23 September 2007

Parable of the Loerie

Once in Southern Africa there lived an old man with three sons. One day the household was running out of firewood and the man sent his oldest son to the forest to gather wood. After a short time the son returned home without any wood.

"Why are you home so soon, my son? Why don’t you have any firewood?" asked the old man.

"When I got to the forest someone called out to me, ‘Go away!’" replied the son. "So I’ve come back home with no wood."

The father was very upset. He didn’t understand what had happened and was disappointed in the actions of his son.

The next day the father sent his second son to the forest to gather firewood. The father and his other two sons waited the whole day for the return of the second son. Finally, after the sun had set, the second son arrived at home. He had no firewood.

"Why are you so late, my son? Why don’t you have any firewood?" asked the old man.

"Well father, when I arrived at the forest I, too, heard someone call out ‘Go away!’" said the son in a hoarse voice. "So I replied, ‘No! I won’t!’ Then the voice again said, ‘Go away!’ and I said, ‘No! You can’t make me!’ And we argued until it was almost dark and I decided to come home."

The father was more upset and puzzled about what was happening. The need for firewood was now desperate. The next day, early in the morning, he sent his youngest son to the forest to gather firewood. Just after noon the youngest son returned home with a huge load of firewood upon his head.

The father and his two older sons gathered around the youngest son as he lowered the firewood to the ground in front of their house. They began to question him excitedly.

"How did you gather so much firewood so quickly?"

"Didn’t you hear the voice?"

"How did you get permission to enter the forest?"

The younger son replied, "Yes, I heard a voice call out ‘Go away!’ when I reached the forest. I looked to see where the voice came from and saw a 'go ‘way bird'* in a tree. I told myself, ‘I’m not going to be ordered around by some dumb bird. I’m going to obey my father.’ And so I just went into the forest and found plenty of firewood and here it is."

*The Grey Loerie of Southern Africa is known as the "Go away bird" because of its call that sounds like "go-WAY." Hunters hate this bird because it alerts other game when a hunter approaches."

(photo from Ian Sinclair's Field Guide To The Birds Of Southern Africa)

[This is not a traditional African story. It was inspired by birds and experiences in Zimbabwe.]

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