Date: Sunday, 08 January 2017
This folktale was first registered by Henry Courlander who was stationed at Gura, which was an Italian supply depot for aircrafts during the World War II. It was occupied by allied troops chiefly the U.S. after the Italians were defeated following the fall Of Keren, ones the stronghold of Italian armies. He was a folklorist and a freelance writer by profession. It was at Gura that he collected the folktales of Eritrea including Ethiopia some of which translated by this author into Tigrigna language upon his kind permission. In 1987, I met him in person in his house located at Bethsaida, Maryland. He provided me ample information on Eritrean literature and folklore. He wrote about forty books including the “The Roots” which was adapted into film, but ended up in a legal debate with Alex Haley due to copyright laws. Mr. Courlander won the law suit, and awarded two million dollars as a fair share from movie and publication income. He passed away peacefully in 1996.
Also, a Tigrina version of this story was first appeared in “ዛንታ ኣርብዓን ኣርብዓተን” by Memhr Issac Teweldemedhin, who was the great educator and the father of Eritrean literature during the Federal Era. You can read the same story in page 23.
The story highlighting the communication problem involved by deafness on one hand, and misconception/prejudice on the other. This story has a lot to do with “Deafness Awareness” campaign in Eritrea without which a deliberate rehabilitative programs are not manageable at all costs.
Justice: The Deaf At The Court
A woman one day went out to look for her goats that had wandered away from the herd. She walked back and forth over the fields for a long time without finding them. She came at last to a place by the side of the road where a deaf man sat before a fire brewing himself a cup of coffee. Not realizing he was deaf, she woman asked:
“Have you seen my herd of goats come this way?”
The woman thanked him and went to the river. And there, by coincidence, she found the goats. But a young kid had fallen among the rocks and broken its foot.
She picked it up to carry it home. As she passed the place where the deaf man sat drinking his coffee, she stopped to thank him for his help. And in gratitude she offered him the kid.
But the deaf man didn’t understand a word she was saying. When she held the kid toward him he thought she was accusing him of the animal’s misfortune, and he became very angry.
“I had nothing to do with it!” he shouted.
“But you pointed the way,” the woman said.
“It happens all the time with goats!” the man shouted.
“I found them right where you said they would be’” the woman replied.
“Go away and leave me alone. I never saw him before in my life!” the man shouted.
People who came along the road stopped to hear the argument.
The woman explained to them:
“I was looking for the goats and he pointed toward the river. Now I wish to give him this kid (baby goat).
“Do not insult me this way!” the man shouted loudly.
“I am not a leg breaker!” And in his anger he struck the woman with his hand.
“Ah, did you see? He struck me with his hand!” The woman said to the people. “I will take him before the judge!”
So the woman with the kid in her arms, the deaf man, and the spectators went to the house of the judge. The judge came out before his house to listen to their complaint. First, the woman talked, then the man talked, then people in the crowd talked. The judge sat nodding his head. But that meant very little, for the judge, like the man before him, was very deaf. Moreover, he was also very nearsighted.
At last, he put up his hand and the talking stopped. He gave them his judgement.
“Such family rows (arguments) are a disgrace to the Emperor and an affront to the church.” He said solemnly. He turned to the man.
“From this time forward, stop mistreating your wife.” he said.
He turned to the woman with the young goat in her arms.
“As for you, do not be so lazy. Hereafter do not be late with your husband’s meals.”
He looked at the baby goat tenderly.
“And for the beautiful infant, may she have a long life and grow to be a joy to you both!”
The crowd broke up and the people went their various ways.
“Ah, how good it is!” they said to each other. “How did we ever get along before justice was given to us?”