A long time ago there was a young man who kept cattle. One day he took his cows for grazing and on his way to the grazing field he found a skull that looked very beautiful. He stood and watched it for a while and said, “Oh my God, but why are you killing such beautiful people?” He then continued with his grazing.
The next day he also came and repeated his question. Suddenly, as he was about to move on, he heard the skull reply, “Oh my dear, I died because of lies!” The man was surprised and dashed away immediately as if he heard nothing.
On the third day, he used the same route and, as he had done on the first day, he asked his question. The skull responded as it had done on the second day.
Oh my dear, I died because of lies!
The man ran home and told the story to the chief and the soldiers. Nobody believed him, but the young man insisted, telling them that it was true. He told them, “If you think it is a lie, come with me and witness for yourselves!”
The chief asked him, “What if it proves to be false? What do you want us to do to you?”
The man replied boldly, “You have to kill me!”
The chief ordered his soldiers to follow, and to do as he had agreed with the young man.
The soldiers went with the young man, and when they reached the place of the skull he said, “Here is the skull and now let me talk as I did in the previous days.” So he talked to the skull and the skull did not reply.
The soldiers told him, “Look young man, you have lied to our chief and now we are going to kill you as you have said we should.” So the soldiers killed him.
As they were about to go back to the village they suddenly heard a voice saying, “This is what I told you young man, and now you have also died as I died.
The soldiers murmured to themselves and decided not to go and tell the king what had happened. They too feared what would happen to them if they told the chief the truth, and so they only told him, “The man has lied to all of us! and we have killed him as you agreed and told us to do.”
1) Do you think that the truth will always come out/prevail? Does that give you hope or make you afraid?
2) What matters most in this story, truth or power? What should matter most in the world, truth or power?
Folktales Collected in Renk
Folktales Collected in Pibor
Folktales Collected in Bentiu
Folktales Collected in UNMISS PoC site, Juba
The Story of the Young Man and the Skull
Enjoyed The Story of the Young Man and the Skull? Listen to the Na’eesh Mabadh adaptation of this story for radio.
Na’eesh Mabadh is a peacebuilding project inspired by South Sudanese folktales.
Learn more about this project on the Na’eesh Mabadh page.