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Mabouya, Chief of the Well

Adapted from a Haitian tale.

To whom does the water belong?

There was once a drought in the country. The streams dried up and the wells went dry. God saw there was no place for the animals to drink. God provided a well with the condition that it must be taken care of so all may use it. God said, "You'll have to take good care of my well. One of you will have to be caretaker. The caretaker will stay by the well at all times to see that no one abuses it or makes it dirty."

Mabouya, the lizard spoke up saying, "I will be the caretaker."

God looked at all the animals. He said at last, "Mabouya, the lizard, will be the caretaker. The well is over there in the mango grove."

The others animals went away. Mabouya went directly to the well. When the other animals began to come back for water, Mabouya challenged them. First the cow came to drink. The lizard sang out in a big voice:
"Who is it? Who is it? Who is walking in my grove?"

The cow replied: "It is I, the cow, I am coming for water."

Mabouya called back: "Go away! This is God's grove, and the well is dry."

So the cow went away and suffered from thirst.

Then the horse came and Mabouya challenged him, saying:
"Who is walking in my grove?"

The horse answered: "I am the horse and, I am coming for water."

And Mabouya called back:" Go away! This is God's grove, And the well is dry."

So the horse went away and he too suffered from thirst.

Other animals came to the well and the lizard challenged all of them in the same way, saying:
"Go away! This is God's grove, and the well is dry."

So the animals went away and suffered much because they had no water to drink.

God saw all the suffering going on and said, "I gave the animals a well to drink from, but they are all dying of thirst. What is the matter?" And God went to the well. 

When the lizard heard footsteps, she called out:
"Who is it? Who is it? Who is walking in my grove?"

God answered: "It is I, Papa God. I am coming for water."

And Mabouya said: "Go away, Papa God. The well is dry."

God was very angry. He said once more:
"It is I, Papa God. I am coming for water."

And the lizard called back again: "Go away, Papa God. The well is dry."

God said no more to the lizard. He sent for the animals to come to the well. He said, "You came to me because you were thirsty and I gave you a well. I made Mabouya the caretaker. But she gave no thought to the suffering creatures all around her. If one has a banana tree in their garden, it is theirs. If one has a cotton tree in their garden, it is theirs. But if one has a well in their garden, only the hole in the ground belongs to that one. The water is God's and belongs to all creatures."

And it is a saying among the people:
"The hole in the ground is yours,
The water is God's."

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Last updated on Saturday, December 10, 2011.

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