AT 513

Ein bato ki té koné navigué on la terre com on la mer

Once there was a king; he and his queen had just one girl, who was pretty — but pretty! Prettiness could go no further.

All the sons of the other kings in the neighborhood, as well as the generals, colonels and corporals all wanted to marry her. But this king didn’t want that, no indeed! He didn’t want to hear any arguments that would separate him from his daughter. But I’ll tell you-all, I believe the daughter herself did want to leave home. There was a young carpenter who worked on the king’s house, who was a much finer fellow than all those princes. He had already admired the princess, and she had looked him over too. Then they went to making sweet-eyes - no joking about it and then, you hear me, they got secretly engaged.

People were after the king and queen so much that he put a notice in the paper to say that he would give his daughter to the one that could make him a gift of a boat that would go on both land and sea [ein bato ki té koné navigué on la terre com on la mer]. All the princes and their young companions got tool boxes, ran into the woods, and started chopping trees to build some boats.

When they were all working harder than horses, an old one-eyed black man came into the woods, asking for charity. He had nothing on but old rags, which stank worse than an alligator. Those princes held their noses and said, “Pooh! On your way, you old crocodile!”

The young carpenter had stopped work and was about to eat his dinner when the old man came up to him: “Hey, old grandpaw, you got here just in time. Sit down on my logs and we’ll eat together.” When they had finished, the old man took out a clay pipe from his pocket and started to smoke. He blew out a big cloud of smoke and it smelled of roses, jasmine and violets. A wind then started to blow and — Vroup! it drove away all the smoke. Then what do you think the carpenter saw? Instead of the old man, there was a pretty fairy seated in a gilt buggy drawn by pigeons. She had a diamond wand in her hand and she said to the young carpenter, “My son, you have a good heart, a better than any young man in this district, so you will get what you deserve.”

She tapped the wood with her wand and it turned into a boat, a finer one you-all never saw, with a crew and all you need to sail off. Then she introduced the ship’s officers to the young carpenter. “This one is a good marksman. He can fire anywhere and hit anything. This other one is ‘Good Diver’. He can dive into the sea and bring up anything you want. The next is ‘Good Runner,’ who goes like the wind and can circle the world like a telegraph. This other one is ‘Good Listener,’ who puts his ear to the ground and hears all that’s going on everywhere. The other members of the crew don’t have to receive orders, they can guess whatever you want done and wherever you want to go. With these you will win the king’s daughter.”

The fairy went off into the air and the young carpenter got on board and blew the whistle the fairy had given him. They immediately set off to meet the king. Once arrived, everyone came on board to try out the ship. But the king was sad at the thought of giving up his daughter, and when they reached the sea he told his wife to throw her diamond ring into the water. Having thrown it, she began to cry and say she would never give up her daughter unless someone returned her ring. This made the young carpenter feel awful, but Good Diver came and told him he was able to recover the ring immediately. He jumped in, boudjoum! like a big bullfrog, and in five minutes returned the ring to the queen. Then they turned the ship about and the carpenter went to talk to the king. The king declared, “I have another thing to request before I give you my daughter. The queen wants the feathers of a bird of paradise, so go hunting and kill the bird, then bring it to me, and then you will have my daughter.”

This saddened the young carpenter, but before he had a moment to think about it Good Marksman said, “That’s just my kind of business.” He called Good Runner and went outside. He aimed carefully toward the land of Paradise and fired. Boom! Then Good Runner left at a run to fetch the bird, but Paradise was so far off that Good Runner grew tired and lay down to sleep. Everybody waited, but Good Runner did not come. Good Listener put his ear to the ground and he heard Good Runner snoring a long way off.

He called Good Marksman, who put a little bomb into his gun and aimed it near Good Runner’s ear. The bomb went, “Pralapaow!” and woke Good Runner and he galloped back with the bird of paradise.

The king had nothing left to say, so the young carpenter married that lovely girl, and they had a great wedding, with everything handsome. They would caress each other; they billed and cooed like pigeons going, “Roucoutoucou.”’ Then they had many children, and lived as happy as fishes in the water. My friends, charity always pays, let me tell you!