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Auxiris Story from Senegal (8) Story from Senegal 20 Jun 01


LANDING'S FIELD (originally "Le Champ de Landing", translated from collection of stories and legends in French from Senegal, published by Fernand Nathan, editor, 1963)

Dear friends, a long, long time ago, way out in the bush of Casamance, there lived a poor farmer named Landing, who had no land of his own to cultivate. The only land left available was overgrown forest, which was also very far away from the village and it was said to be the property of djinns and devils who forbid anyone to set foot on it. However, Landing, who was living in misery and desperate, called together his friends one day and said:
"I've decided that I'm going to go and clear part of the djinn's forest in order to have a field so I can feed my family by my own efforts and no longer be obliged to live on your charity. Would anyone be willing to come and help me?"
"None of us are crazy enough to do that! The forest djinns have never allowed anyone to touch their land; they'll kill you, your family and certainly anyone foolish enough to help you. We'd prefer to offer you charity rather than help you kill yourselves!"
"In that case, I'll go there with my son", said Landing. "I'd rather die fighting than to live in shame!"

The next day, Landing did exactly as he said. . . he took his machete, his felling axe and his daba (local tool, a type of pickaxe) and started off toward the forest. As soon as he touched the first tree with his axe, there appeared before him a sort of little devil, half red and half black, with an antilope horn on its forehead and a monkey tail trailing behind it.
"What are you doing here?" asked the djinn.
"I've come to clear a part of the forest to have a field so I can grow crops to feed my family", replied Landing.
"Do you know that this forest belongs to us?"
"Yes, I know, but there is no other land to farm and otherwise my family and I will die of hunger."
"We know of lots of other ways to kill you", said the djinn.
"So be it! At least I will have tried my best to earn a living!"
The djinn, surprised by such determination, looked at Landing for a moment without saying anything and then said, "Your courage pleases me. You are the first man who has dared to confront uswithout fear, so we'll give you a chance. However, be advised that we'll never let you do anything alone; we'll help you in all that you do."

The momment the djinn had finished speaking, a swarm of devils sprang out from every part of the forest, from termite hills, hollow trees, rat holes and springs. As soon as Landing had cut a tree with his axe, a hundred devils chopped trees a hundred times and made a hundred wood chips fly. As many trees were chopped down and cleared. That evening, Landing made a large bundle of branches that he loaded on his head to take home to his wife. As he came in sight of his hut, he found a hundred bundles already piled up. His friends were waiting for him and were thus obliged to believe his story of the djinn's help. But the wise man of the village did not share the other's enthusiasm.
"Landing; devils are called devils for the very good reason that they know all kinds of mischief and devilment! Perhaps they are only playing with you. Be careful. As long as the millet is not harvested, the devils aren't working for you."
The next day, Landing went back to the field. He didn't see anyone and started working right away. He took his daba and began to tear out the brushwood and undergrowth. As soon as Landing got to work, a hundred devils with a hundred dabas began to rip out undergrowth, each trying to outdo the others in such as way that by that evening, the field was reduced to a mass of branches and roots. That night, Landing expressed his delight in front of his friends, who were more and more surprised indeed. Only the old man repeated his advice from the day before:
"As long as your millet is not harvested and safely stored, you are in danger of working for the devils. He who has a devil for friend should only sleep with one eye shut!"
The next day, Landing made a pile of underbrush and set it on fire in order to use the ashes to enrich the soil. Like the previous days, a hundred devils appeared with their pitchforks and soon a hundred piles of underbrush became a hundred bonfires and by nightfall, the entire field was completely cleared and covered with a layer of ash, ready to be cultivated. Now Landing had the best field of anyone in the village and he laughed to himself at his friend's fear of devils. But the wise man was unrelenting:
"Landing, my friend, when the millet is safely stored in your grain bin, I'll admit I was wrong. But only when the millet in stored in your grain bin!"
Several days later, the first rainfalls heralded the planting season. Landing went to his field, followed by his wife, carrying a huge calabash of seeds on her head. Landing made a hole and his wife threw in three seeds. Immediately, a hundred devils appeared, followed by a hundred she-devils and each time Landing made a hole, each time his wife threw in three seeds, a hundred devils made a hundred holes and a hundred she-devils threw in seeds. In an hour, the entire field was planted and Landing returned to the village before everyone else.
"I have a hundred servants in my field. Next year, I'll extend my fields. . . "
"Landing, my friend", said the wise man, "Wait until you've eaten this year's millet before you talk about what you'll do next year!"
Nevertheless, the rains came, the millet germinated and grew marvellously well. Whenever it was necessary to do any work in the fields, such as weeding or hoeing, as soon as Landing began to do anthing at all, a hundred devils appeared and weeded or hoed, each trying to outdo the others and in a twinkling, all the work was done. Landing was entirely confident in his helpers. . .
"These djinns are good devils and I'll do everything I can so that others show them proper respect!"
But the wise man continued to say:
"As long as the millet isn't stored in your grain bin, it's too soon to give thanks."
Finally, each stalk was heavy with tassles of grain. Birds invaded the field and Landing sent his son to protect the crop. Perched on a watchtower, the child made a slingshot and began to aim stones at the birds. Instantly, the hundred devils appeared and each one called his ten children, so that a thousand little devils swinging a thousand slingshots killed every bird in the countryside in a few minutes, thus protecting Landing's crop. During the days that followed, since all the birds were dead, the boy began to get bored and, like any child who is bored, thought of making a flute. He cut a stalk of millet and, after choosing the straightest part, he made a three-note flute and began to play.
You can guess what happeded next.
A hundred devils, a hundred she-devils and their thousand little devils invaded the field, cutting the stalks to make flutes and began, in the midst of the ravaged field, the most diabolic concert you could hope to hear! Alerted by the infernal racket, Landing and the other villagers ran to the field. In view of the devastated crop, the farmer realised right away what had happened and cried:
"Cursed child! You've destroyed our entire crop!"
He took a stick and began to beat his son. Immediately, a hundred devils began to beat the poor child with their sticks. The villagers tried to intervene, but as soon as they did, the field burst into flame. All they had time to do was save themselves. The devils, she-devils and little devils disappeared and all you could hear was the far-off sound of a flute. As he carried his half-dead son back to the village, Landing thought of what the wise man had said:
"Landing, as long as you haven't harvested the millet and stored it in your grain bin, you don't know who the devils are working for!"
This is why you'll still find forests in Casamance that have never been cleared. In order to farm them, you'd need the devils on your side.
But those who bargain with the devil don't need to cultivate fields.

I know it's a longer story than usual and hopefully the cut-and paste bit worked this time and it hasn't cut things off in the middle, but perhaps if I type in enough drivel and the end it will only cut off the useless junk I've typed in after the story and blah,


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