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

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Story of the Chief Kasuju, The

ONCE upon a time a man called Lunzilunzi went into the forest to cut firewood, and he came back with a log and stood it up against a banana-tree, which was a silly thing to do, for a banana-tree is a weak thing, and the log was very heavy.

                A child was sitting in the garden, and near by was a sheep, tethered to a stake in the ground, but Lunzilunzi noticed none of these things; he was very tired, and he went into his house to sleep.

                Just then some hunters with their dogs came out of the jungle. The dogs frightened the sheep and it jumped away, the rope snapped and the sheep fell against the log, and the log fell on the child and killed it. There was a great noise, everyone talking at once and giving his version of what had happened, and Lunzilunzi came out of his house very angry indeed.

                Then the neighbours came up, and there was a great discussion as to who was to blame for the child's death. Some said it was Lunzilunzi's fault, and some said the owner of the sheep was to blame, and some said the hunters with their dogs frightened the sheep and made it fall against the log, which killed the child.

                They could not come to any conclusion, so they decided to go to Mengo and let the King's Council settle the case and punish the man who was to blame. So they all set out for Mengo, where the King lives, and on the way they rested in a garden during the heat of the day, and there they found a little boy eating cooked marrows, which are called "ensuju," and the boy asked where they were going, and why they were all so excited. They told him the whole story, and how they were going to the King's Council to have it settled, and the boy said: "I know what I should do if I were the judge; I should settle it very quickly."

                They all laughed at the little boy, and they went on their journey, leaving him in the garden eating his "ensuju."

                When they arrived at the King's Council and all the chiefs were assembled, they told the story again, but no one could decide who was to blame.

                First they said: "Lunzilunzi is to blame." But he said: "My lords, if no one had touched the log it would not have killed the child."

                So they said: "The sheep is to blame." But the owner of the sheep said: "My lords, if the dogs had not frightened the sheep it would not have butted the log, which fell on the child and killed it."

                So they said: "The dogs are to blame." But the hunter said: "My lords, if the log had not been there the sheep would not have butted it and the child would not have been killed."

                So they were back at the beginning again.

                Then Lunzilunzi said: "On our way here we rested in a garden, and there we found a little boy eating 'ensuju,' and he said he knew how to decide this case."

                So the King sent messengers, and they brought the little boy into the Council Hall.

                Then the Katikiro asked him who he was and where he came from, and they told him why the King had sent for him.

                The little boy knelt down and held up his left hand and counted his points on the fingers of it with his right hand, beginning with the little finger, and said:

                "The law says, a life for a life. The log has killed the child, therefore burn the log.

                "The sheep has caused the burning of the log, therefore kill the sheep; and the dogs caused the death of the sheep, therefore kill the dogs.

                "The case is finished."

                The chiefs were very pleased with the wisdom of the little boy, and the King made him a chief and gave him the title of Kasuju, which means "a little marrow," and said he should decide all the cases between the King's children, and his children should have the chieftainship after him for ever.

                And now, in Uganda, if there is any quarrel between the princes or princesses it is not taken to the King's Council to be settled, but the Chief Kasuju hears the case, and his word is law.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Story of the Chief Kasuju, 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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