The Second Task

Those of you who were in the service this past Sunday (April 3), will remember that in the Time for All Ages, I told a story and forgot one of the elements.  The story is a Nigerian Tale called “The Three Tasks” and for some reason I drew a blank in the service about what the second task was.  Thankfully, the story came from a book of tales, and I was able to find it without any difficulty.

If you missed the story all together, here’s a brief synopsis:

The King is looking for an adviser, and makes a search through his whole kingdom.  Anyone wishing to be his adviser will have to perform three tasks, but all are welcome to try.  A farmer from the far reaches hears of it, and hears that many have tried and failed, but she knows herself to be wise and able, so she goes to make an attempt.

The first task that she is given is to sit in a room filled with mosquitoes without any clothes on and not to swat or shoo them away.  Second, (and this is the one that was missing on Sunday) was to eat a ground up very, very hot pepper without squinting or grimacing.  The third was to tell a story that lasted from dawn until dusk.  She agreed to the tasks.

In the room with the mosquitoes and no clothes, she began to tell a story to the guards about a horse she saw.  “It had a spot here (slapping her back) and another one here (slapping her calf)…” and continued on in that way.  The guards never noticed that she was also shooing and slapping the mosquitoes so they affirmed that she passed the first test.

Before eating the hot pepper powder, she sprinkled some corn kernels around in front of her, and then seated on a low stool, she put the pepper powder in her mouth.  Chickens had come to peck at the corn around her, so she shouted and swung her hands around “Oh these fowls are bothering me!  Zoo-zoo-zoo!  Be gone you birds!’ and in that way fooled the guards again.  She made faces and shouted without anyone realizing what she’d done.

Finally, she went into the presence of the King at dawn and began her story.  She told about bringing her crop of corn into the barn, and sitting to rest and noticing a mouse who gnawed through the fabric of the bag of corn.  The mouse took one piece of corn, and went across the floor and out the door and off into the fields to its burrow, and then came back across the fields through the door and across the floor to the bag where it took a second piece of corn and went across the floor…and so on for a third piece of corn and a fourth piece of corn and a fifth piece of corn.  She went on in this way through the day until the sun went down.

The King agreed that she had done all three tasks, and she came to live in the palace and advised the King for his whole long life.