The Deadly Oracle

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The Chief of the land was Ozeky, and his daughter was the wisest of all women. Her name was Tua, and she knew all things and such as the breadth of her wisdom that she became an oracle. The Chief announced that any man who asked a question which she could not answer would be given half the chiefdom; but if the question was well answered he would die.

By river in this land a woman lived with her three sons; they were poor, and rarely had enough to eat. The oldest of the three sons said:

“Mother, I go to win half Chief Okaku’s chiefdom; I shall ask Tua such a question as even she can never answer.”

“My son,” she said, “think well before you go. Wiser men than you have died already.”
But he went. He said to Tua:

“What causes Nefegboi, the yard snake, to bite a man?” The meaning of this was: What is the common cause of a man’s misfortune? Tua answered him:

“Because Nyimi, the black snake, hangs something on that man’s throat.” This meant: Because a man is often betrayed the loose tongue of a friend.

The oldest of the three sons died. The second son them came and said:
“Before God we are fools. What causes the vanity of men?”

Tua answered him:

“Tintala the cricket depends on heat to give a Bolon cry, and all heat comes from God.” The Bolon cry is a signal used by the Bore Society; and the answer meant: Men depend on emotion when they boast and man’s emotions are made by God. The question had been answered and the second son died.

The youngest of the three sons then begged his mother that he might go to Tua, but she would not let him go.

“If you want to be killed I would rather see you die before my eyes,” she said, “thank think of you lying dead in a distant place.”

He begged her day and night for permission to go to Tua, and after man weeks she grew weary and resigned to his early death.

“If you must go, my only so in, then go, but unwillingly I say it. Your brothers have died and so will you, and there will be nothing left.”

She made dough from crushed corn and cooked it with strong poison, and gave it to him for food along the way; for she would rather bury him herself than have him die in a distant place. The young man set out with his dog, and when he came to the river nearby he sat down to wait for the ferry-canoe to come. He took out the corn cake and gave a piece to his do. The dog ate, and died.

“Dead?” the young man muttered. “Is this an omen? It would seem to be an evil one.”

He put the dog in the river. An eagle flew down and alighted on the bloating body. Bird and dog drifted down the river out of sight. The young man went to Tua, and he said:

“Dough killed dog, and the dead carried the living. What does this mean?

Tua considered the question for three days, and could find no answer. The third son lived, for the death of his dog had saved him. Chief Ozeky gave him half his lands, and he mourned his brothers but lived in peace and plenty with his mother until she died.

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