Black Tales for White Children | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in July 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Poor Man and His Wife of Wood, The

ONCE upon a time there was a poor man who used to beg. One day he sat thinking to himself, "I am a poor man and have no wife. When I go out begging there is no one to come back to in my house or to cook my food for me whilst I am away."

               So he went out to the forest and cut down a tree and carved out of it a woman of wood, and when he had finished he decorated her with jewels and necklaces of wood, and then brought her back to his house.

               Then that tree turned into a woman, and he called her Mwanamizi, the child of a root, and he lived with her many days. Till one day, when that poor man had gone forth to beg, a slave girl ran out from the palace of the Sultan in search of a brand with which to light the fire.

               She came and knocked at the poor man's door, and when she got no answer she entered and went into the kitchen, and there she saw a lovely woman decked out with pearls and jewels. She went running back to the Sultan and said to him, "I have just seen the most wondrously beautiful woman in the house of that beggar who lives near us."

               The Sultan then ordered his soldiers, "Go to fetch the wife of the beggar, that I may see if the words of this slave are true or false."

               So they went and took Mwanamizi and brought her to the palace. When the Sultan saw her he thought her very beautiful.

               So he said, "This woman is too beautiful for a beggar. I will take her for my wife."

               Now when that poor man returned from begging he could not find his wife; then the neighbours told him, "The woman has been taken by the Sultan to his palace."

               So he threw down his bag and went round to the palace, and rushed in before the Sultan and asked him, "Where is my wife whom you have taken?"

               The Sultan replied, "Get out of my sight, you foolish fellow, or I will order my soldiers to beat you."

               Then he said, "If you will not give me back my wife, take off my ornaments which she is wearing and return them to me, that I may go."

               At that the Sultan called his soldiers and had him turned out of the palace.

               After that the poor man went under the Sultan's window and sang--

"Oh listen, master, unto me:       
My wife I carved from yonder tree;      
I carved her well, with zeal untold,  
And decked her out with fetters gold.
These ornaments and jewels fine,       
Oh, give them back, for they are mine;
And, Mwanamizi, let me go."

               When the woman heard the poor man's song she was bathed in tears.

               The Sultan then said to her, "Take off those silly ornaments and throw them to him, that he may go away. I will give you things tenfold more fine and rare."

               The woman did not want to take off those things.

               The poor man sang again--

"Oh listen, master, unto me:       
I carved my wife from yonder tree."

               Then the woman took off her ornaments and threw them down to him, saying--

"The ornaments are thine,       
The golden fetters fine;
Take them, oh, take them,       
Makami, and go."

               She cried then very much, and took off all her things, till there was left a single charm round her neck.

               The Sultan said, "Take off all his ornaments quickly and throw them to him, that he may go." But Mwanamizi did not want to take off that charm, for it was her soul. Then the poor man sang again, and Mwanamizi unfastened the charm from her neck and threw it to him, and at that moment she turned into a tree there in the house of the Sultan.

               The poor man sighed and went back to his house, but the Sultan in his palace was seized with great fear.

               The telling of the story ends here.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Poor Man and His Wife of Wood, The
Tale Author/Editor: Stigand, C. H. & Stigand, Nancy Yulee
Book Title: Black Tales for White Children
Book Author/Editor: Stigand, C. H. & Stigand, Nancy Yulee
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Publication City: Boston
Year of Publication: 1914
Country of Origin: Africa
Classification: unclassified

Back to Top