CHAPTER 1 ~~
Chief Who Goes To Work In One Year And Returns The Next Year
There was a certain man who lived in the land of Bingo. He was a person who had power over everything. Often, people would wonder about why we had dry seasons and rainy seasons. It was this chief who was causing all these things. He built one of his houses in the sky; he built another one in Bingo. His title was One Who Goes To Work In One Year And Returns The Next Year. The reason he was given such a name is this: if he left his house in Bingo and went to his house in the sky, he would not return for about twelve months. Whenever we had the rainy season on the earth, that was the time he would be in the sky, but when we had the dry season, that was the time he would be in Bingo.
Bingo was good land where everything planted in it grew well and also bore fine fruit. No one knew the route to that land except for that chief. Many times, when a person was wandering around in the forest he would come very close to the land of Bingo. You will remember what I told you all at the beginning of this story, that the chief had power over everything. There was a certain tree leaf that was called the bad leaf of the forest. Any person who brushed against this tree leaf would no longer know what he was doing or where he was going or where he had come from. In all the great forests along the road to Bingo land, the chief saw to it that the tree that made people lose their way was growing; thus whenever anyone looked for the road to reach that land, the bad leaf would brush against him and he would no longer know either where he was going or where he had come from.
The chief sees the footprints of a spirit
There were two children. The mother of these two children was a woman who lived in the Bingo River. Every time the chief came to this river to bathe, he would see footprints resembling human footprints. This sight surprised him because he thought that no one knew that land or that river except himself. So he started to keep watch over that place. Sometimes he would leave his house and keep watch in the vicinity of the river from morning to night, but he did not see anyone. The next day when he came to bathe he would again see watery footprints, which showed that their owner came there after the chief went back to his house. He then began to ponder about what he could do to encounter that person. So he took seeds from his farm and began to scatter them in that place, saying, “I will confront him while he is eating these things.” The first seeds that he scattered were from the garden-egg [similar to eggplant]. But the next day when he came to see if anyone had eated the garden-egg seeds he had scattered, they remained the same as they had been when he had scattered them. He then brought a basket of melon seeds and scattered them. No one touched them. He also brought a basket of cowpeas, and the person refused to eat the cowpeas. He started over again and scattered seeds from all the crops on his farm, but the person refused to touch any of them. One thing he forgot to scatter was groundnuts [peanuts].
The chief then thought that it must be yams that would please the person. He brought a basket of yams and went and spread them around; but the person refused to eat them. hen he brought a basket of cocoyams and spread them around. Everything was the same as before. He then became consumed with worry about what he could do in order to lay eyes on that person. The whole time he was thinking that the person would fight him when he saw how he, the chief, lived. Finally he took morsels of every good thing he could find and placed them there. After he had done all of these things and none of them had succeeded, he was extremely upset.
After staying there for twelve months, he returned to the sky, called together all his people and told them all that had happened in Bingo land. He also told them that if anyone could tell him what to do to lay eyes on that person, he would make him the leader of all his slaves. His slaves then ran around in all directions to inquire of all the well-known wise people what their master should do in order to lay eyes on that person.
There was one of his slaves who had fallen ill. No one was taking care of him on his sickbed. He was always crying because of his bad condition. But the worst thing was the way the illness prevented him from joining his fellow slaves in going to make the inquiries their master had told them to make for him. One night he had a vision. In his vision, someone said to him, “Get up, because I want to help you.” The sick person made an effort and stood up. The person told him, “Early tomorrow morning, have your master come to you, and then you will tell him that he should travel to the earth, and he will see an important person who lives in the east, and that big chief is the only one who can tell him what he should do to come face-to-face with that person.”
The slave was vexed, like one who had been sent to buy too much at the market. It was not customary for a slave who had something to tell his master to send for the master to come to him; rather, it was up to the slave to use his own two feet and go to his master. He didn’t know if it was a human being who told him all those things; he thought it might have been a ghost. He knew all the consequences to him if his master went to the trouble of traveling to earth and then did not see anyone. But although the slave had been unable to get up, he had hopes that some time in the future he would be well again. Since a little bit of life is better than a little bit of death, he didn’t want to do anything to cause his own death.
For two days he could think of nothing but what he had been told. Finally, he said that two things were a man’s lot in the world--that if it was not life, it was death; and he would send a message to his master as he had been told. If his master traveled and saw that person he was told to see, fine; if he did not see him, fine.
Early in the morning the sick one did as the person had told him to do in his vision. But when he sent word for the master to come, the master was furious. He struck his chest, saying, “What would cause my slave to send me such a message telling me to come to his house? Just because seeing that person is important to me, should I go through all these things whether they are proper or not? I will not go.”
After about a year had passed, all his slaves who had scattered everywhere returned, but without success; no one could say what the chief should do to lay eyes on that person.
Hunger causes acceptance of what was formerly refused
Nothing was going well in the chief’s house. He was very unhappy because no one could tell him what he should do to get a look at that person who was coming to the Bingo River. One of his chief slaves who had secretly advised him to go and find out what his sick slave wanted to tell him then called everyone together and went to the chief’s house and implored him to persevere and go to find out what that slave wanted to tell him.
It was true that he had at first said that he would not answer the call, but now he did not stand so firmly on what he had said before. His situation now resembled that of the child who kept on crying until he was exhausted, then sat down and looked for someone who would say, “Come here,” in order to save face. Since the time that his slaves had all returned without discovering what the chief should do to see that person, he had been of a mind to damn the consequences and go to see his slave who was on his sickbed. But embarrassment over what he had said in public held him back. Things he did not do earlier in connection with the sick slave he now did, such as sending out inquiries about the slave’s health and taking a stroll in the vicinity of the slave’s place.
As a result, whether his slaves would gossip or not, he decided that he would go [to visit the slave]. When he reached his house, the slave related to him everything he had seen in his vision. The chief then prepared to travel to the eastern part of the earth. From the sky to the east was a journey of seven months. Finally, he reached his destination.
At no time did he act like a person who was in any difficulty; rather, he started to boast and to show that he was a wealthy man who could do many different things. The first thing he did was to send a message to the chief he was on his way to see, that he should come out with his slaves to meet him. The chief to whom he sent the message then began asking, “Who is that person who sends me a message like this as though he were giving me an order?” He did not want to see that chief who came from the sky or hear what he had to say.
When the chief who came from the sky saw that he was not going to get any good response at all from the earthly chief, he began to apologize for his behavior toward him. When he continued to plead with him for several days, all the people of the chief’s household interceded and begged the chief to forgive him. So he forgave him, and asked him where he had come from and where he was going. The chief from the sky then began to relate to him the story of why he had come before that chief.
This was what he said: “I am a chief who can do many things. My name is One Who Goes To Work In One Year And Returns In the Next Year. I have two houses, one in the sky and one in a land called Bingo. Bingo is the place where I plant yams, cocoyams, cassava and various crops that a farmer usually plants. I am the one who makes the dry season and the rainy season come at their proper times. If I go back to the sky, everyone on earth will have the rainy season, but if I go back to Bingo, the people on earth will have the dry season.
“There is one thing troubling me. It is that many times when I go to bathe in the Bingo River I see human footprints. I do not know where that person comes from or where he is going. Sometimes I watch from morning to night trying to see the person who comes to that river, but I never see him. This has made me unhappy, because I am afraid that the person is coming to find out something about the land so he can fight against me and forcefully take away from me the land of Bingo, where all kinds of planted crops or broadcasted seeds flourish so well. I have taken all the things that come from my farm and scattered them at the mouth of the river where that person comes, in order to find out if there was something the person was eating so that I could put aside for him the food that he liked, because by putting aside for him the things he liked I could soon take him by surprise while he was eating. There was no food I put aside for him that he was eating; instead, the food stayed there in the same condition as when I put it there. I was in a quandary. I then sent out my slaves, and promised them that I would make a great person in my land out of any one of them who could tell me what to do to set eyes on that person.
“My slaves searched in all directions, high and low, but without success. When they had all returned, none of them could tell me what to do. But there was one of my slaves who lay very sick and had not been able to go. One day that slave called me to come to him because he had seen a vision in which someone told him that you, the chief, were the only one who could tell me what I must do to lay eyes on that person. This is why I came to see you, honored chief.”
~~ *TO CHAPTER 4* ~~