BACKGROUND
A story told by Barnaba Lual Madut,
from the Dinka Tribe of South Sudan
 

A long time ago there were some friends. Their names were Deng and Deng. One day the first Deng went into the forest with the second Deng's spear. He found a snake in the bush. It was a very big snake; it was the biggest snake he ever saw. It wanted to eat Deng; its mouth was wide open. When he saw the snake was powerful and it wanted to eat him, he wanted to run away. The snake was going fast.

Deng said, "I have no reason to run anymore. The small weapon I have, I can use to fight this snake." Now, he knew his friend, the second Deng, had given him that spear and that spear was sharp. He shot the snake and the snake had no more power to fight Deng. He got sick because Deng hit him. The snake ran away from Deng back to his hole in the ground, the spear on his back. After that the first Deng come back home. He looked at his hand and the spear of the second Deng was gone. He said to himself, "I lost my friend's spear." Again, he says to himself, "It is not a big deal because that spear belonged to my friend."

When he met the second Deng he said, "Where is my spear?"

The first Deng said, "I was across the bush and I met a snake. When I wanted to run there was no place to run and the snake wanted to eat me. I fought him with your spear and he went into his hole with it. I waited but he did not come back and his hole was not big enough to go into and bring out that spear."

After that the second Deng said, "I cannot hear that from you. That is my spear; I want it right now."

The first Deng said, "You are my friend and I lost your spear. What shall I do?"

The second Deng said, "It is up to you, but I need my spear right now."

The first Deng said, "I know where you bought that spear, I will go and buy one for you. I think it will be good for me to pay you back your spear."

The second Deng said, "I don't want anything to pay me back, I need only my spear."

The first Deng said, " If you don't want money to buy your spear, what will be the solution?"

The second Deng said, "I need my spear and that will be the solution."

The Deng who lost the spear said, "You take me to the one who made the spear and I will have him make you a new spear."

But the second Deng said, "No, I want my spear."

The first Deng said, "There is no solution now. I will be back to the bush." He went and found the big hole where he fought the snake. He remembered the place and thought, "If the snake kills me, it is no problem because the one who dies today is like the one who dies tomorrow." So he went inside the hole and found the snake was still in the hole and he was still alive. The snake watched Deng and had a lot of light in his eye. The hole was dark. The snake was quiet because it is the first time that a man came to his house. He watched the man go to where he put the spear in the snake. He took the spear and came back out of the hole. The snake did not fight him anymore and was just quiet. He brought the spear back to his friend and said, "Is it this one?"

His friend said, "Yes it is. You are really my friend."

The first Deng gave the spear back to the second Deng and said, "Thank you and we shall meet anytime. And do not forget what you have done to me." Bad background came between them at that time.

The first Deng, who lost the spear, said he must take a journey and travel to Khartoum. He said, "When I come back I will see you anytime."

The bad Deng said, "Go ahead, we will meet anytime." After that, the Deng who remained home, his sister died. Deng needed a cow skin to bury his sister in. They brought out the cow skin of the Deng who went to the city. He used the cow skin to sleep. They dug a hole and put the dead sister of the Deng who remained on the cow skin of the Deng who went to the city and they covered her with dirt.

Now, the other Deng came back from the city and they said, "Your friend's sister died."

The Deng who had the journey to the city and came back to the village cried. He did not like for his friend's sister to die like that. It became the time for sleeping and he said, "Where is my cow skin that I use to sleep with?"

Some friends said, "You ask who? The one who controls your mattress is your friend Deng."

He said, "My friend, where is my cow skin for sleeping? It is you who remained with my mattress for sleeping."

The second Deng said, "My sister died and I put my sister on that skin and used your skin in the hole."

The first Deng said, "Nothing like that man. I need my skin."

He said "It is not at all, it is in the hole, it is broken with the dead people."

The first Deng said "I don't want to hear that word from you. You know what you did to me last time when I got back to the forest with that snake. So in any case right now I need my skin."

The second Deng said "Can I kill my cow and I give you my skin?"

He said, "No, I need my skin."

The second Deng said, "You have become tit for tat."

The first Deng said, "Of course because last time with the snake in the bush you could not be sure what would happen to me. So right now you will try your best to bring back my skin. I don't want different skin. Before, you needed your spear. It is the same now. I need my cow skin."

So the second Deng went to the hole where his sister died and dug up the cow skin and he give it to the first Deng. He said, "That is what you want but it is not good."

The first Deng said, "Yes, that is what I want." Then he went and threw it away because it was not good. So now they have background and tit for tat. Then they are not friends anymore because of bad history.

So that is why we don't like to have background. And it is where forgiveness to the enemy comes from. You can loose somebody's property and they will say "no problem," because asking to "pay me back" is going to make background and tit for tat.

So this history I hear from my Grandfather. They say background don't do it, it is not good.

 

 


Story used by permission.
Copyright 2004 BCDEnterprises
. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise specifically stated, all photos and graphics are original work by Barbara Rose --
written permission required to use them.

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