How Pride Destroyed a Beggar
Masa was a beggar who had no family or land, he begged food when he could, and when he could not he hired himself to labor in the fields of other men. One day when bearing a heavy bag of cassava to a distant town an overpowering weariness possessed him and he sat to rest beneath a tree. He fell asleep.
He slept for seven months, and since he was a poor and unimportant man no one came to look for him. As he slept he dreamed a dream in which he entered a great city, and here he met a fair maiden called Vona.
The two young people fell in love and Masa agreed to Marry Vona as soon as she had been accepted into the Sande Society. She was to be called to this important women’s society within two months.Now Masa faced a serious problem, for he had no presents to give the girl or her mother.
Since begging brought no wealth and animals abounded outside the city walls, he decided to turn trapper to secure both food for himself and skins for trade. He made fifty Traps and set them in the forest.
Near the first trap lay a large black rock, and when Masa came to collect the animals in his traps the spirit of black rock said:
“Every animal in you traps must be placed upon my head, or I will rise and swallow you!”
Masa was astonished to hear the rock talk thus, and being fearful of the threat, he placed his animals upon its head. The animals disappeared within the rock. He shifted his traps to another place, but next day the rock had moved there too, and again demanded and received all the animals in Masa’s traps. This went on for many days. No matter where he put his traps, the rock was sure to follow. Masa had no animals to take home, and Vona’s mother became angry.
“O worthless hunter!” she exclaimed one day. “Do you hunt animals, or do they hunt you? You ask to wed my daughter, yet you bring no gifts. You wish to have her as your wife, yet you cannot feed yourself. I will not have my daughter marry such a poor and worthless fool.”
Masa and Vona grieved at this, for they loved each other dearly.
On the evening before the ceremonies of the Sande Society Masa went once more into the forest, though his hear was heavy inside him. His traps were empty, for he had angered all the animals in the forest and had been obliged to give them to the spirit of the black rock. In despair he sat down on the rock himself, hoping the spirit might devour him too.
But the black rock said to him:“O hunter for a month and more you have given me every animal you caught, and now I shall reward you for your labors. Beat me seven times with your stick.”
Masa took his stick and hit the black rock seven times. The rock opened, and out rolled seven heavy stones of gold — so heavy that he could scarcely lift the smallest. He was happy to see them, and thanked the spirit of the rock. He left his traps, hid six stones of gold and carried the seventh into the city.
Here he purchased the richest gowns and jewels, white horses and fine gifts, and attended by dancers and musicians he rode in glory through the streets to the dwelling of the maiden city. Here he purchased the richest gowns and jewels, white horses and fine gifts, and attended by dancers and musicians he rode in glory through the streets to the dwelling and her mother; and people marveled among themselves to see the lowly beggar riding like a king.
So Masa married his beloved and days of feasting followed. Two months of his dream had passed. He and his bride lived in a palace with honor and wealth and unaccustomed happiness, but as time passed and Masa learned the power of wealth he grew arrogant, as well as fat, and dealt harshly with his servants. Then he fell ill with a strange illness.
The most famous diviner in the city came, and after reading sands he said:
“A bag of cassava weighs heavily on your spirit. Eat no more cassava or your spirit’s strength will break.”
Masa ate no more cassava, and soon grew well, but he became so cruel and haughty that his servants came to hate him and one day they put cassava in his food. Masa ate the meal: and he completely disappeared. He who was rich and lived in a palace with the loveliest of wives was swallowed by air.
The dream had broken.
Masa woke up underneath the tree deep in the forest. His loincloth was rotten, pigs had long ago eaten his bagful of cassava, his body was dirty and his hair was the home of insects. He had returned to poverty and in poverty he remained, for he had destroyed his fortune with arrogance and pride.