Narrated by Worku Alemu
In the old days there was a certain tribe called the Matto, who are present to this day. They are wise and intelligent and were advisors to kings, who were the Minjo – the kings of Kafa - until they were thrown out. So the Matto, being competitive with the king, he ordered that they be hanged and killed and destroyed altogether and exterminated from society. So most Mattos were hanged and some of them were exiled. But one small Matto boy lived in hiding and grew up with the Mannos (another tribe who were tanners and who were discriminated against and despised).
One day the King thought he should build a palace, bigger and more beautiful than the one of the neighbouring kings. So he ordered his attendants to fetch him a pole that is so long it reaches to the sky. So the attendants started looking for such a pole, because no one dared to disobey the King. The consequence if they don’t bring the pole is to be hanged. So they began to search far and wide.
They hunted for ten years until their nails had grown very long and their hair was very long, and was like a dress on their back as they couldn’t even find time to cut it, as they were doing their best to find the long pole that reached the sky. Until they had fetched the pole they were not to return to the King or see their families.
So they wanted to go to a village, and they did, because they were tired of living in the forest, hunting for the pole and hiding from the King. There in the village they talked to some children and there was the Matto boy.
This boy grew up with the Mannos and the Mannos were afraid of these people, who had long hair and nails and they thought, “What are these creatures?”
They ran away but the Matto boy approached them and asked them what they were looking for.
They said, “Why do you ask us? What can you do for us?”
“Never mind. Just tell me,” he said.
So they told him how the king had ordered them to find this pole and how they lived in the jungle eating berries and wild animals, for fear.
“Our only hope is just to be hanged,” they said.
“So this is the problem which made you hide in the forest and run here and there for such a little problem?” said the Matto boy.
“Yes,” they said.
“I will solve this, “ he said.
They couldn’t believe him
“Oh no, we don’t trust you.”
They did not believe him.
“If you solve this problem for us, we’ll do anything for you,” they said.
The boy said, “If I don't help you, the King of Keffa will have you hanged. I’ll tell you what to do, but don’t say who told you. Now get a drum and sing ‘Yubbo’, a song of congratulation (Keffa word), and, singing this, go directly to the King. When you reach the palace say, ‘Oh, beloved King, we wish you to reign for a thousand years. We have got the pole you wanted. But we don’t know what the height should be, because the sky is so high. Will Your Majesty give us a measuring rod for the pole?'”
They came drumming the drum and singing the Yubbo, and they came to the palace.
The King was laughing, saying, “They are only pretending! How can they get a pole as high as the sky? So I’ll hear what they’ll say. They are rejoicing as if they have found it.”
So saying, the King was waiting for them.
“Oh King, may you reign for a thousand years. We have got the pole.”
“Why didn’t you bring it?”
“We don’t have the measuring rod. Please give it to us and we’ll bring the pole.”
The King says, “It must be one left from the Mattoni tribe, a mischievous Mattoni, who told you to say this.”
They said, “No one told us.”
They refused to tell him. But they knew he would hang them if they didn’t. And so they told him a certain little boy told them.
The King ordered the soldiers to fetch him, and he came and said he was a Mattoni, living among the tanners.
“I grew up among the Mannos to escape hanging and death.”
Hearing this, the King said, “I you can solve this problem, you can also solve problems for me. You are wise.”
So saying, he admired him.
“And from now on, no one shall hang you. Your tribe must never be hanged or killed from now on. You will be my advisers, along with the tribe of Mattos,” he declared.
And he gave amnesty to those who were in exile.
“All your tribe will return and live in peace with me. From now on, you will never live far from my palace and those in exile shall come home.”
So, from that day on, the Matto tribe lived peacefully, advising the kings of Keffa.
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