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Afro-Asian Literature2nd Year UbD


  • 1. The Young Head of the Family (China)There was once a family consisting of a father, his four sons, and his three daughters-in-law.The three daughters-in-law, that is, the wives of the three elder sons, were recently brought into the house, and were all from one village a few miles away. Having no mother-in-law with them in their new home, and being lonesome and homesick for their former families, they constantly bothered the old man by asking permission to visit their former village. Vexed by these continual pleas, he set himself to invent a method of putting an end to them, and at last gave the young women permission in this way: "You are always begging me to allow you to go and visit your mothers, and thinking that I am very hard-hearted because I do not let you go. Now you may go, but only upon condition that when you come back you willeach bring me something I want. One of youshall bring me some fire wrapped inpaper, the other shall bring me some wind in apaper, and the third shall bring me some musicin wind. Unless you promise to bring me these,you are never to ask me to let you go home;and if you go and fail to get these for me,you are never to come back." Theold man did not suppose that these conditions would be accepted, as theywere difficult to understand, much less to fulfill, but the girls were young andthoughtless, and in their anxiety to get away did not consider any of that. Sothey made ready with speed, and in great glee started off on foot to visittheir mothers. After they had walked a long distance; chatting about whatthey should do and whom they should see in their native village, the highheel of one of them slipped from under her foot, and she fell down. Owing tothis mishap they all stopped to adjust the misplaced footgear, and whiledoing this the conditions under which alone they could return to theirhusbands came to mind, and they began to cry. While they sat there crying by the roadside a young girl cameriding along on a water buffalo. She stopped and asked them what was thematter, and whether she could help them. They told her she could do themno good; but she persisted in offering her sympathy and inviting their confidence, till at lastthey told her their story. At once, she said that if they would go home with her she wouldshow them a way out of their trouble. Their case seemed so hopeless, and the girl on thewater buffalo seemed so sure of her own power to help them, that they finally went with her toher fathers house, where she showed them how to comply with their father-in-laws demand.
  • 2. How can the first daughter-in-law bring back fire wrapped in paper? How can the second daughter-in-law bring back wind in a paper? How can the third daughter-in-law bring back music in wind? For the first, a paper lantern would do. When lighted, it would be a fire, and itspaper surface would encompass the blaze, so that it would truly be "some fire wrapped inpaper." For the second, a paper fan would suffice. When flapped,wind would issue from it, and the "wind wrapped in paper" couldthus be carried to the old man. For the third, a set of chimes wouldprovide music in the wind. The three young women thanked the wise child, andwent on their way rejoicing. After a pleasant visit to their homevillage, they took a paper lantern, a fan and a set of chimes, andreturned to their father-in-laws house. As soon as he saw themapproach he began to vent his anger at their light regard for hiscommands, but they assured him that they had perfectly obeyedhim, and showed him that what they had brought fulfilled the conditions required. Muchastonished, he inquired how it was that they had suddenly become so clever, and they toldhim the story of their journey, and of the girl that had so fortunately come to their relief. He inquired whether the girl was already betrothed, and finding that she was not, he engaged a go-between to see if he could arrange for the girl on the water buffalo to marry his youngest son. Having succeeded in securing the girl as a daughter-in-law, he brought her home. The father told all the rest of the family that as there was no mother in the house, and as this girl had shown herself to be possessed of extraordinary wisdom, that she should be the head of the household. Some happy and prosperous years passed, theyoung wife bore many children, and all fared very well in the household.
  • 3. The Empty Pot (China) B Y royal proclamation, the Emperor of China announced a contest to decide the nextheir to the throne. The Emperor was old and had no son, and because he had been a plant-lover for years, he declared that any boy who wanted to be king should come to the palaceto receive one royal seed. Whichever boy could show the best results within six monthswould win the contest and become the next to wear the crown. You can imagine the excitement! Every boy in China fancied himself likely to win.Parents of boys who were talented at growing plants imagined living in splendor at thepalace. On the day the seeds were to be handed out, thick crowds of hopeful boys throngedthe palace. Each boy returned home with one precious possibility in his palm. And so it was with the boy Jun. He was already considered the best gardener inthe village. His neighbors fought over the melons, bokchoy, and snow peas that flourishedfrom his garden. Anyone looking for Jun would probably find him bobbing between his rows,pulling out new weeds, moving one sapling over to catch more morning sun, transplantinganother to the shade. Jun carefully carried the Emperors seed home, sealing it securely inhis hands so it wouldnt fall, but not so tightly that it might crush. At home, he spread the bottom of a flowerpot with large stones, covered thestones with pebbles, then filled the pot with rich black moist soil. He pressed the seed aboutan inch below the surface and covered it with light soil. Over the next few days Jun, alongwith every boy he knew and hundreds he did not know, watered his pot every day andwatched for the telltale unfurling of the first leaf as it burst through the surface. Cheun was the first boy in Juns vilage to announce that his seed was sproutingthrough the soil, and his announcement was met with whoops of excitement andcongratulations. He bragged that he would surely be the next emperor and practiced hisroyal skills by bossing around the younger, adoring children. Manchu was the next boywhose tiny plant had emerged from his pot, then it was Wong. Jun was puzzled - none ofthese boys could grow plants as well as he! But Juns seed did not grow. Soon sprouts emerged from pots all over the village. Boys moved their plantsoutside so the baby leaves could bask in the warmth of the sun. They built stone fencesaround their pots and zealously guarded them from mischievous children who mightaccidentally - or not so accidentally - topple them over. Soon, dozens of sprouts in potsthroughout Juns village were stretching out their first leaves. But Juns seed did not grow. He was confused - what was wrong? Jun carefully repotted his seed into a newpot with the very best and richest black loam from his garden. He crumbled every ball of soilinto tiny particles. He gently pressed in the seed, and kept the top moist and watched the potevery day. Still Juns seed did not grow. Strong, powerful stalks soon emerged from the pots cared for by other boys inJuns village. Jun was thrown into despair. The other boys laughed at him and started tomockingly say "as empty as Juns pot" if there were no treats in their pockets, or if they hadjust finished their bowls of rice. Jun repotted his plant yet again, this time sprinkling dried fishthroughout the soil as fertilizer. Even so, his seed did not grow.
  • 4. Six months passed. The day approached when the boys were supposed to bringtheir plants to the palace for judging. Cheun, Manchu, Wong and hundreds of other boyscleaned their pots till they shone, gently wiped the great leaves till the green veins glistened,and prepared themselves by dressing in their finest clothes. Some mothers or fathers walkedalongside their son to hold the plant upright as he carried the pot to the palace, to keep theplant from tipping over. "Wha