The Man and the King

Pass on the love of reading! Read this children’s story to a lucky young person.


Told and translated in !Xun and Afrikaans by Mario Kapilolo Mahong. Translated into English by Marlene Winberg.

This story about generosity, betrayal and injustice tells us how a woman’s faith in her husband’s healing powers restores justice to a village.

In the old times there was a man who lived all alone in the veld. He had no family and lived far away from other people.

One day, the King decided to build a prison close to the man’s place. The King put a lion, a snake and another man into this prison.

When the man went for a walk, he came upon this prison and heard the animals and the other man cry out for help. “Please, open the doors and let us out! One day we will help you in return!”

The man opened all the doors and set the inmates free.

Some time after that, the lion came to visit the man. When he saw that the man was alone with no family and no animals, he decided to make a plan to help the man. He went off and caught the King’s daughter. He took her to the man and told him to take the King’s daughter as his wife.

Then the lion went off and brought back a herd of goats for the man. The man and the princess lived together happily and they became very wealthy.

After some time had passed, the other man who was set free thought about this man who freed him from the prison. “What is he up to?” he wondered. “I should go and see if he is still alive or dead.”

When he arrived at this man’s place, he recognized the King’s daughter. He remembered that a lion had carried off the princess not too long ago. But he did not say anything to the man or the princess. When he saw the herd of goats, he remembered that not so long ago, a rich man in the village lost a herd of goats.

But still the man did not say anything. He just greeted the princess and her husband and wished them well.

Then this man went to the King, to the rich villager and told them the story. The King was very happy that his daughter was alive, but he was very angry with the man who had taken his daughter as a wife. He ordered his men to go and capture the man and bring him to the village.

“You will be executed at dawn!” commanded the King. “Put this man in the dungeon!”

In the meantime, the King went to the toilet in the veld. When he crouched down, the snake, which had earlier been freed from the prison, came along and bit the king in his backside. The King became very ill.

All the village healers were called to cure the King from the snakebite, but no-one could help him. The King’s council did not know what to do. How could they execute the man at dawn while the King was dying? What if the King died before they could execute the man?

The King’s daughter said: “Let my husband free. I am sure he will cure my father.”

The council replied: “How can you be sure of this?”

“I know that my husband will cure my father,” said the King’s daughter.

In the meantime, the snake slithered into the dungeon where the man was kept captive and told him what was happening. The snake spat some of his poison into a little container and gave it to the man. “Here, he said, “When the people come to release you, take this container of poison with you. You must give it to the King to drink. It will cure him.”

Just before sunrise, the King’s men came to fetch the man and told him to cure the king or else he will die. The man held the snake’s poison to the King’s lips and as the King drank it, he vomited. All the poison came out of his body and he was cured.

Then the King said: “This man saved my life and he will be a good son-in-law. Bring me that man who brought him here. He is the one who must pay!”


Thank you to the Manyeka Arts Trust for allowing FunDza to republish this story. To find out more about the Manyeka Arts Trust, visit: