This article was published recently in the ‘Sudan Mirror’ and it is being posted here for the Gurtong readers who have not had the chance to read it.
In Southern Sudan they tell great stories and parables to children, like the one about a big, stupid man. The man lived in every village where the story happens to be told. And of course, like all orally told tales, each storyteller adds his or her own colouring to suit the occasion. So here we go:
There lived an arrogant and stupid giant in this village a long time ago. He was big, powerful, generous with worldly goods and mean in spirit. When he walked through the forest he made his own path. Grass, bushes and young plants trembled under his great feet. Even grown up trees made way for him.
With sticks and spears, his aim was deadly. When he threw a stick at a rabbit or a spear at a gazelle, the target was always as good as dead and it was thought that the animals and the birds he killed were magically drawn to the direction of his weapons.
Lions and leopards kept out of his way or they scattered in fear if he suddenly came upon them. Nevertheless, sometimes he would chase down a pride of lions and slaughter them all, just to prove that he was brave and could do it.
One day, a thorn pierced the sole of his foot. He stood on one leg, pulled out the thorn, flicked it into the bush and went on his way as if nothing had happened. After all, thousands of lesser beings than himself were pierced by thorns every day and never paused to think about it. Why should he? He continued his daily hunt for the products of the forest.
However, two days later he felt a fleeting itch where the thorn had entered the flesh of his foot. He ignored it and went as usual on his daily harvest of the wild. But in the evening the itch came back and he scratched it a bit.
In the morning, he had forgotten all about it as he embarked on his daily routine. But, by the end of that day, a consistent sharp pain was clearly pronounced. He scratched it a little longer than the night before. Still, he went to bed without checking the bother in his foot.
By the end of the fourth day, the pain in his foot was so bad that he found it difficult to put pressure on it without winching. A few of his devoted followers, who shared his loot from the forest, noticed that the giant was in pain, but they dared not ask what was hurting him.
He went to bed but the pain kept him awake all night. Still, in the morning he went on with his hunting routine.
While chasing an antelope through the forest on the fifth day, the pain was so bad that he abandoned the chase and sat on the trunk of a fallen tree. He stretched his foot out on the trunk and ordered one of his men to examine it and report.
"There is reddish spot on your sole, sir", said the man timidly.
"Ok," said the giant, "press your finger on it. Hard!"
The man pressed the spot with his index finger and the giant shook with pain. He roared and slapped the poor man with the back of his great hand and sent him sprawling on the dusty ground.
"What do you think it is?" asked the giant when the poor man managed to pick himself up.
"I think… I think… Sir," he stammered, "it is a thorn, Sir, it is a thorn!"
"A thorn! What thorn?" roared the giant again.
"I don’t know, Sir, but I think it is..."
The giant interrupted: "I pulled that thorn out five days ago, so it can’t be a thorn!"
"I don’t know, Sir, I don’t know..."
"Look man! Look! Find out what it is. If it is a thorn, pull it out and let me see!"
The man broke off a sharp thorn from a thorn bush and used it as a needle to dig at the spot where the thorn had pierced the foot of the giant. He was sweating profusely.