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Auxiris Story: The Magic Drum (16) Story: The Magic Drum 27 Jun 01

THE MAGIC DRUM (Translated from a French language collection of Senegalese stories and legends published by Fernand Nathan, editor, © 1963)

The sun slowly sinks below the horizon, throwing its last flamboyant rays on the vast tamarind growing in the middle of a poor fishing village. Several tumbledown huts bear silent witness to the misery of their inhabitants. Of all the fishermen, Seydou is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the poorest, since the pirogue that he inherited from his father has leaks everywhere, in spite of all the work he has done patching it up and springs a few new leaks each day.

That evening, Seydou has nothing to eat and his stomach complains loudly. At the edge of the river, a tree whose branches hang out over the water is home to numerous birds who have built their nests in it. Seydou thinks for a moment, "Why not climb the tree and gather a few of their eggs, since I have nothing else to calm the discomfort of my empty stomach?"

In a flash, he decides to do exactly that. His coupe-coupe (machete) clenched between his teeth, Seydou climbs the trunk of the tree. When he gets to the first branches, as he tries to use the coupe-coupe to cut them off so he can get by, his knife slips out of his hand and falls into the river. What a stroke of bad luck! Seydou climbs back down and, even though he is well aware of the presence of caimans, he dives into the river courageously, because his family has the gift of being able to speak to caimans and command their respect.

As soon as the fisherman disappears underneath the water illuminated by the rays of the setting sun, he suddenly has an extraordinary feeling of ease and lightness. He dives deeper and deeper, with no effort, in the soft underwater light. At first he swims in the midst of vegetation that is at first aquatic and then terrestrial. The varieties of fish he knows so well are transformed into brightly coloured birds before his eyes and river reeds become a magnificent forest.

Seydou is now walking on a shady path and eventually arrives in a wealthy village where the aspect of the dwellings radiates properity and happiness. He is brought before the headman of the village, who asks him:

"Why have you come here, stranger? There is no place in our village for useless or lazy people."
"I don't want to be useless", said Seydou, "All I want to do is work and food is payment enough for me."
"What do you know how to do?"
"I'm a fisherman," replied Seydou.
"Here we have no river and thus no use for fishermen. However, since you seem to be quick and agile, you could learn to be a shepherd. This is the only work we have to offer."

And so it was. Seydou quickly became the best shepherd in the village. Now, every day he has his ration of honey and curdled milk and he is happy. Nevertheless, the vast plains without any water sadden him. One day, he picks up his walking stick and leaves the village to search for a river. Seydou walks for a long time, day after day, night after night and finally arrives in a village perched on top of a hill and shaded by lemon trees. He has the impression of a very happy place which is also so rich that the King and his subjects live a perpetual state of feasting, music and pleasure.

"I've come to look for work", says Seydou to the King.
"Here, we don't do any work", answers the King, "And we've no need of poor folks in rags like you."
"Well, then, I don't need to work either", replies Seydou, "As long as I'm fed!"
"Your attitude pleases me, noble stranger. I offer you the choice of any of the drums that you see in this room. In our village, music and dancing are the only occupations available. We'll see if you are capable of learning to play the drum. Which drum do you want?"

Seydou, who is humble and modest by nature, chooses the smallest drum.

As no one seems to pay much attention to him, Seydou becomes bored—strange as it may seem, dear friends—in the village full of joy, because dancing and singing all day is even more tiresome than herding cattle or paddling a pirogue on the river. So, Seydou takes to the road again with his little drum under his arm, on his way to other places. . .


Hello, everyone. . . if the end of this doesn't get cut off once again, it's the end of part one simply because I haven't finished translating the rest of the story yet. I hope to have finished it before I go off for the weekend. Now, maybe a bit more blah, blah, blah, patati and patata, blah blah blah, etc., etc., and more patati and patata and once again it will be all right if this silly machine c

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