Once upon a time, a father sent his daughter and son to the market to sell the family donkey. This was the most important task that the two children had been assigned to this point in their lives and each of them wanted desperately to make their father proud. He gave them each a map and separate directions to the market so that if one lost his map or forgot, the other would be able to remember.
So the two set out on their journey, aware that the road was long but comfortable and assured in the knowledge that they had each other. On and on they went past streams, over hills and through forests with one single mission in mind. They would often fantasize about their father’s happiness when they’d return and what a large feast their mother would prepare for them.
One day they came upon a stream which crossed their path. The boy proposed that since there was no need for both of them to get wet, he would carry his sister across the stream, and the donkey would follow. She thought it the most selfless offer she had ever heard and mused about how wonderful her brother was. So she climbed on his back and he, with the ass in tow, proceeded to ferry his sister over the bubbling brook.
The girl, though much lighter than her brother, made for a difficult load. He had never carried anything this heavy and progress across the stream was slow and haggard. Finally he got to the other side and on setting his sister down, collapsed and fell on his back on the muddy bank revealing the soles of his feet which were bruised and had several small bleeding cuts. The girl quickly tore off the sleeves of her shirt and wrapped them around her brothers feet then using the red ribbon she had got for her birthday bound the cloth.
Several days had passed and the shadows appeared to get longer and the wind a little chillier and the grass along the path was turning a deeper yellow with each passing day. The bread that they had carried for sustenance was starting to get stale and the grape wine they had carried for thirst was starting to turn bitter. Their long, animated conversations began to shorten and ultimately changed into curt, abrupt phrases from sterile voices and expressionless mouths.
After a week and a day virtually all conversation had ceased and each regarded the other with a kind of hostile contempt. All the boy could feel was the searing pain that shot up his leg with each step he took. Every time he would think the pain had reached its max, the next step he took would quickly change his mind. The girl could hardly move her arms which were now swollen from scratches and plum red from mosquito bites. The itch she felt was almost maddening in intensity and it was all she could do to not scream in frustration.
A few days later, they came upon a fork in the road which split into three different paths. At this point each of the children took out their maps for consultation. It’s the narrowest path the girl announced triumphantly. No, it’s the path on the far left the boy answered resolutely. They proceeded to argue for a while each growing more confident of the position they had taken, and growing angrier with each uttered word.
What an ungrateful little kimbele, the boy thought. After I injured myself carrying her across the stream this is how she treats me!
What an ungrateful little mdomo, the girl thought. After I ripped my shirt to bandage his wounded feet this is how he repays me!
Left, the boy insisted.
Narrowest, the girl persisted.
Eventually the girl stormed off taking the path on the far right and the boy stormed off, taking the path that was widest. After a day of walking along their chosen paths, each started to doubt the decision each had made and decided to head back to the fork in the path. The girl reached the fork after another day to find the boy crying standing next to the dead donkey. They had both stormed off in anger and forgotten the donkey which, already exhausted, had died of thirst.
They sadly made their way home, without donkey or money. When they got to their father, they each narrated how the other had refused to follow the directions and map they each had been given. Each blaming the other for being a kichwa ngumu and a mjuaji.
"Alas!" Their father said. "The path on the far left is also the narrowest path. If you only had taken the time to hear each other out and understand what the other was trying to say. Your pride and arrogance killed the donkey!"