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Fon stories, songs and proverbs

 

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King Takpa *
(Story)

When the king of Takpa was in power all his subjects visited him, gave him honours and paid their tithes. But the palace was also full of people seeking help or who were asking for alms; these the king sent away.

One day Legba and Fa travelled through the country and stopped to visit him. Once in his presence, the king asked the two visitors what was the reason for their call and Fa replied that he wanted to make a consultation. The sacrifices were to be a sheep, a guinea-fowl, a cock, a hen and a pigeon. Hearing this, the king put off the ceremony until later and so got rid of the strangers.

So they went on their way and came to a poor hut in the middle of the bush. It belonged to a wretched man called Kpadada, a farmer by trade.

This peasant had only one sheep, one hen and one guinea-fowl. But he received the strangers and gave them some food. As they wished to consult the Fa the poor man was obliged to give up everything he had as offerings. Legba made a long mound and sacrificed the animals there.

Some time afterwards a famine broke out in the country of the king of Takpa. In the peasant's region, however, the rain fell and farmers came from everywhere to buy food.

The kingdom was devastated by want and the king was abandoned by his subjects and wives. It was then that Legba and Fa made the visit they had promised the king in the past. Legba criticised him for his selfishness and overwhelming self confidence and told him that, in future, he should help his neighbours without ever having contempt for others. Kpadada was appointed as chief and continued to live in prosperity and happiness.

 

The prodigal youngest son *
(Story)

There was a man who had four sons, three of them had the same mother and the fourth was the son of another woman. The man asked them one day what they would do later. The first said he would be a farmer, the second a trader, the third, a hunter. When questioned, the fourth said he would make charms for money and help men take vengeance. The father sent him away. He went and settled a long way from his village, but instead of doing evil he made very good medicines and spread happiness around him. Whilst carrying out this trade he also cultivated his fields. One day, as the first three brothers had decided to leave their father, the old man was left destitute without food or clothing.

He went off to find his youngest son and saw he was very prosperous with lots of money and a magnificent house. Struck by his father's misery, the fourth son went back to his father's house. Then he brought along his friends who, happy, in turn, to be able to help, worked in the fields and on the house of the old father.

The old man could once again live comfortably and found happiness with the son he had chased away. All this goes to show that happiness is not the work of one person only, but that it is by helping others that all, in turn, will try to provide it.

 

Song *

A warrior has no fear of war,
Here I am I've come to see Zoha.
Will you let me pass ?
My companions join me
In greeting you.
If the monkey loses his balance in a tree,
His brothers come to help him.
We are struck with the same misfortune ,
That afflicts our friend Zoha.
When our friend left for Agouna,
His mother was in good health.
On the morning after his journey he learned
Of his mother's death and had to retrace his steps;
Zoha, if you are the shroud, we, your friends
Are the coffin.

 

The punctured jar *

Bas-relief : Guézo's punctured jar


The jar full of holes contains the liquid which will make the country happy. If all the children together happened to stop the holes with their fingers, the liquid would not flow and the country would be saved. (King Guézo)

 


Proverb:

The chameleon found three rings at the top of a bombax: "I believed they were of precious metal, whereas they were of copper".

 

 
* in Abdou Serpos Tidjani et al., 1998, Contes et Proverbes du Bénin : l'entraide dans la littérature orale béninoise, Editions Nouvelles du Sud.

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