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There is No King as God
by Ramendra Kumar
An African Folktale retold

Long ago in Nigeria, in West Africa, lived a king. His name was Yaburo. He was a mighty king whose empire stretched far and wide. He commanded a great deal of respect from his people for he was both intelligent and powerful.

He held a large court three days a week. His people were all welcome to attend his court and speak about their problems or share their experiences. Now everyone who came to his court would say, “May the king live forever” as the traditional greeting. Did I say everyone? Oops, I am sorry I forgot about Olango. He was a middle aged man who earned his living as a teacher. Whenever he appeared before the king he would say, “No King as God”.

The mighty Yaburo did not like this but tolerated Olango since he did not want to appear cruel and unjust. But gradually even his courtiers started whispering about Olango, who was now called No-king-as-God. Yaburo realized if something was not done quickly people would stop treating him with the respect and awe he had always been used to.

After a lot of thinking Yaburo thought of a plan which would enable him to eliminate Olango without any blame coming to him.

Yaburo called Olango to his court.

“Listen Olango, I am giving you something which is very special to me to keep. I have chosen you since I trust you more than anyone else. You keep it very carefully and return it to me when I ask,” - with these words Yaburo handed over a silver ring to Olango who took the ring without suspecting anything.

Olango went home and kept the ring in a dried and empty ram’s horn and gave it to his wife Baiti.

“Keep this in a safe place and tell no one about it,” he said.

Ten days later Yaburo called Olango to his court.

“Go to Dinidishu village which is to the extreme north of our kingdom. Go tell the people there that they have to come here immediately. We need their help in building the walls of our city.”

Olango did as he was told.

As soon as he had left Yaburo sent for Baiti.

“I know your husband has given you something for safekeeping. I want you to hand it over to me.”

Baiti shook her head.

“I’ll give you a million cowries,” declared the King.

Cowries are small sea-shells which were used as currency as well as ornaments by the people of Africa in those days.

Baiti was tempted by the King’s offer but she hesitated.

“My husband won’t spare me when he comes to know,” she said.

“And do you think I’ll spare you, if your refuse me, your King. You and your entire family will suffer if you don’t obey me,” Yaburo thundered.

Terrified Baiti went home and returned with the horn.

The King looked into the horn and found the ring inside. He sent Baiti off with the million cowries. After she had left he replaced the ring into the horn and asked his guards to throw it far into the biggest lake in Nigeria which never dried up. The guards obeyed his command and returned to the court.

As soon as the horn fell into the lake a big fish swallowed it up.

A few days later Olango was returning home after successfully completing his mission. He met some friends who were going fishing and joined them. He caught a big fish and went home, happy with is catch. As he was cleaning the fish his knife struck something hard. It was the ram’s horn. He pulled it out and on checking found the silver ring, which the king had given him, inside it.

“Truly,” he said, “There is no king as God.”

Just then a royal messenger came to his house and told him he was wanted by King Yaburo in his court immediately.

“Where is the ram’s horn which I had given you,” Olango asked his wife.

Baiti went around acting as if she was looking for it and then finally said, “I am sorry but I can’t find it. I think the rats must have eaten it up.”

Olango did not say anything. He was now able to gauge the King’s plan. He was quite certain that the King had either tricked or forced Baiti to give the horn and hence she was not to be blamed.

Olango set off for the royal court. When he reached there he found Yaburo hadn’t come. A few minutes later Yaburo entered. All the courtiers jumped to their feet and declared, “May the King live forever.”

But Olango quietly said, “There is no King as God.”

The King advanced towards Olango and staring straight into his eyes asked, “Is it really true that there is no King as God?”

Olango firmly replied, “Yes.”

“Okay, now give me the silver ring which I gave you,” Yaburo said his eyes blazing. He was sure he had Olango cornered. In a few minutes it would all be over. Olango would not be able to produce the silver ring and would be promptly beheaded. And that would end all this ‘no king as God’ nonsense forever. He asked his guards to surround Olango.

However King Yaburo was in for a rude shock. Olango calmly put his hands inside his robe and removing the horn gave it to the King. Yaburo upturned the horn and soon the silver ring was quietly nestling in his palm. The King stared at Olango in amazement.

For a few seconds he was unable to speak then slowly he said, “Yes, indeed there is no king like God.”

All his courtiers clapped in approval.

Later Yaburo divided his kingdom into two. One half he kept with himself and the other he gave it to Olango to rule.

Both Yaburo and Olango ruled their respective kingdoms for long with faith in God and concern for the people.

Image under license with Gettyimages.com

17-Feb-2008
 
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