African Legends :
The Game Board
|The Game Board|
An African (Ethiopian) Tale Legend (Ethiopia)
|Once a man in the town of Nebri carved a beautiful gebeta board for his son. He made it from the wood of an olive tree. When he was finished he showed his son how to play games upon it. The boy was very glad to have such a beautiful thing, and in the morning when he went out with the cattle to the valley where they grazed he took his gebeta board along. Everywhere he went he carried his board under his arm.|
While he followed the cattle, he came upon a group of wandering Somalis with their camels, gathered around a small fire in a dry riverbed.
"Where in this country of yours can a man get wood?" the Somalis asked.
"Why, here is wood," the boy said. And he gave them the fine gebeta board, which they put into the fire. As it went up in flames, the boy began to cry:
"Oh, now where is my fine gebeta board that my father has carved for me?"
"Do not make such turmoil," the Somalis said, and they gave him a fine new knife in place of the game board.
The boy took the knife and went away with his cattle. As he wandered he came to a place where a man was digging a well in the sand of the riverbed, so that his goats could drink.
"The ground is hard," the man said. "Lend me your knife to dig with."
The boy gave the man the knife, but the man dug so vigorously with it that it broke.
"Ah, what has become of my knife?" the boy wailed.
"Quiet yourself," the man said. "Take this spear in its place." And he gave the boy a beautiful spear trimmed with silver and copper.
The boy went away with his cattle and his spear. He met a party of hunters. When they saw him one ofthem said: "Lend me your spear, so that we may kill the lion we are trailing."
The boy gave him the spear, and the hunters went out and killed the lion. But in the hunt the shaft of the spear was splintered.
"See what you've done with my spear!" the boy cried.
"Don't carry on so," the hunter said. "Here is a horse for you in place of your spear."
The hunter gave him a horse with fine leather trappings, and he started back toward the village. On the way he came to where a group of workmen were repairing the highway. As they worked they caused a landslide, and the earth and rocks came down the mountain with a great roar. The horse became frightened and ran away.
"Where is my horse?" the boy cried. "You have made him run away!"
"Don't grieve," the workman said. "Here is an ax." And he gave the boy a common iron ax. The boy took the ax and continued toward the village. He came to a woodcutter who said: "Lend me your large ax for this tree. My ax is too small."
He loaned the woodcutter the ax, and the woodcutter chopped with it and broke it.
The boy cried, and the woodcutter said: "Never mind, here is a limb of a tree."
The boy took the limb upon his back and when he came near the village a woman said: "Where did you find the wood? I need it for my fire."
The boy gave it to her, and she put it in the fire. As it went up in flames he said: "Now where is my wood?"
"Here," the woman said, "here is a fine gebeta board."
He took the gebeta board under his arm and went home with the cattle. As he entered his house his father smiled and said: "What is better than a gebeta game board to keep a small boy out of trouble?"