The hunter and the king (A tale from Niger)
Once upon a time, a hunter was married to a woman who did not love him.
One day he was returning home along the river when he saw a rat. Since he had caught nothing, he decided to chase the rat and he caught him very quickly.
“Let me live,” said the rat. “You will not regret it.”
So the hunter decided to take the rat home without killing him. A little farther, he saw a turtle and caught it.
“Do not kill me,” she said, “for I can render you great services.”
And so the man took her without killing her. Then he saw and caught a bird.
“Leave me alone,” said the bird, “and I will tell you the secret of certain plants.”
And so the hunter took him home without killing him.
When he arrived home, it was already dusk. He entered his hut, determined to learn more about the promises made by the animals he had captured.
“I left you alive,” he told them. “What do you offer me in exchange?”
“I will show you how to get into the house of your choice, without anyone seeing you,” said the rat.
“I’ll carry all the heavy things you want,” said the turtle.
“As for me,” said the bird, “I will give you several plants that heal scorpion or snake bites.”
That same night, the hunter decided to break into the king’s palace. Thanks to the rat, he succeeded without any difficulty. He took a large part of the royal treasure and loaded it onto the turtle. And the rat transported everything to his hut.
The next day, the hunter organized a big party to which he invited all the inhabitants of his village. As his wife insisted on knowing where this sudden wealth came from, he told her the origin. She immediately informed the king. He immediately sent his soldiers to arrest the hunter and throw him in jail.
But a few days later, a scorpion stung one of the king’s wives. She immediately had a high fever against which the remedies of doctors and healers were powerless.
When he heard the news, the hunter told his guards that he had a way to heal her. He was brought before the king. The king doubted the hunter’s knowledge of medicine, but he decided to question him.
“Do you really have a cure that heals scorpion stings?” asked the king.
“Yes,” replied the hunter.
“What is this remedy?”
“To prepare it, I need the brains of an accuser.”
The king’s soldiers went to fetch the hunter’s wife and cut off her head. The hunter then asked to isolate himself to prepare the remedy. As soon as he was alone, he called the bird.
“Bird, I need the plants you promised me,” he told him.
“Yes,” replied the bird.
The bird flew very fast and brought back several plants. The hunter boiled water, threw the plants and let them infuse for several minutes.
The king’s wife drank the cure and was healed. The sovereign then asked the hunter to join the palace’s team of doctors.
Legend has it that in this kingdom no one has ever been denounced ever since.