The Poor Man and the Rich Man
Narrated by Magabi Enyew Gessesse
There were two poor neighbours. They had a donkey and shared it between them. Then one of the men became rich while the other remained as poor as ever.
The rich one said, “Let’s slaughter the donkey and each take our share.”
The poor one said, “Why? Either give me the money and take it, or let’s go on sharing it alive as we did before.”
The rich man said, “No, I want to slaughter the donkey and give my share to my dogs. I need the meat for my dogs.”
So they both went together to the ferde-gemdel (an ignorant judge – a big man put over others to judge, who doesn’t care and doesn’t know and whose judgement must be accepted).
The rich man appealed saying, “We have this donkey and I want half. Let’s share it.”
So the ferde-gemdel said, “Yes, slaughter it and take your share as you like.”
So the donkey was killed, the rich man gave half to his dogs and the poor man could do nothing but see his donkey being slaughtered.
Now for the second time the rich man took all his property out of his hut and said, “I’m going to burn my house.”
“Why?” says the poor man. “My house is next to yours and it will all be burned too.”
The ferde-gemdel says, “You can’t stop him. It’s his house.”
So the rich man burned his hut and the poor man’s hut was burned too.
Still the poor man said, “Why can’t he pay me?”
“No, he didn’t try to burn yours. He only burnt his. So he doesn’t have to pay you.”
Then the poor man, whose hut was burned down, lived under the shade of a tree and ploughed the land where his hut had been and sowed chick-peas. When the chick-peas grew and while they were green, the rich man had four grown up children. They came and they ate his chick-peas.
So the poor man went to the rich man and said, “Your children have been eating my chick-peas and I want my chick-peas.”
The rich man says, “OK, I’ll give you money.”
“No, I want my chick peas.”
They go to the ferde-gemdel again and he says, “If he wants the chick peas he must have them."
“Yes,” says the poor man, “I will tear out their stomachs and get my chick peas.”
The rich man went to the elders, afraid that his children will be killed. The elders discussed it to find peace.
The elders said, “If you want him not to kill your children, you must give him half your property.”
So he gave him half of his cattle, his sheep and his goats.
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