One Cannot Help an Unlucky Man: A Hausa Folktale

Northern Nigeria (Hausa People)
General Location: Northern Nigeria (Hausa People)

This folktale of the Hausa people tells the story of a hospitably man who just happened to be born poor and unlucky. 

There was once a pauper, who had nothing but husks for himself and his wife to eat. There was another man who had many wives and slaves and children, and the two men had farms close together.

One day a very rich man, richer than either, passed by on the road. Wearing a ragged coat and torn trousers, and a holey cap, the people thought that he was a beggar.

When he had come up close, he said to the rich man, “Hail to you in your work,” but when he had said, “Hail,” the rich man interrupted and barked, “What are you thinking speaking to me, you may be a leper for all we know!”

So he went on, and came to the poor man’s farm, and said, “Hail to you in your work.” The poor man replied, “Um hum,” and said to his wife, “Quick, mix some husks and water, and give him to drink.”

When the very rich man went home he said, “That man who was kind to me I must reward.” So he had a calabash washed well with white earth, and filled up to the top with dollars, and a new mat was brought to close it. Then the very rich man sent his daughter, who carried the Calabash, in front, and when they had arrived at the edge of the bush he said, “Do you see that crowd of people over there working? Bring the calabash to that man working with his wife.”

She approached the poor man, and said, “I bring you this calabash.”

The poor man did not open it to see what was inside; his poverty prevented him. Instead, he said, “Take it to Malam Abba, and tell him to take as much flour as he wants from it, and to give us the rest.”

But Malam Abba saw the dollars inside, and he put them into his pockets, and brought guinea-corn flour and pressed it down in the calabash, Then he said, “Carry it back to him, l have taken some.”

The poor man, when he saw that there was some flour left, said, “Thanks be to God, pour it into our calabash, and depart. I thank you.”

The very rich man had been watching from a distance, and when he saw what had happened he was overcome with rage, and said, “Truly if you put an unlucky man into a jar of oil he would emerge quite dry. I wanted him to have some luck, but God has made him thus.”

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