Resource 5: The river that swept away liars

Teacher resource for planning or adapting to use with pupils

(There is a traditional question and answer pattern that precedes all Nigerian stories. The storyteller begins with: ‘Story, story’. ‘My story has come to an end’ ends them.)

Story, story.

A certain master was on a journey with his servant. It was a long journey on horseback. As they were travelling across the country, the master saw a jackal crossing their path.

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

The servant noticed that his master was not happy and he didn’t know what was worrying him. So he asked the master what the matter was. The master 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 anger. It swept liars there and then down to the deep blue sea. It never missed a liar, even if they were to invoke ‘Ifa’ to bring them luck (people invoked Ifa to bring them luck, and to give them power to conquer evil spirits).

When the servant heard this, he was quite shocked because he knew how powerful Ifa was. If this river would not yield to Ifa, then he knew it must be a VERY powerful river. As they travelled, he became more and more uneasy. The master also became sadder and sadder the further they rode. And as his master grew sadder, the servant grew more and more panic-stricken.

As they neared each river, the size of the jackal changed. When they reached the first river, the servant said, ‘My Lord, the jackal was not exactly as big as an ox. It was a little bit smaller than an ox.’ The master said nothing.

When they reached the second river, the servant said, ‘The jackal was not even nearly the size of an ox. It was as big as a calf.’ But again, the master said nothing. When they had crossed this second river, the master just explained his concerns about the last dangerous river, and said no more.

As they approached the third river, the servant said to his master, ‘The jackal was not even as big as a calf. It was as big as a goat.’

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

My story has come to an end.

That is why there is an idiom which says, ‘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.’

Taken: from: Umthamo 2, University of Fort Hare Distance Education Project

Resource 4:How Mrs Abdullahi found her story

Resource 6: Assessing your story