Saturday, January 4, 2014
The Talking Skull
a Nigerian folk tale, translated by Leo Frobenius and Douglas G. Fox
A hunter goes into the bush. He finds an old human skull. The hunter says: “What brought you here?” The skull answers: “Talking brought me here.” The hunter runs off. He runs to the king. He tells the king: “I found a dry human skull in the bush. It asks you how its father and mother are.”
The king says: “Never since my mother bore me have I heard that a dead skull can speak.” The king summons the Alkali, the Saba, and the Degi and asks them if they have ever heard the like. None of the wise men has heard the like, and they decide to send guards out with the hunter into the bush to find out if his story is true and, if so, to learn the reason for it. The guards accompany the hunter into the bush with the order to kill him on the spot should he have lied.
The guards and the hunter come to the skull. The hunter addresses the skull: “Skull, speak.” The skull is silent. The hunter asks as before: “What brought you here?” The skull does not answer. The whole day long the hunter begs the skull to speak, but it does not answer. In the evening the guards tell the hunter to make the skull speak, and when he cannot, the guards kill the hunter in accordance with the king’s command.
When the guards are gone, the skull opens its jaws and asks the dead hunter’s head: “What brought you here?” The dead hunter’s head replies: “Talking brought me here!”