Narrated by Dires Gebre-Meskel
Once there lived a very well known ruler and one day he had a feast, as kings and leaders usually do for their people. He was much loved by the people.
In those days there were merchants who went everywhere, in the cold weather and hot weather, crossing hills and deserts and bushy areas, selling and buying things. These merchants were very careful when they travelled because they were afraid of bandits and robbers, so they didn’t travel alone. They went in groups.
A merchant couldn’t find a group, and although it was customary to go in a group he decided to go alone. So he kept on going, crossing the hills etc. He was afraid, and he did indeed meet a bandit.
“Who are you?” said the bandit.
“I am a merchant.”
“Are you alone?”
“Ah, my friends are behind, but just now I am alone.”
At that time another merchant was coming from behind. This merchant, seeing the first one being stopped by the bandit, hid himself in the bushes and watched. So the bandit killed the first merchant and buried him, while the other merchant secretly watched, full of dread.
He thought, “How can I go on? The same thing will happen to me.”
He was very much afraid.
As he was afraid to cross, he stayed for some time there, but at last he thought, “I can’t stay for ever. I must go on.”
He passed the murder scene where the bandit had killed the merchant and he reached a village. He was so upset by dreadful thoughts he couldn’t smile or talk easily to people, having that incident in mind.
People were asking him, “You merchant, you used to be cheerful, but now you are gloomy. Why?”
“I’m tired and thirsty,” he said.
So he passed the night there and the next morning he had to continue his journey.
They kept asking him, “What’s wrong?”
He struggled with himself, “Shall I tell them or not?”
And at last he told them.
“Please come and I’ll tell you what I saw. What I saw yesterday was a terrible thing. There was a man going in front of me. I didn’t know that man. But he must be a merchant, because he had sacks of things to sell on mules and donkeys. And there was a bandit, and he took all his mules and donkeys, and he killed him and buried him. I was hiding in the bushes and seeing this I had dreadful thoughts and that’s why I looked so dumb and never talked or smiled.”
The villagers who heard this knew that the bandit was a man of their village.
When he finished telling them, they said nothing – they just thought, “It’s too awful having this happen here, and we’ll try to find out who the dead man is.”
But they didn’t say anything about the bandit.
So this merchant went on and he told villagers along the way, “I saw someone burying a man, and I didn’t know who it was or who the bandit was and I will never come back to this place.”
The ruler heard about this, that merchants are being stopped by bandits, killed and buried. He was upset. How can bandits do this to strangers in my territory? So this ruler tried to find a means of solving the problem.
"I will try to catch him by arranging a feast and calling them all together."
So, as was usual, he arranged a feast and everyone came, farmers and priests and everyone, eating and drinking and enjoying themselves.
He stood up and said, “Please listen. I want to consult you about something.”
So he said, “Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters. My daughter is sick and the only medicine for her is a tiringo (a citrus fruit). A fresh tiringo grown near a river and a forest. If my daughter gets this tiringo she will be saved. Not only near a river and forest, but also a warm place uninhabited by villagers, unfrequented by people. So, please, any of you, can you bring it to me?”
So everyone was thinking, “Where could I get a tiringo like that?”
But they didn’t say anything.
But the bandit immediately stood up and said, “Your excellency, I will bring the tiringo, but give me a time of two weeks.”
So this bandit, to get a prize from the ruler, went at once to the burial place of the merchant, because a tiringo tree was there, and he rushed to get it before anyone else could get it. So he took it to the ruler. There were bunches of tiringos and he took two and put them in a sack and went.
So, having those two tiringos he ran to meet the ruler and told the guard, “I want to see the ruler.”
After two or three days of waiting at the gates he was finally allowed to go into the ruler’s huse.
“I am ready to fulfil your order, so I have brought what you wanted, so please take it.”
The ruler said, “I am happy you brought it, but I want you to give it to me in front of many people.”
So he sent to all the villages around and told them to come to his place. So they came from all round.
He arranged a feast, people ate and drank, then he said, “This man has really kept his promise as you heard. He said he would bring a tiringo and he has got it. A great gift. What he has brought I want to take in front of you all.”
They thought he would get prize money and they were jealous of him. They wondered how he got the tiringos. So the bandit opened the sack and gave the two tiringos to the ruler. Now when he took out the two tiringos, they were tiringos, but as he gave them to the ruler they became two human skulls.
When that happened all the people were annoyed and the bandit was flabbergasted. The ruler smiled. And he wasn’t surprised, because he had his own reasons. The ruler had long ago been praying to God, wishing that bandits do not kill and bury his people, so that one day their wicked deeds would be known to all.
“Please God, show me.”
So, that day, God showed him. So he knew this man was a killer and ordered his people to take him to jail.
(The ruler knew only the murderer would dare to go to such a wild place.)
The moral is: anyone who is killed, his blood will not call out in vain, and this was done by God.
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