Once upon a time there lived a young man called Metekù. Even
though he was an orphan, his neighbours wanted to get rid of him.
One day when he was out, the neighbours killed his only bull and divided the meat between them. To make it clear that the bull hadn't been killed by hyenas, they left its hide on his doorstep. He knew who his enemies were but, without a word, he left the village to sell the hide. Nobody wanted to buy it. He wandered around for a week until the hide was dry. Taking advantage of his absence, the neighbours burned his house down. Metekù began walking home. Before he reached his village, it got dark, so he climbed a tree to sleep out of reach of the hyenas and other wild beasts.
A group of merchants and their camels had decided to sleep under that very tree because it stood near a spring. During the night, Metekù made strange noises tossing and turning as he slept because he was using the hide as his mattress. The merchants, not imagining there was a man above them in the tree, thought it was the devil - and they fled, leaving all their goods behind.
Metekù had no idea why they'd gone, but fearing their return, he waited for three days. Once he realised they had no intention of coming back, he decided to take all their valuables to the market town, and he became rich in the space of a few days. When he returned to his village, he bore no anger, despite what his neighbours had done, and he built himself a house as big as the king's. He invited the whole village to his housewarming, including the neighbours, and they asked him how he made his fortune. Metekù replied, 'It's all thanks to the hide of my bull'. And so, in order to be as rich as him, they decided to slaughter their own bulls and sell their hides. But they were unable to sell them for more than they were worth.
Then one of them thought that if they burned down their houses, they'd be as rich as Metekù. So, everyone burned their houses down. But no such luck. Homeless and poor, they had to beg for alms. But Metekù took pity on them and he built them new homes.
News of the wisdom and generosity of Metekù spread far and wide. A young princess asked her father if she could meet him.
When they met, the princess was struck not only by his wisdom, but also by his beauty. And she married him, even though he had never performed a single heroic deed.
The literal translation of this poem was made by Andre Naffis-Sahely
The final translated version of the poem is by The Poetry Translation Workshop
© Poetry Translation Centre 2004-2015