An Ethiopian Folktale: Fire, Water, Truth and Falsehood


Truth, Falsehood, Fire and Water lived together. They went out one day to hunt, and they found many cattle. Afterwards they decided to divide the cattle so that each of them received his share. But Falsehood wanted more for himself, so he went secretly to Water and said:

“You have the power to destroy Fire. If you do this, we can take his part of the cattle. “Water believed what Falsehood said, and he threw himself on Fire and destroyed him. Then Falsehood went to Truth.

“Fire is dead. Water has killed him, and he does not deserve to share with us. Let us take the cattle into the mountains for ourselves.”

So Truth and Falsehood drove the cattle into the mountains. Water saw them go, and he tried to pursue them, but he found he could not run uphill, but only down, and so they escaped. When they arrived at a resting place in the mountains, Falsehood turned to Truth and said:

“Foolish one, I am strong and you are weak: I am the master and you are the servant. Therefore, all the cattle shall belong to me.”

“No,” Truth said, “I am not your servant. It is I who am strong, and therefore, I am the master. “And he went forward and fought with Falsehood. They struggled back-and-forth across the mountain, without either one destroying the other. So at last they went to the Wind and asked him to judge which was right. He listened to their arguments, and then he said:

“It is this way: Truth is destined to struggle with Falsehood. Truth will win, but Falsehood will return, and again Truth must fight as long as time, Truth must fight with Falsehood, because if he does not do so he is lost forever.”

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