This story was told to me by Madou, who worked in save the children’s offices in central Kinshasa. She told me her children loved this story and that they will always willing to find a lesson in a story.
Many years ago, I remember reading an article arguing that black Africa had a far greater influence on Western Culture than was at that time usually thought, via ancient Egypt. One of the themes was that the fables attributed to Aesop originated in central Africa. Anyone who has followed these stories will be familiar to the themes common to both these African and our own European folk tales, and the odd way they sometimes surface. In this case though, you’ll know the story just from reading the title. There have been many comings and goings over the years between Africa and Europe, and where this story began – that’s anyone’s guess. But I include it here for the sheer fun of hearing a story we all know from a land in which wolves are unknown.
Never Cry Croc
One day there lived a family with 4 children, 3 girls and one boy. All the children were good except one – you guessed it was the boy. But he wasn’t just unruly – he was also funny. He wanted to spend the whole day playing jokes on people.
One day the boy was sent to get water from a river that was full of crocodiles. After he had collected his water he put the pots safety on the back. Then he started to call out at the top of his voice, “Help! Help! The crocodiles! The crocodiles!”
When they heard his screams, everyone was in a panic. They all came running as fast as they could down to the river bank to help him. When they got there they found him laughing his head off. He’d fooled them all! He thought he was hilarious.
Of course everyone was very cross. “You called us was nothing. You interrupted our work for nothing. You stupid, bad boy.”
Another day the boy was given the same job to go down to the river to collect water. This time though he really was caught by the leg by a crocodile. He pulled all he could and yelled and screamed – “Help! Help! The crocodile the crocodile!”
Everyone in the village heard, and rolled their eyes. “Yeah yeah yeah,” they said. “He does that all the times. Take no notice.” When his screams got really loud and panicky, they all shook their heads. He doesn’t give up, that boy, does he? But he’s not fooling us twice!”
No one realised that they were really listening to the boy being attacked and then eaten by a huge crocodile, until they went down to the riverbank later on and found nothing but a pile of clothes and some bloodied mud.
And what is the moral of the story? Simple: you must never lie. You must always tell the truth. Even when you want to make a joke.
This is the last story fro Kinshasa. The next post will be from Samba, a village almost exactly on the equator in the DRC.
Or … and this is my version of the moral because who wants to live in a word with no jokers and no jokes … don’t make practical jokes about dangerous things – they really aren’t funny!