The Snake is Better than the Man
Narrated by Worku Alemu
Once there lived a poor man. And he had a trap, a pit, and he put grass on it to trap animals. He arranged a trap for a bushbuck. Instead the lion, leopard, a man, a snake and a jackal fell into it one by one.
The man came to see what he had caught. He found all five of them in his trap. He was surprised to see five different animals including a man.
They all called, “Get us out of this pit and we’ll reward you.”
“What if you eat me?”
“No, no, we won’t hurt you. We promise.”
He asked the lion first.
“I am a very poor man. What will you do for me?”
“I will get you any domestic animal, as many as you want, and you can be rich.”
He got him out of the trap.
He asked the leopard the same question.
“Was it not to eat good meat that you made this trap? So I’ll get you every fat bull and cow and sheep and goats so that you may have more than enough food for your family.”
He got him out.
“What about you, snake?”
“I will save you at the time of your greatest danger,” he promised.
He got him out.
“How about the jackal?”
The jackal says, “I can’t help you. I don’t have the capacity to help you, except I’ll only give you one piece of advice.”
He got him out.
The man said, “I will be your shepherd and look after your cattle. You have so many cattle. I will be your shepherd and I will not say a word about you to any man. I will be discreet.”
So they were all out.
Finally, when all were out, the jackal says to the man, “Here’s my advice. Beware only of the man.”
He runs to the forest.
The man goes home, followed by his new captive shepherd. The others all disperse to fulfil their promise. The leopard brings him meat – a sheep and a goat. In two or three years time the lion brought flocks and herds to fill his “beret” (corral). The man became very rich.
Now three men were passing the pen of the rich man and the captive shepherd. He was listening to them.
One of them said, looking at all the cattle, “Oh, that horse looks like my horse, which was stolen by a lion.”
The other says, “Look at that cow, same colour, looks like mine, maybe the lion also took it.”
The third says, “Look at that bull. It looks like my bull.”
The servant listens. The strangers didn’t know they were their own animals. They thought they had been eaten by the lion.
The man servant tells them the whole story, starting from the trap and all that had happened since and he advises them, “Why don’t you accuse him at the king’s court? I’ll be a witness.”
“Oh, if you’ll be our witness, come and accuse him and we’ll reward you and you’ll be a rich man.”
So they accused him at the king’s court.
“And we have a witness,” they said.
The man came and he claimed all the animals were his own and that he was innocent.
“They say they have a witness,” said the king.
“No, they are lying,” the man said. “They have no proof.”
The manservant came as a witness. He was about to speak. The king wanted to find an excuse to hang the wealthy man because he was afraid of his power. The wealthy man was under the rope, getting his neck in the noose and he had lost all hope.
The snake came from nowhere and bit the witness before he could utter a word. The man fainted and couldn’t say a word, and he died. And there he was, dead.
The accused wealthy man said to the king, “Your majesty, this is the judgement of God and his greatness. He was a false witness and he died.”
So the king said that he was speaking the truth and let him go free.
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