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The old man, the wise woman and the African pot

AUTHOR: Frank Meintjies

PUBLISHER: FunDza Literacy Trust

LANGUAGE: English

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An old man who had a very bad cough had a dream. In the dream, his late father was dressed in a robe and told him that he had to find the wise woman with a big pot. He saw himself eating from this pot, and getting better.

In the morning he picked up his small bag and set off. After a long journey, and asking many people for directions along the way, he found the old woman. She was sitting outside a small house in a community near the edge of a small town. Next to her was the pot that he saw in his dreams. It was simmering with wonderful smells.

After he told her his story she said: “You can’t eat from this pot yet. It’s not ready. It needs a cup of water from a certain river, water that comes down from the mountains.” She smiled and told him: “You must fetch me some water from the Mbashe River”. She gave him a small clay pot and he set off.

Along the way he met Lion whose paw was caught in the trap.

Lion said: “You are the only one to come this way for days. Please help me.” The old man helped Lion and freed his paw. Lion said: “I don’t know how I can thank you.”

Further on, many miles later, he met Monkey.

Monkey said, “Please won’t you help?” He pointed to a cage that stood in the shade of a big tree. “My friend Bird is locked in the cage. I grabbed the cage and ran, but now I need the key.” The old man, who used to be very good at making and fixing things when he was young, found a sharp stone and made a key from a piece of wood. Soon Bird, a large white pelican, was free.

Monkey said, “I cannot thank you enough.” Bird said, shaking out his feathers, “Thank you. Thank you.”
Further along the long road, he met a dog.

Dog said, “My master was killed by poachers. My master liked to gather herbs and plants. We were in the hills near our village about 100 miles and many days from here. The bad men shot him and took his horse.”

As the old man listened and scratched his chin, Dog said, “Humans are a dog’s best friend. I need a new master … can I travel with you and be your friend?” The old man thought about it. The dog would be good company for him in his old age. He nodded and, as if to seal the friendship, took out a few pieces of bread from his bag and gave to Dog.

The old man and Dog continued on the journey and after a few hours found the Mbashe River. The old man filled the small clay pot with water. Dog also drank from the River. The journey back was long and tiring; they even had to stop to sleep for a bit. But he was glad he had Dog with him to keep him company.

They reached the old lady in the morning, just as the sun was starting to get hot again. As the old man gave the water to the wise old lady, she clapped her hands. “Thank you.” She poured the water into the African pot and stirred and stirred. While she stirred the pot, he noticed his cough was gone. He realised that he had not coughed all the way to the Mbashe River and back.

“My cough is completely gone,” he told the wise old woman, who just nodded and smiled – and kept on stirring.
Soon, the old lady said, “The food is ready. Now we can eat. You must be hungry.” She dished a plate of food for her visitor and for her. She also scooped some food into a bowl for Dog. As she did so, the old man thought he could smell butternut, broccoli, sweat potato and barley.

The two ate the wonderful food. As Dog lay down and dozed off, he could hear the voices of the two old people, telling stories and sharing laughter.

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