Sometimes, to learn an important life lesson, especially when one refuses to, means that the lesson will have to come as a wakeup call. This is the pattern I find that follows through in most African moral tales.
This is a traditional story from the Lega people of Zaire.
There was a chief in a village, who had many servants. Whatever he ordered to be done, was done. If it was a wise thing he wanted, his various counselors would say to him:
“Yes, it is good.”
Because if they disagreed with their chief, he would say:
“What! Do you think the chief doesn’t know what he is doing?”
But the lowest of his counselors never said yes or no. If the chief asked him about a certain thing he would think for a while and then reply:
“All things are linked.”
It happened one time for a while that the chief could not sleep because of the croaking frogs in the marshes. Night after night he just could not sleep, so he decided that the frogs would have to be exterminated. He told his counselors what he intended to do. One by one, as usual, they applauded him, saying:
“Yes, it is good!”
Only the lowest of the counselors did not speak. The chief said:
“You counselor, have you no tongue in your mouth?”
The counselor thought for a while, then he said:
“O chief, all things are linked!”
The chief thought: “This man knows nothing else to say.”
The chief sent his servants out to exterminate the frogs in the marsh. They killed all the frogs until none remained. They returned and said:
“Sir, the frogs are done with.”
That night the chief slept well, and he slept well for many nights thereafter. He was now pleased with life.
But in the marshes, the mosquitoes began to rise in swarms because there were no frogs to eat their larvae. The swarms of mosquitoes entered the village, and even entered the chief’s house and bit him. They made the chief’s life a misery.
The people in the village suffered, so the chief ordered his servants to go out and kill the mosquitoes. The servants went out, they tried, but the mosquitoes were too numerous. They continued to plague the village.
The chief called his counselors. He scolded them and said:
“When I asked you about killing the frogs, you answered, ‘It is good’. Why did you not say, ‘If the frogs are killed the mosquitoes will multiply?’ Only one of you said something for me to think about. He said, ‘ all things are linked’, but I did not understand his words.”
The mosquito hordes made life unlivable. People left their houses and fields and moved away. They went to distant places, cleared new fields, and began life again. The old village became deserted except for the chief and his family. Finally, the chief too, took his family and moved away.
Because of what happened there came to be a proverb as follows:
“’Yes, it is good’ caused a village to become deserted.”