Oral Literature. The Treasure of Friendship

A man had two sons. Their names were Rafiki and Tambu. One day he decided to teach them a lesson. He called them early in the morning and sent them to a village some distance away. “Go and visit the people”, he said, “But be careful: along the way, you will occasionally pull a bundle of grass and leave it there. Then I will explain.”

The two boys set off. Tambu set to work immediately: every now and then, he tied a bundle of grass and left it by the side of the path. The younger boy looked at his brother in amusement and did nothing. The elder said, “Didn’t you hear what our father said?” “I heard”, Rafiki replied, “and I wonder what he was trying to teach us. When we return, we will know”.

They reached the village towards evening. The elders were sitting under an acacia tree talking. The village chief came forward, invited them in and asked the wife to bring something to eat. Finally, he asked: “Where have you come from? What are you looking for?” “We have come for a walk to see your village”, said Tambu, “and tomorrow we will return home.”

Shortly afterwards, Rafiki went out to see what the village was like. He met a young man his own age who greeted him and shook his hand warmly. He was impressed by the newcomer’s friendliness and they began to chat. As night approached, Rafiki was invited in by the newcomer: “We are friends now. Come, I want you to meet my parents.” The parents were delighted that their son had made friends with such an intelligent and kind young man. They prepared a nice dinner for him and asked him to spend the night in their house.

The next morning Rafiki and Tambu took the path back. Rafiki greeted everyone he met with big handshakes. His brother, on the other hand, looked to see if the bundles of grass were in place.

In the small square of the first village they reached, a man stopped Rafiki and asked him about the village he had come from, the path he had travelled and the hunt. Finally, he invited Rafiki home: he had become his friend. He offered him a hearty meal in which Tambu also participated. Then they resumed the trail.

In the hot afternoon, passing through another village, they stopped to rest in the shade of a plant. Rafiki saw a girl and greeted her politely. The girl, curious, stopped and asked: “Who are you? Where are you going?” “We live in Ziba”, Rafiki answered, “We took a walk to get to know the people of the neighbouring villages and now we are going home.”

They chatted for a long time until the girl invited Rafiki home to introduce him to her parents. The latter were delighted that their daughter had met such a well-behaved young man. Was the girl not of marriageable age? This could be the man for her. The two boys spent the night in the house of their new friends, and the next day, after a good breakfast, they resumed the path to their village.

When their father saw them, he immediately asked: “So, how did it go?”. “I followed your orders to the letter”, replied Tambu, “from here to the village where you sent us, I left a whole string of bundles of grass. Instead, he, the lazy man did nothing.” “We’ll see tomorrow,” replied the father.

The next morning all three set off towards the distant village. Almost at every step, Tambu proudly displayed the bundles he had tied. Towards evening they reached the village and were invited by the chief to sit under the acacia tree. Rafiki ran to greet his friend who received him with open arms. When he heard that Rafiki’s father had also arrived, he went to look for him and wanted him to come and meet his father. They had a very pleasant evening. A goat was roasted for the occasion and the two old men talked until late into the night. The next morning, they said their goodbyes, and before they left, Rafiki’s father received a beautiful goat as a token and reminder of their friendship.

On the way, to the second village, the same happened. Rafiki’s friend welcomed the three travellers with joy and he too gave the old man another goat.

When they arrived at the girl’s village, there was another feast. They dined and slept in the girl’s family home and when they left the next day, they were given presents.

Arriving home, the father finally explained the meaning of the order given. “The bunches of grass were an unimportant alternative. Now I see that you, Rafiki, have understood my idea. Because of you yesterday I was well received in the villages, I ate and slept and returned laden with gifts.”

“Whereas you, Tambu, did not understand anything. You got lost behind useless bunches of grass and did not garner any sympathy in the villages you passed through. You remained as poor and isolated as before. Remember well that to live on this earth one must have friends everywhere.” (Folktale from DR Congo)

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