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69 26 The Terrible Child T here was a child whose name was Yelkonlingma1 . The village chief called to him one day and said: ‘‘I have heard of your courage, but one day you will be surprised.’’ One day, on his way home from a walk he saw that the chief had sent his mother some millet so that she would prepare beer that day. His mother was in tears. He asked her why she was crying. She told him what the chief had asked her. He reassured her, saying it wasn’t worth crying about. He went to get some stones. He brought them to the chief and asked him to open them up so that people could use them for drinking millet beer. So, the chief asked him: ‘‘How can one open up stones for drinking beer?’’ ‘‘And can anyone prepare beer in just one day?’’ answered the boy. Annoyed, the chief ordered him to go away. Another day, he again found his mother in tears. He asked her why she was crying. She told him that the chief had sent her a billy goat saying she should do everything she could to make it give birth. He reassured his mother and told her it wasn’t worth crying about. 1. Literally: ‘‘I will never be surprised by a problem.’’ 70 Alain-Joseph Sissao (Translated from the French by Nina Tanti) At nightfall, Yelkonlingma climbed up a tree and began cutting dead wood. The chief called to him and asked what he was doing in the tree. He replied: ‘‘My father has just given birth, so I have come to get wood to heat the newborn baby’s bath.’’ ‘‘How can a male give birth?’’ the chief exclaimed, offended. ‘‘How could I know that a male cannot give birth? Didn’t you send my mother a billy goat telling her to do everything she could so that he would give birth?’’ replied the child. The chief again ordered him to go away since he was such a know-it-all. This is how the mean and unjust chief came to leave Yelkonlingma’s mother in peace. ...


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