Folk tale from West Africa - A Worthy Son

 A Worthy Son

Dotun was a poor woodcutter. He was very happy when his son Tundy grew up to be a healthy boy, accompanied him to the forest, and helped him in his work. One day Dotun fell ill and could not go to the forest. He sent Tundy to the forest. On the way, he met some boys of his age and kept playing hide and seek with them in the forest. When it was noon and he returned home, he had brought very little wood with him. Dotun was angry. "You stupid boy, what are we going to eat tomorrow if we cannot sell sufficient quantity of wood today?" he shouted and slapped Tundy, and the boy ran away. "Never come back!" he screamed behind his fleeing son. Tundy ran for a long time. Tired and hungry, he sat down under a tree, and soon fell asleep. It was evening. A wealthy trader of a distant village was riding by, accompanied by his servants. He stopped when his eyes fell on the sleeping Tundy. He got off his horse and so did his servants. He woke up Tundy. "Who are you? Why are you lying here?" he asked. "I've no home and I'm hungry," replied Tundy.

The trader gave him some food. He took an instant liking for the boy. He had no son. So, he led Tundy to his house and began treating him like his son. Dotun soon realized that he had been unkind to his son. He hoped that Tundy would come back home when it was dark. But that did not happen. The next day he looked for Tundy here, there, and everywhere. But the boy was not to be seen. Dotun was very sad. But as days passed, he made peace with the situation. Meanwhile, Tundy was looked upon as the trader's adopted son. He was taught the principles of business and he learned from them well. From time to time he remembered his home and his parents but would try to forget them too, though he did not succeed fully. The trader found in Tundy a faithful and truthful young man. He and his wife bestowed all their love on the boy. Years passed. One day Dotun, who was returning from the market after selling some ivory that he had found in the forest, saw Tundy riding by. "Hello rider, look here!" he called out. Tundy stopped. Dotun went closer and gazed at him. "Aren't you Tundy, my lost son?" he asked. Tundy got down and greeted his father. "Yes, indeed, I'm Tundy," he said. He felt sad to find his father old and weak. "Come with me to my present home and relax," he said. Both reached the trader's house. Tundy introduced Dotun to the trader and the trader welcomed him. The night passed. Dotun told the trader, "I wish to take my son back home." "No, my friend, he is no longer your son. He is my son. You drove him out of your home. He had no home when I gave him shelter. So, this is his home," the trader told Dotun politely.

"It is God who helped me find my son. How can I go back home without taking him with me? If once I had got angry with him, that was nothing unnatural!" pleaded Dotun. "But to lose him after so many years will become unnatural for us!" asserted the trader. The dialogue continued for long. At last, the trader stood up and said, "I've found a solution to the problem. We'll leave the matter to Tundy. Let him decide whether he would stay with me or go back with you." Well, Tundy was a grown-up young man and his decision had to be final, agreed Dotun. The trader proposed that they waited till the next morning. Early next morning, the trader asked both Dotun and Tundy to follow him. He held a sharp sword in his hand. Dotun and Tundy were surprised but walked behind him. The trader stopped at a lonely place between a forest and a river. He then handed over the sword to Tundy. "My boy, you have to act!" he said. "What do you want me to do?" the young man asked. "If you decide to go back with your first father, you behead me. If you wish to stay with me, your second father, behead him," he said. Tundy stood in silence, his head hung. Then he bowed to both the men and said, "I've decided upon my course of action. I shall behead myself." He raised the sword aiming at his own neck. But both the men hurriedly stopped him. All the three shed tears. Soon they found out a different solution to the problem. Dotun and his wife came over to the trader's home. Indeed, Tundy proved a worthy son to both pairs of parents.

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