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A blind man catches a bird

Summary & Comment: Here is a traditonal story of African wisdom and justice. “How do people become friends after they have fought?” DN

Author: Mosala Mufungizi, Nairobi Date Written: 1 March 2008
Primary Category: Culture Document Origin: New People #113 March/April
Secondary Category: -none- Source URL:
Key Words: tradition, story, blind man, justice,

African Charter Article #17: Every individual shall have the right to education, cultural life, and the promotion and protection of values. (Click for full text...)

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A blind man catches a bird

A young man married a woman whose brother was blind. The young man was eager to get to know his new brother-in-law, and so he invited him to go hunting with him. The young man led the blind man off into the bush. He told his sighted brother-in-law  many things about the sounds that they heard around them. Because he had no sight, he had great ability to interpret the noise made by animals in the bush. The young man was impressed at the blind man’s ability to understand the bush.

They walked on for several hours, until they reached a place where they could set their traps. The blind man followed the other’s advice, and put his trap in a place where birds might come for water. The other man put his trap a short distance away, taking care to disguise it so that no bird would know that it was there. The next day, the blind man was excited at the prospect of having caught something.  “I can hear birds,” he said. When he reached his trap, the young man saw that he had caught a small bird. He took it out of the trap and put it in a pouch he had brought with him. Then the two of them walked towards the blind man’s trap. "There is a bird in it,” he said to the blind man. “You have caught a bird too.”

As he spoke, he felt himself filling with jealousy.  The blind man’s bird was marvellously coloured. The feathers from a bird such as that would make a fine present for his new wife, but the blind man had a wife too, and she would also want the feathers. The young man bent down and took the blind man’s bird from the trap. Then, quickly substituting his own bird, he passed it to the blind man, and put the coloured bird into his own pouch. “Here is your bird,” he said to the blind man.  “You may put it in your pouch.”

The blind man reached out for the bird and took it. He felt it for a moment, his fingers over the wings and the breast. Then, without saying a word, he put the bird into his pouch, and they began their trip home. On the way, they stopped to rest under a broad tree. As they sat there, they talked about many things.  The young man was impressed with the wisdom of the blind man, who knew a great deal. “Why do people fight with one another?” he asked the blind man. It was a question which had always troubled him.

The blind man said nothing for a few moments, but it was clear to the young man that he was thinking.  Then the blind raised his head, and it seemed to the young man as if the unseeing eyes were staring right into his soul. "Men fight because they do to each other what you have just done to me.” The words shocked the young man and made him ashamed. Rising to his feet, he fetched his pouch, took out the brightly coloured bird and gave it back to the blind man. The blind man took the bird, felt over it with his fingers and smiled. “Do you have any other question for me?” he asked. “Yes” said the young man. “How do men become friends after they have fought?” “They do what you have just done,” he said.  “That’s how they become friends again.”

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