How Deer Made a Farmer Rich

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A man went into the forest to make a farm. He chose a fine piece of land, sacrificed a hen, then cut down the bushes and trees and burned them and made his farm. He planted cassava and waited for his crops to grow.

The farmer came to know that a deer walked through his farm every night, disturbing the cassava plants and leaving her footprints in the soil for everyone to see. One night he waited at his farm, and saw the deer approaching.

“O deer!” he cried. “Every night you walk across my farm, treading on my plants and spoiling them. This thing must cease, or there will be palaver.”

“It is my land,” Deer said, “not yours. Long before you came I used to walk through here. You have built your farm across my road. Remove your farm to another place, and I will cease to trouble you.”

The farmer knew he could not move his farm.

“I’ll move my farm here if you’ll remove your footmarks from the soil.”

Deer went around trying to wipe out his footmarks, but he only made more and more. He tried going around backwards and covering his footprints as he went, but only became confused and dizzy. Finally he came back to the farmer and said:

“If I make you rich, will you give your farm and crop to me?” Deer liked cassava very well.

The farmer agreed. “If you make me rich you may do as you wish with my farm.”

“then come with me.” They went together to a distant place, and Deer told the farmer to pass that night asleep on a certain flat rock. The farmer was afraid of the spirits and forest devils who wander abroad at night, but Deer said it was a magic rock and no harm would come to him.

Deer went away, and the man settled down to sleep on the flat rock. Deer went to a nearby town and stole a hamper of kola nuts belonging to the Chief. He kept dropping nuts as he walked back to the farmer, and then stood the hamper against the rock and went away.

In the morning the Chief discovered his kola nuts were stolen and set his warriors to catch the thief. They followed the trail of nuts and found the farmer asleep on his rock, with the stolen hamper beside him. The unfortunate man was taken prisoner and escorted back to town, where he was shut in a narrow prison. He wept, and marveled that gentle Deer could have betrayed him in such a wicked way.

He soon discovered that rats lived in his prison, and he began to hunt them. He had killed six when a snake crawled in through a hole and said:“O Farmer, I see misfortune has come upon you; I learned the news from Deer, who told me to come here and do a certain thing. Give these rats to me, and I will help you.”

The farmer gave him the rats. The snake continued:

“I will bite the Chief’s first son, and he will seem to die. When men think he is dead, take these three leaves and go to him. Place one in his nose, one in his mouth, and the other on his heart, and he will live again. Doubtless some reward will come to you.”

The farmer gladly agreed to do these things, and Snake went away. Soon after the farmer heard sounds of distress in the town, wailing and sounds of sorrow, and the man who brought him food explained that the Chief’s first son had died from the bite of a snake.

“I know something of these things,” the farmer said. “Take me to the boy, and with magic I will heal him.”

The Chief was advised of the farmer’s wish, and permitted him to go forth from the prison to the house where the dead boy lay. The farmer made magic signs, then took his three leaves and placed one in the boy’s nose, one in the mouth, and the third one over his heart; and while he was doing this he also prayed, for he feared to fail and die.

Life returned to the Chief’s first son; he arose and walked, and the town rejoiced. The noise of beating drums, and singing, and the sounds of revelry reached Deer in his distant field, and he knew then the farmer would be safe, and well rewarded.

The happy Chief gave wealth and high position to the poor and lowly farmer, and he lived in luxury until he died.

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