King of the Snakes, The: And Other Folk-Lore Stories from Uganda | Annotated Tale

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Story of Walukaga the Blacksmith, The

A VERY long time ago there was a King in Uganda who was very cruel to his people, and they feared him very much. Every day he thought of new things to do which would distress and trouble them, until no man's life was safe, and no one was happy, and all through the beautiful country, although the Sun shone every day and the birds sang, sorrow and misery were in every village.

                One day, the King sent for Walukaga, the chief of the blacksmiths, and said to him: "I want you to do a piece of work for me as you are such a clever man. I want you to make a man at your forge, not an iron man, but a real one with flesh and blood, one that can walk and talk and do everything that a real man does."

                Walukaga bowed himself to the ground and went away very sad, for he saw that the King meant to kill him, for who but God can make a real man, and what blacksmith can make one at a forge? As he was going home, thinking sadly of these things, he met a madman, who greeted him with great joy. Now this man had been a very great friend of Walukaga's before he went mad, and the blacksmith had always been kind to him, so when he asked: "Why are you looking so sad?" Walukaga thought in his heart: "I have very few days to live; let me do a kindness while I can." So he took the madman aside and told him all the King had said.

                The madman gave him some advice, and both of them went home. Walukaga thought over the madman's words and then he went back to the King and asked for an audience. When the King saw him he laughed and said: "Have you made the man yet at your forge?"

                Then Walukaga said bravely: "Sir, I have thought about it, and I have come to ask your help because this is a very difficult task, and I cannot do it alone; a special kind of charcoal is needed, it is made of human hair, and I want three large sacks of it!"

                Then the King gave the order, and messengers went through all the country ordering the people to shave their heads and send their hair to Walukaga. But when it was burnt there was not enough charcoal to fill one sack. Then Walukaga went again to the King and said: "Sir, before I can forge a man I must have water. But ordinary water will not do. I must have tears of men and women, for it takes many tears to make one human life. I want three water-pots full."

                Then the King sent messengers all through the country ordering the men and women to keep their tears, and send them to Walukaga the blacksmith, but though the land was full of sorrow and the people wept every day, there were only enough tears to fill one water-pot. Then Walukaga went to the King and bowed very low, and knelt before him and fell on his face and said: "Sir, you set me a hard task to do, and I asked you to help me in an easy way. If a great King cannot do a small thing, how shall a poor blacksmith do the work of the Creator?"

                Then the King said: "Walukaga is right. The thing I gave him to do was impossible," and he gave him a present and sent him away, and now in Uganda when a man is perplexed and does not know what to do in a great difficulty, his friends say: "Find a madman and ask his advice," because this has become a proverb since the days of Walukaga the blacksmith.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Story of Walukaga the Blacksmith, The
Tale Author/Editor: Baskerville, Mrs. George (Rosetta)
Book Title: King of the Snakes, The: And Other Folk-Lore Stories from Uganda
Book Author/Editor: Baskerville, Mrs. George (Rosetta)
Publisher: The Macmillan Co.
Publication City: New York
Year of Publication: 1922
Country of Origin: Uganda
Classification: unclassified

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