Resource 5: The river that swept away liars

Teacher resource for planning or adapting to use with pupils

Once upon a time,

time, time [this is the opening pattern that precedes all Ghanaian stories when the stories are told in English].

A certain wealthy cocoa farmer was on a journey with his young nephew from Awisa in the Eastern Region to Berekum in the Brong Ahafo Region. You remember that in those days there were no cars, so they walked. It was a long journey, so it took them many days – walking in the forest, crossing rivers, listening to different animals and sharing stories. Whenever they got to a village on the way, they would rest for a while or sleep overnight and continue their journey the next day. As they were going on their journey, travelling across the country, the wealthy farmer saw a fox crossing their path.

The wealthy farmer remarked, ’That fox is quite big.’ The nephew replied, ’Oh, Uncle, this is nothing compared to the one I saw yesterday.’ ’Is that so?’ responded the uncle. ’Oh yes. It was very, very big. In fact, it was as big as an ox!’ ‘As big as an ox?’ questioned the uncle. ‘Yes, as big as an ox,’ answered the nephew. The uncle answered again, ‘You say ”as big as an ox”?’ ‘Yes, really, as big as an ox,’ said the nephew. The uncle did not utter a word and they continued on their way, without talking to each other, for about an hour.

The nephew noticed that his uncle was not happy and he didn’t know what was worrying him. So he asked his uncle what the matter was. His uncle told him that they would have to cross four rivers before they reached their destination. The last river was the biggest and the most dangerous of all the rivers. This river was allergic to liars, and no liar could escape its wrath. It swept liars there and then down to the bottom of River Tano. It never missed a liar, even if he were to use a talisman for protection against evil spirits.

When the nephew heard this, he was quite shocked because he knew how powerful talismans were and if this river would not yield to any talisman then he knew it must be a VERY powerful river. As they travelled, the nephew became more and more uneasy. The uncle also became sadder and sadder the further they walked. And as the uncle grew sadder, the nephew grew more and more panic-stricken.

As they neared each river, the size of the fox changed. When they reached the first river, the nephew said, ‘Uncle, the fox was not exactly as big as an ox. It was a little bit smaller than an ox.’ The uncle did not remark.

When they reached the second river, the nephew said, ‘The fox was not even nearly the size of an ox. It was as big as a calf.’ But again, the uncle did not remark. When they had crossed this second river, the uncle just explained his concerns about the last dangerous river, and said no more.

As they approached the third river, the nephew said to his uncle, ‘The fox was not even as big as a calf. It was as big as a goat.’

Just before they reached the last river, the fox was the same size as other foxes, which are common everywhere.

That is why our elders say ‘Don’t try to be important among your colleagues. Everybody has something to share. You don’t need to exaggerate things in order to be important.’

Adapted from: Umthamo 2. University of FortHare Distance Education Project

Resource 4: How Mrs Ofori found her story

Resource 6: Assessing your story