The Monkey’s Justice
Narrated by Yirpa Kebede
A snake, while going on a journey, came to a river which he couldn’t cross. He was sitting by the edge of the river and a man came.
The snake said, “Because of the flood I can’t cross the river. This river has been so flooded I can’t cross, so please help me.”
“How can I help you?” asked the man.
“I can sit on your head,” replied the snake.
The man was very kind, and he let him cross on his head as asked.
The man said, “Now you have crossed, come down from my head.”
“No,” said the snake. “It’s too late. How can you ask me?”
He was too full of confidence.
“I can’t come down. I’m going to eat you.”
The man said, “Is this the reward you give me for helping you? Is this the reward for kindness?”
“I will not come down.”
“Let’s go to a judge,” said the man. “A human judge and an animal judge.”
First they went to a man.
The man said, “I helped the snake across the river but he wouldn’t come down off my head.”
The man judge said, “You did it willingly. You told him to sit on your head, so why should he come down? This is my judgement.”
He was frightened of the snake.
The man said, “We must go to a higher, animal judge.”
So they go to the animals for judgement, the baboon, hyena and to other men, and so on, and they are all afraid of the snake and say the same thing.
All gave a verdict saying, “If you carried him willingly, he has the right to be there. He can eat you.”
The final judge was the monkey.
The monkey said, “What’s the problem?”
The man said, “The snake asked me to help him cross the flooded river, but now he refuses to come down.”
“Oh, is that so?” said the monkey.
“Well, to give the verdict, I must go up the tree, according to the traditional customs of my fathers and mothers.”
She went up the tree.
“I can’t judge you like this. One must stand on the left and one on the right, like the usual defendant and prosecutor.”
So when the monkey said this, the snake came off the man’s head and stood nearby, believing the monkey was also afraid of him.
The monkey says:
“Don’t you have a stick in your hand?
Don't you have courage in your heart?
Why don’t you do something about it?”
So the man said, “I never thought of it. This is the best judgement I ever heard.”
So he took the stick and beat the snake to death.
After that snakes began to live in forests. And this was a lesson to them, in holes, being frightened.
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