Chief, Daughter/Wife, Father/Old
Man, Members of the Family, Sheep Herder 2, Neighbor,
Sheep Herder, Goats, Sheep
Two shepherds enter
before the paramount chief. They bow deeply.
Old Man: Oh,
please, great chief, help me settle this dispute. It has been troubling me for
many long days.
Chief: I'm always pleased to help my people.
What is on your mind? I have yet to have a problem presented that I cannot handle.
I assure you that I will solve your problem. There is none other as wise as I.
Man: I am a poor farmer and as humble as can be. Until recently, I had
a few goats but now, I have nothing . . . nothing at all. My envious neighbor
has stolen my herd. I confronted him saying they were mine and asked him to return
them. He refused. Please speak to him. I am a poor old man and cannot convince
Chief: And you, what do you have to say about this?
Did you take this man's goats?
Neighbor: Of course not!
I am not a thief and I am not envious! I have always had many goats. My neighbor
has never had any of his own. I do not know what he is talking about!
Do you have any witnesses that saw this man steal the goats? Do you have any records
showing the number of goats you own?
Both shepherds shake their heads no.
This will not be an easy problem to settle. If there are no other witnesses, I
will have to rely on my own wisdom. And, that is the kind of problem that I enjoy
I have an idea!
My people, I have a question for the both
of you. Whoever can answer it successfully will be the owner of the goats. It
is merely one simple question. Answer me this: What is the fastest thing in the
world? Go, and do not return until you know the answer.
How will anyone ever answer a question like that correctly?
Man: I think I need to return home and speak to my daughter. She is such
a wise woman.
Ah, Daughter, you are not only beautiful, but so very clever.
I come to you for your help.
Daughter: What is it, Father?
Man: The paramount chief has sent me away with a question that is unbearably
hard to answer. I must get it right in order to get my goats back. Oh dear! What
am I to do? He has asked what is the fastest thing in the world? It might be the
fleet-footed cheetah, but then I think that it must be the eagle that swoops through
the sky. It is impossible to know for sure. And I will never get my goats back
unless it can be answered correctly.
Daughter: Why, Father,
that's so simple. It's . . .
Grandchild 1: A lizard! I
know it has to be. Every time I try to catch one, it leaps out of my reach!
3: Don't be so silly. Your brain certainly isn't the fastest thing in
Grandchild 1: If you are so smart, what do you
think it is?
Grandchild 3: I don't know either.
1: That's a first.
Grandchild 2: How could anyone
know? What will happen to the old man's goats?
Well, the next morning, the paramount chief was very surprised to see the old
man return so soon.
Chief: Do you have an answer to my
question so quickly?
Old Man: Yes, my chief, the question
was not that difficult.
Chief: So tell me, what is the
fastest thing in the world?
Old Man: Time. We never have
enough of it. It always goes too fast. There is never enough time to do everything
that we want to do.
Chief: What an amazing answer! Could
I have come up with such a reply? (Immediately he was suspicious of the man.)
Who gave you these words? Whose wise thoughts do you share with me?
Man: They are my own words, my own thoughts. The credit is due to none
Chief: If you do not tell the truth, I will
punish you. You will regret for the rest of your life the words that you have
Old Man: I will be obedient for I fear your
anger. I confess these are the words of my daughter. She is very wise.
She must be, to give such an answer. I would like to meet her.
Man: As you wish.
Grandmother: Now the Old Man
gets his daughter to bring her before the chief. The attraction is instant and
obvious to all. If the chief was impressed with the daughter's wisdom, he was
captivated by her beauty.
Chief: You are indeed a wise
and lovely woman, a rare jewel in the midst of my life. I would be honored to
have you as my wife.
Daughter: The honor is mine, great
Chief: Everything in my house is yours. I only have
one rule for you. You must never become involved with any of the problems that
are brought before me by the villagers. My judgments and solutions are entirely
mine. I want no one else to interfere. This is your first and final warning. If
you break this rule, I will banish you from my house.
That is no problem for I will never let you be disgraced in any way.
again speaks as actors get ready for a scene change.
As the days, weeks, and months went by, the chief helped the villagers with their
problems. His wife was careful not to interfere with his wise tests and decisions.
Usually she agreed with his decisions and she always remained silent. And then
one day, two young shepherds came before the chief.
Something will go wrong.
All other family members: Shh!
Herder 2: Chief! Chief! He claims that my one and only sheep is his.
Herder 1: I only claim what is truly mine.
2: You may talk smoothly but the sheep is still mine.
Herder 1: Why don't we let our noble chief decide for that is the reason
why we came here.
Sheep Herder 2: Yes, we will see that
the sheep is mine.
Chief: Stop this babble and listen to
me. I will give you a test that only the smarter of the two of you will be able
Sheep Herder 1: And what is this great task you
ask of us?
Chief: I will give each of you an egg. Whoever
hatches a chicken from it by tomorrow will claim the sheep you quarrel over. Now
go away and think about how you will accomplish the task.
Shepherd 2 walks
away very puzzled. She wanders to the chief's garden area where the new wife is
Sheep Herder 2: Everyone knows that I really own
that sheep. This other shepherd is only jealous and wants what is rightfully mine.
She thinks so quickly and talks so smoothly that other people always notice her.
I may sit in her shadow, but I know the truth. But how is the truth going to help
me solve this impossible problem? How can anyone hatch an egg in just one day?
The shepherd had not realized that she had spoken aloud. She didn't notice the
other person in the garden. And, as it turned out, the person was the chief's
wife. The shepherd had wandered into the wife's favorite resting spot in the garden.
The wife could see how the girl was troubled and her heart was moved. And although
she knew she shouldn't do it, she asked . . .
What's the matter, young shepherd? Why do you look so sad?
2: The chief has asked something from me that is impossible.
And what is that, shepherd?
Shepherd 2: He wants me to
hatch a chicken egg in one day. What shall I do? He asks the impossible! I will
fail the test and lose my only sheep.
aside in deep thought) I could help this young shepherd, but to do it would break
the only promise my husband has asked of me. I did, after all, give my word. Even
though it is important to keep a promise, how could I possibly ignore a child's
pain? What would the gods think? What would I think of myself? (She thinks, then
turns to the shepherd and smiles.)
Shepherd 2: Why do you
smile? There isn't anything today worth smiling about? Are you making fun of my
Daughter: Cheer up, young shepherd. There is a simple
solution to your test. You only need to take some seed rice to the chief.
2: Rice?! Seed rice!
Daughter: Yes, rice. Tell
him to plant it today so that in the morning you will have rice to feed your chicken.
2: I don't understand. How can planted rice give me a chicken?
The chief will see the wisdom of your words. He knows it is just as impossible
in one day to grow rice from a seed as it is to hatch a chicken from an egg. Give
the rice to the chief and share these words. However, and do not forget this,
you must not mention anything about my help.
Thank you so much, good lady. Count on me to keep the secret.
You are welcome. Now be on your way.
The shepherd races around stage to
find the chief.
Shepherd 2: Great chief, I have the answer
to your test!
Chief: So quickly? I thought it was rather
Shepherd 2: It was not so hard for me.
If that is so, then speak up.
Shepherd 2: Here. Take this
seed rice and plant it today so that in the morning I will have rice to feed my
Chief: (deep in thought) Well, well . . . who
gave you this seed rice? And who gave you these words? Whose wise thoughts do
you share with me? These words are too wise for one so young.
2: They are my own words, my own thoughts. The credit is due to none
Chief: If you do not tell the truth, I will
punish you. You will regret for the rest of your life the words that you have
Shepherd 2: Uhhh . . .
What do you say, shepherd?
Shepherd 2: I will be obedient
for I fear your anger. I confess these are the words of your wife. She knew you,
oh wise chief, would understand the wisdom of their meaning.
She was quite right.
Shepherd 2: I'm sorry I talked to
your wife. I hope I have not displeased you.
Chief: You have been
foolish. However, I do not believe that my wife would have helped you if she didn't
think you were the rightful owner. I will respect her insight and let you take
Shepherd 2: Yes, great chief, and thank you
for your understanding.
Chief: Go on now!
I must take care of the matter with my wife. (He crosses the stage to confront
his wife.) My wife, I have a serious matter to discuss with you.
Chief: You have done the worst of all possible deeds.
You have broken your promise to me. I believed in you and respected you as an
obedient wife. Didn't you know all that I have is yours? Now you have thrown it
all away. Was it hard for you to follow one rule? There was only one rule that
I made for you and you have broken it. Now you must leave. Go back to your father's
Daughter: As you wish, my husband, I understand.
I will be of no more trouble to you. I only ask one more thing. Please allow me
to prepare one final meal for you before I go.
as you please. Make whatever you want. Take whatever you want. Just be certain
that you do not remain here tonight!
The chief leaves and the daughter begins
Daughter: What was I supposed to do?
I know I broke my promise but thinking about it, what else could I have done?
Let a child suffer? I couldn't do that.
But if my husband is as wise as
he thinks he is, he should know what a wise woman he has for a wife. I must do
something to remind him of that. Of course, I have a plan to win him back and
a little palm wine should do the trick. Just you wait and see, husband. I've got
you just exactly where I want you.
Grandmother: The wife
set about to prepare a splendid feast. She knew all of the chief's favorite dishes
-- cassava leaf soup, beans gravy, and palm butter. She ushered the chief into
the meal and set about serving him a feast he would never forget. All those dishes,
combined with a very generous supply of palm wine, helped the woman's plans to
work like magic. It didn't take long for the very full chief to grow weary and
settle down for a nap. And, as soon as that happened, the woman's relatives came
to help her transport the chief to her family home. The chief had no idea what
had happened to him. He slept soundly through the night, but in the morning, the
chief awoke with a start!
Chief: Where am I? What am I
Daughter: Good morning, my chief. I hope you
Chief: Where am I? How did I get here?
You are in my father's home.
Chief: What are you talking
about? Explain yourself, wife. Why did you bring me here?
I did what you told me to do, my chief. You said I could take anything I wanted
from your house as long as I was gone by nightfall. There was only one thing I
wanted from your home, you, so I took you.
Chief: You are
certainly a wise woman. Come return with me to our home. Only a fool would send
a woman like you away.
Daughter: And you, my chief, are
Grandchild 1: That's it? They all live happily
ever after? What kind of story is that?
Grandchild 3: It's
called romance, pangolin brain.
Grandchild 2: Well, I for
one am so relieved. But what if she breaks her promise a second time?
I don't think we need to worry about that. What we need to worry about is getting
home before it gets too dark outside. You don't want to hear my stories about
the spirits that lurk in the bush after the sun goes down.