The Africa Classroom Package:
Reading Fun

After reading the poem version of the first part of this traditional African story, have your students create a conclusion following the same poetic pattern. See Lessons and Activities for the actual conclusion and related activity suggestions.

The Wages of Good

In Africa there once lived a greedy king
And collecting gold was this greedy king's thing
He had so much, he built a ditch 'round his castle
Filled it with crocodiles to solve the thievery hassle

But one day when crossing this protective moat
His golden crown fell down a crocodile's throat
The king called a servant, sent out a decree
Saying, "Round up the crocodiles, slice every belly"

A lazy croc named Diassigue overheard the king's ruling
Said, "I'm on the road to the river, no matter how gruelling"
He split the scene and waddled as far as he could
Exhausted and hungry, fell asleep in the woods

The next morning passed a fisherboy going to check his traps
Balanced on his head was a rolled up wicker mat
Diassigue said, "Hey boy, couldn't you give me a ride?"
The boy laid out his mat, rolled the croc up inside

Carried him to the river, waded in and set him free
The crocodile grabbed him, said, "Thanks, you'll make a nice breakfast for me."
The boy said, "That's no way to treat someone who has been kind."
The croc said, "If that's the way you're thinking, you've got a messed up mind.

"True, if there were more kindness, this world would be a better place,
But reality, my friend, is an entirely different case."
"I'm sorry my toothy fellow," said the boy confidentally
"But I do not subscribe to your philosophy.

"You should let me go, there's no reason to be cruel.
Kindness is met with kindness, it's an unwritten rule."
The croc said, "I kinda like your spunk, so I will strike a deal.
Though I've gotta terrible hankering for an immediate meal.

"We'll ask the next three animals who come to take a drink.
If all three agree with me, I'll swallow you in a blink.
But if even one agrees with you, which they won't I am sure,
I'll let you fish and live peacefully, the way that you were."

Just then an old horse named Cuss came along
They asked his opinion, he snarled and broke into song, singing:

Well, let me tell you
Well, let me tell you
Oh won't you let, oh won't you let, oh won't you let me tell you

When I was just a young horse, oh as strong as a horse could be
The farmer bought the best of grains just to feed 'em to me
Oh, I pulled the plow, I pulled the loads, gave rides to everyone
I worked all day for the farmer, had no time for fun

But after years of riding riders
My bones they got arthritis
Farmer broke the bond between us
Sent me out to the hyenas

Well, let me tell you
Well, let me tell you
Oh won't you let, oh won't you let, oh won't you let me tell you:
If you are kind, expect to get dissed

As Cuss hobbled off, Diassigue gloated,
"That's one vote for my side, I hope you have noted"
Just then a baggy cow named Blue came along
They asked her opinion, she sighed and broke into song, singing:

Well, let me tell you
Well, let me tell you
Oh won't you let, oh won't you let, oh won't you let me tell you:

When I was just a young cow, oh as fresh as a cow could be
The farmer bought the best of grains, just to feed 'em to me
Oh, I daily gave the farmer cheese and milk and ghee
I gave so many pails of milk, blue cheese is named after me

But after years of eating silage
My milker got mastitis
The farmer got his gun
All I could do was run

Well, let me tell you
Well, let me tell you
Oh won't you let, oh won't you let, oh won't you let me tell you:
If you are nice, expect to get dissed

As Blue jiggled away, Diassigue gloated
"That's two votes for my side, I hope you have noted"

Then came Luke the rabbit, well known to beguile
He listened to the story with an ear to ear smile
When asked what he thought about the wages of good

Your Turn

What will be the fate of the kind, young fisherboy? Will Rabbit be the hero, the goat - or maybe dessert? Will Diassigue get his just deserts? To find the answer to these and other pressing, edge-of-your-seat questions..... write a conclusion! Even though you may change the traditional African ending of this story, if you do, you'll be following an African storytelling tradition. Let me explain.

In Africa, there are many different groups of people with different ways of life. These different groups of people have, naturally, exchanged stories over the years. Usually, due to similarities between groups, the original stories made sense to the people who borrowed them. But sometimes, due to differences between groups, the original story didn't quite fit. So, the storyteller simply changed it. In doing so, the storyteller made sure that the borrowed stories would be understood and enjoyed by the people of her group. Storytellers, of course, also liked to put their own "style stamps" on the stories they told, whether it be through a new twist in the plot, added humor, or a clever song.

A Changing Tradition

In other words, African storytellers have a tradition of interacting creatively with the stories they tell. I did the same thing with the story you just read. Except for a few minor changes, to make it more fitting for my audience (you), I stuck to the traditional African plot, but put it in the form of a poem. So now it's your turn to keep the tradition.

Taken from The Culture Connection Newsletter, © Paul Hurteau.

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