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The Wise Chief and His Wife
Based On a Folktale From Africa
There was once a village with a very wise chief. All the people in the village brought their problems to him. This pleased the chief greatly. He was proud that the villagers respected his wisdom.
One day, an old man came to see the chief. “My four goats have been stolen!” he cried. “I am sure my neighbour did it. Please help me.”
The chief sent for the neighbour. When he arrived, the chief asked him if he had stolen the goats. “Certainly not!” exclaimed the neighbour. “I would never steal.”
The chief saw that this would be a difficult problem to solve, but this pleased him. Once again he would use his wisdom to find a solution and, once again, the villagers would be impressed by how wise he was.
The chief thought for a moment and said, “I will give you a question to answer.” He turned to the old man. “If you give me the best answer, I will order your neighbour to give you four goats.” Then he turned to the neighbour and said, “If you come up with the best answer, you may keep all your goats.”
The old man and his neighbour agreed to the chief’s plan. “Here is the question,” announced the chief. “What is the fastest thing in the world? Do not come back until you have an answer. Do not ask anyone for help.” The two men went home, scratching their heads and wondering what the best answer might be.
The old man could not think of an answer, so he asked the question to his daughter Shamika, who was both wise and beautiful. Right away, she came up with an answer. The old man was sure it was the best answer to the question.
The very next morning, the old man went to see the chief. “The question is not that difficult,” the old man replied. “Time is the fastest thing in the world. It always goes too fast and we never have enough of it.”
“Is this your own answer?” asked the chief. “If you lie, you will be punished.”
The old man confessed. “My daughter Shamika helped me. She is very wise.”
“Her answer is an excellent one,” said the chief. “I would like to meet this daughter who is so very wise.”
Soon after, the old man presented Shamika to the chief. The chief was impressed by both her wisdom and her beauty. He asked Shamika to marry him, and she accepted.
“There is one rule,” said the chief. “You must not interfere with problems the villagers bring to me.” The chief did not want people to think there was anyone in the village as wise as he was. “When we are married, everything in my house will be yours. But if you break this rule, I will send you back to your father.”
Shamika agreed, and soon after the two were married.
Before long, two boys in the village came to the chief with a problem. Each boy claimed that the other had stolen one of his sheep. Shamika could tell right away which boy was lying, but she said nothing. The chief gave them a question to answer, and sent them home to think. Shamika went to the boy who had told the truth and gave him an answer to the chief’s question, even though she knew she should not.
The next morning, the boy told the chief the answer Shamika had given him. “Is this your own answer?” asked the chief. “If it is not, I will punish you.”
The boy admitted that he had learned the answer from Shamika. The chief was furious. “I told you all that I have is yours,” he said to Shamika, “yet you broke the one rule I gave you. You must return to your father’s house.”
Shamika asked if she could make the chief one final meal. “Fine,” said the chief. “Then take whatever you want and leave my house.”
Shamika prepared a huge feast of all the chief’s favourite dishes. The chief ate until he could eat no more, and then he fell into a deep sleep.
With the help of some villagers, Shamika carried the sleeping chief to her father’s house. When the chief woke, he demanded to know what was going on.
“You said I could take whatever I wanted,” said Shamika. “The only thing I wanted was you.”
“Where could I find a wife so loving and so wise?” said the chief. “You may return to my home with me. Only a fool would send you away, and I am much too wise to do that.”
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1. Why was the chief happy when the old man and his neighbour presented him with a difficult problem to solve?CorrectIncorrect
2. The chief was interested in meeting Shamika because she was wise. Why did the chief not want Shamika to display her wisdom by helping with the problems that the villagers brought to him?CorrectIncorrect
3. Why did Shamika give one of the boys an answer to the question the chief asked, when by doing so she was breaking the chief’s rule?CorrectIncorrect
4. Who do you think is wiser—the chief or Shamika? Explain your answer.
Great answer!Great answer!
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5. The chief was happy Shamika was wise and broke his rule.CorrectIncorrect