George Herzog and Harold Courlander
Once, not far from the city of Acera on the Gulf of Guinea, a country man went out to his garden to dig up some yams to take to market. While he was digging one of the yams said to him:
“Well, at last you’re here. You never weeded me, but now you come around with your digging stick. Go away and leave me alone!”
The farmer turned around and looked at his cow in amazement. The cow was chewing her cud and looking at him. “Did you say something?” he asked.
The cow kept on chewing and said nothing, but the man’s dog spoke up.
“It wasn’t the cow who spoke to you,” the dog said. “It was the yam. The yam says leave him alone.”
The man became angry, because his dog had never talked before, and he didn’t like his tone besides. So he took his knife and cut a branch from a palm tree to whip his dog. Just then the palm tree said: “Put that branch down!” The man was getting very upset about the way things were going, and he started to throw the palm branch away, but the palm branch said:
“Man, put me down softly!” He put the branch down gently on a stone, and the stone said: “Hey, take that thing off me!” This was enough, and the frightened farmer started to run for his village. On the way he met a fisherman going the other way with a fish trap on his head.
“What’s the hurry?” the fisherman asked. “My yam said, ‘Leave me alone!’ Then the dog said, ‘Listen to what the yarn says!’ When I went to whip the dog with a palm branch the tree said, ‘Put that branch down!’ Then the palm branch said, ‘Do it softly!’ Then the stone said. Take that thing off me!”‘
“Is that all?” the man with the fish trap asked. “Is that so frightening?”
“Well,” the man’s fish trap said, “did he take it off the stone?” “Wah!” the fisherman shouted. He threw the fish trap on the ground and began to run with the farmer, and on the trail they met a weaver with a bundle of cloth on his head.
“Where are you going in such a rush?” he asked them. “My yam said, ‘Leave me alone!” the farmer said. “The dog said, ‘Listen to what the yam says!’ The tree said, ‘Put that branch down!’ The branch said, ‘Do it softly!’ And the stone said, Take that thing off me!”‘
“And then,” the fisherman continued, “the fish trap said, ‘Did he take it off?”‘
“That’s nothing to get excited about,” the weaver said, “no reason at all.”
“Oh yes it is,” his bundle of cloth said. “If it happened to you you’d run too!”
“Wah!” the weaver shouted. He threw his bundle on the trail and started running with the other men.
They came panting to the ford in the river and found a man bathing.
“Are you chasing a gazelle?” he asked them. The first man said breathlessly: “My yam talked at me, and it said, ‘Leave me alone!’ And my dog said, ‘Listen to your yam!’ And when I cut myself a branch the tree said, ‘Put that branch down!’ And the branch said, ‘Do it softly!’ And the stone said. Take that thing off me!”‘ The fisherman panted: “And my trap said, ‘Did he?”‘ The weaver wheezed:
“And my bundle of cloth said, ‘You’d run too!”‘ “Is that why you’re running?” the man in the river asked.
“Well, wouldn’t you run if you were in their position?” the river said.
The man jumped out of the water and began to run with the others. They ran down the main street of the village to the house of the chief. The chiefs servants brought his stool out, and he came and sat on it to listen to theircomplaints. The men began to recite their troubles.
“I went out to my garden to dig yams,” the farmer said, waving his arms. “Then everything began to talk! My yam said, ‘Leave me alone!’ My dog said, ‘Pay attention to your yam!’ The tree said, ‘Put that branch down!’ The branch said, ‘Do it softly!’ And the stone said, Take it off me!”‘
“And my fish trap said, ‘Well, did he take it off?”‘ the fisherman said.
“And my cloth said, ‘You’d run too!”‘ the weaver said.
“And the river said the same,” the bather said hoarsely, his eyes bulging.
The chief listened to them patiently, but he couldn’t refrain from scowling.
“Now this is really a wild story,” he said at last. “You’d better all go back to your work before I punish you fordisturbing the peace.”
So the men went away, and the chief shook his head and mumbled to himself, “Nonsense like that upsets the community.”
“Fantastic, isn’t it?” his stool said. “Imagine, a talking yam!”
Respond: What were your feelings about the characters who heard the things talking? Explain
 Why does the man cut a branch from the palm tree?
 Interpret: Why does the man want to whip his dog?
 What is the fisheman’s first response when he hears the farmer’s story?
 Interpret: Why doesn’t fisherman become frightened when he hears the farmer’s story?
 Draw Conclusions: Why does the fisheman only become frightened after his fish trap talks to him?
 How does the chief react when the men tell him what happen to them?
 Speculate: How do you think the chief reacted when he heard the stool talk?
Is knowledge the same as understanding?
 What serious message do you think this folk tale might convey?
 Why might the author have chosen humrous writing to convey this message?
Comparing Humorius Writing
 Use a chart like the one shown to identify at least one example of hyperbole, one example of understatement, and one example of comic diction in each piece of the writing
 Explain how each example adds to the humor of the writing.
Type The Talk Talk
Compare the use of informal, colloquial language in the two stories.
How does this diction add to the humor?
Would you describe the humor of these selections as harsh or gentle?
Explain your answers using details from the texts.