cried: “O mare, help me!” The old mare said: “What is the matter?” The hunter said: “I brought this crocodile here, who had lost his way, back to the river. Now he wants to eat me. I saved his life and now he wants to rob me of mine. Is that fair?” The old mare said: “You are a man. I know men. When a mare is young they build a stall for her. They send out boys to cut her the best grass. They give her the best grain and when she is in foal they give her double of everything. But when a mare is old and cannot foal, when she is weak and ill they drive her out into the bush and say, ‘Take care of yourself as best you can.’ Just look at me. The crocodile will do well if he treats you as men have treated me.” The mare trotted off.

The crocodile said to the hunter: “You heard what the old mare said?”

Boaji came down to the bank of the Niger to drink. It was the Boaji whom the hunter had helped the day be-fore. The hunter cried: “Boaji, help me!” Boaji said: “What is the matter?” The hunter said: “I brought this crocodile here, who had lost his way in the bush, back to the river. And now he wants to eat me. I saved his life and now he wants to rob me of mine. Is that fair?” Boaji said: “That is difficult to decide. First I must know everything. I do not want to hear only your side of the story but the crocodile’s side too,—that is, if the crocodile is willing to accept my decision.”

The crocodile said: “I will tell you.”

Boaji said: “How did the hunter bring you here?” The crocodile said: “He tied a thong around my foot and dragged me after him.” Boaji said: “Did it hurt?” The crocodile said: “Yes, it hurt.” The hunter said: “That is not possible.” Boaji said: “I cannot decide that until I have seen it. Come ashore here and show me what you did.” The crocodile and the hunter went to the shore. Boaji said to the hunter: “Now tie the thong around his foot, just as you did be-fore, so that I can judge whether it hurt him or not.” The hunter bound the thong around the crocodile’s foot. Boaji said: “Was it like that?” The crocodile said: “Yes, it was like that. And after a while it begins to hurt.” Boaji said: “I cannot judge that yet. The hunter had better lead you back into the bush. I will come with you.” The hunter picked up the thong and led the crocodile into the bush. Finally they came to the place where he and the crocodile had met. The hunter said: “It was here.” Boaji said: “Was it here?” The crocodile said: “Yes, it was here. From here on the hunter dragged me behind him to the river.” Boaji said: “And you were not satisfied.” The crocodile said: “No, I was not satisfied.” Boaji said: “Good. You punished the hunter for his bad treatment of you by grabbing his foot and dragging him to the sandbank. So now the matter is in order. In order to avoid further quarrels of this kind the hunter must unbind the thong and leave you here in the bush. That is my decision.”

Boaji and the hunter went off. The crocodile stayed in the bush. The crocodile could not find the way back to the river. The crocodile hungered and thirsted. The hunter thanked Boaji.

There comes a time for every man when he is treated as he has treated others.


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