Peace Corps Writers
Tales of Wisdom and Cunning
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God, Death, and Winter

This story is part of a collection of folk tales compiled by Admasu Alemu, Bushie Ditto, and Egersa Regasa, three students of the Bekoji School, Arusi Province, Ethiopia, during 1967–68. While some of the other stories were recognizable as having crossed many national and cultural borders, I have never seen any story anywhere else that parallels this one. It would be interesting to know if anyone has found a similar tale. It was told before the famine in Ethiopia, so it relates to general conditions in the past. It seems extraordinary to me that people can be placed in such conditions that stories like this emerge. — Dan Close (Ethiopia 1966–68)

GOD, DEATH, AND WINTER ONE DAY walked a far distance. They were tired and wanted to rest. They came to a house, and God said to the owner, “How are you?”

The owner replied, “Thank God, we are all well.”

Then God said, “The night is coming. Please let us stay in your home.”
Then the man asked, “Who are you? Where do you come from?”

God answered him, “I am the God who made heaven and earth and all things.”

The man stood up and said, “Please go from here. You did not make people equal. You made one rich and then one poor and sick. For this reason I do not want you to stay in my house.”

And God and Death and Winter walked again a far distance.

Soon they came to another house. God and Death sent Winter.

Winter went to the man’s home and said, “Please let us stay in your house. The day has been converted into night.”

The man asked, “What is your name? Where do you come from?”

“My name is Winter. I have come a far distance to meet all the people.”

The villager said, “You are a bad person. You made one country desert and another country rainy and you dropped much snow and ice on the people. We don’t want you to stay here. Go somewhere else.”

Then Winter went away and told God and Death about his journey.

Then God and Winter sent Death to the villagers.

Death went to them and said, “The night is coming. Please let me and my friends stay in your homes this night.”

The villagers asked, “Who are you? What is your name? Where do you come from?”

“My name is Death.”

The owners of the houses said, “Come in, please, and bring your friends. You do not choose poor and rich. You make all men equal. You do not make one country desert and another country cold. You make all countries equal.”

That night men held Death in high honor. Death does not lie. Death is true.

  Dan Close served for two years as an English and mathematics teacher, 7th and 8th grade level, in Bekoji. He is now living in Underhill, Vermont, where he is involved in real estate and politics. He has just finished the 2nd draft of a novel set in 1895 Ethiopia.
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