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“Help me,”
the old man begged. “My neighbor has stolen from me.”
The paramount chief
gladly listened. It pleased him that others recognized his wisdom. “What
exactly is the problem?” questioned the chief.

“My neighbor stole
my goats. I’m a poor man, too poor to replace them.”
“And what do you
have to say?” the chief asked the man’s neighbor.
“I don’t know what
he is talking about,” answered the neighbor. “I have many goats but
none of them belong to this man.”
This would not be an
easy problem to settle. The paramount chief would have to rely on his wisdom.
It was the kind of problem he enjoyed the most.
“I have a test for
you,” announced the chief. “Whoever passes the test will own the
goats. Go home until you can answer this for me. I want to know what is the
fastest thing in the world. Do not return until you have my answer.”
The two men left
shaking their heads. Who could answer that question?
The old man repeated
the question to his daughter, Ziah. She was as beautiful as she was wise. Right
away, she whispered the answer that would please the chief. The old man
returned to the chief the following morning.
The chief was
surprised. “You already have an answer for my question?”
replied the old man, “it was not difficult.”
“And what is the
fastest thing in the world?”
answered the old man. “We never have enough of it. It always goes too
fast. There is never enough time to do all that we want to do.”
The answer amazed the
paramount chief. He wasn’t sure if he himself could have answered the question
as well. “Who helped you? Who gave you these words?” demanded the
“They are my own
words, my own thoughts,” lied the old man. “There is no one else who
helped me.”
“If you are not
telling the truth, I will punish you,” warned the chief.
The old man was too
afraid to continue the lie. “It was my daughter, Ziah, who gave me the
words,” he confessed. “She is a very wise woman.”
“She must
be!” thought the chief. “I would like to meet this woman.”
Not long after that the
old man presented his daughter Ziah to the paramount chief. If the chief was
amazed with her wisdom, he was captivated by her beauty. “You are indeed a
wise and lovely woman. I would be honored to have you as my wife. Will you
marry me?”
“The honor is mine,”
smiled Ziah.
Although the chief was
pleased, he was also concerned about having such a wise wife. He did not want
her to interfere with the problems brought before him. He didn’t want to share
this honor with anyone, not even his wife.
“Everything in my
house is yours,” declared the chief. “I only have one rule for you.
You must never involve yourself with the problems brought before me. This is
your only warning. If you break this rule, I will send you from my house.”
The chief’s new wife
only smiled at his command.
Things went well for
quite some time. The paramount chief continued to hear people’s problems while
Ziah kept herself busy without becoming involved. Usually she agreed with his
One day, however, the
chief gave one of his puzzles to two boys who argued over a sheep. Ziah knew
she shouldn’t help the boy who really owned the sheep, but he was so upset. She
finally asked him to explain his problem.
“The chief asked
for the impossible,” he sighed. “He gave us an egg and said that
whoever could hatch the egg by tomorrow would own the sheep.”
Ziah knew she shouldn’t
help but the solution was so obvious. “Take some rice to the chief,”
she instructed. “Tell him to plant it today so that in the morning you
will have rice to feed your chicken. He will know that it is just as impossible
to grow rice in one day as it is to hatch an egg that quickly.”
The boy ran to the
chief with the rice. He said exactly the words he was told. The chief was not
impressed; he was angry! “Who told you this? Who gave you the rice?”
he ordered. “These words are too wise for one so young.”
“They are my own
words, my own thoughts,” said the boy too afraid to speak the truth.
“There is no one else who helped me.”
“If you are not
speaking the truth, I will punish you,” warned the chief.
“It was
Ziah!” cried the boy. “She knew you’d understand the wisdom.”
The chief, furious his
wife had broken his only rule for her, called her before him and scolded,
“Didn’t you know all that I have is yours? You have broken the only rule I
had for you. Now, go back to your father’s home.”
“Before I go, may
I fix you one final meal?” asked the woman. “Then, I will take what
is mine and go.”
answered the chief. “Make whatever you want. Take whatever you want. Just
be sure that you do not remain here tonight!”
Ziah prepared the
chief’s favorite meal. She served it with a generous amount of palm wine.
Before the meal was finished, the chief became very drunk and quietly fell
asleep. Ziah’s plans worked exactly as she had hoped.
With her family’s help,
she carried the paramount chief to her father’s home. They placed him on a bed
and he slept soundly through the night. In the morning the chief’s voice boomed
throughout the house. “Where am I? What am I doing here?” he
Ziah entered the room
and grinned. “You said I could take whatever I wanted from your house. I
wanted you and so I took you.”
“You are certainly
a wise woman,” smiled the chief. “Come return with me to our home.
Only a fool would send away such a woman.”
“And you, my
chief, are no fool,” whispered the clever wife.

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