The Wise King

Narrated by Khadijat Oyefohi

Once upon a time, in a far away country, there lived two men. They were neighbours. One was rich and the other one was poor.

One day the rich man decided to have a party. He invited all his friends and business colleagues, workers and their families and all his rich neighbours. He invited everyone except the poor man living next door.

This was to be a big party. The rich man got his servants to start cooking for days in advance. They cooked and cooked until there were piles of food. The smell of the cooking went for miles around.

On the morning of the party, the poor man woke up and found that there was no food for him and his family. He went to his next-door neighbour, the rich man. He asked for food to feed his family.

At the door, he could see women cooking and carrying food up and down the courtyard. Chairs and tables are being arranged for the party in the evening. He greeted the rich man at the door and asked for food for his family. The rich man refused. He asked his servants to throw the poor man into the street and give him nothing except the bones from the animals they had slaughtered for the party.

The poor man, covered in dust, picked up the bones and took them home. His wife washed and boiled them to make soup.

In the evening the party began. People were eating, drinking and dancing. There was so much noise coming from the house of the rich man.

The children of the poor man were crying because they were not invited and the bone soup their mother prepared smelt and tasted awful. They cried and would not eat their food. After some long thinking, the poor man came up with an idea.

He took his family out to sit in their garden next to the rich man’s house to have their supper. As they sat in the garden they could smell the nice smells coming from their neighbour’s party. The children thought it was there mother’s soup that smelt that nice. If it smells good it must taste good too. They ate all their soup, the one; they would not eat that afternoon. They enjoyed their soup. When the rich man saw them sniffing the air and enjoying their supper, he came over to the fence and told them not to smell his food. The poor man said he was sorry but he was not moving because it is his garden and carried on drinking his soup.

This made the rich man very angry and he sent his entire guests home. He said his poor neighbour had ruined his party.

The next day, the rich man went to the King and complained that the poor man had stolen the smell of his food. The king sent for the poor man to come and explain himself. The poor man told the king how he had no food. He went to see his neighbour ask for some food, the neighbour gave him bones and threw out into the street. He told the king how his children had cried hated the soup made from the bones. He did not know what to do for them to eat the soup. He thought if they sat near their neighbour’s fence; the smell of his good food, this might make his children think it was their mother’s soup and they might eat the soup. The idea worked.

The king sighed and did not speak. He was in deep thought. He looked at the rich man with his rich clothes and looked at the poor man with his rags. For hours the King looked at the two men. He finally asked the rich man what he wanted for compensation.

The rich man was glad. He thought of big compensation. He would make a demand that the poor man would be unable to fulfil. He asked for 100 gold coins. The poor man gasped and almost fainted. He fell to his knees and pleaded for mercy from the King. The King was also surprised but there was nothing he could do. He asked the two men to go home and return the following day for his judgement.

The next day, a huge crowd gathered at the palace waiting to hear what the oba was going to say. The poor man still pleading on his knees while the rich man grinned. The King came out of his rooms and asked for a screen to be placed between the rich man and the poor man. Then he asked the rich man to repeat his complaint, his demand and the compensation. The King asked the rich man if the poor man had actually eaten of the rich man’s food, the rich man said no.

The King stood up and asked the poor man to pay the rich man from behind the screen. The poor man shook and started pleading to the gods as well as the King. The King gave the poor man a bag of shells. The poor man was surprised, but the King asked the poor man to shake the bag, which the poor man did. The noise of the shells clanking together sounded like gold coins. The rich man on the other side of the screen heard the noise and thought that his money was coming. The King asked the rich man if he had heard the noise. The rich man said he did. The King said as the poor man had only stolen the smell of your food. He would only pay back with the sound your gold coins.

The rich man was surprised and he was deeply ashamed for trying to swindle a poor man. The King asked the rich man to pay the poor man 100 gold coins. He also told the rich man to give the poor man and his family food every day for the next ten years.


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