This is a story from the Tsonga people, who have lived in the lands which we now call the countries of South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, for more than a thousand years.
That’s on the south east coast of the African continent. It’s a tropical climate, with a dry season and a rainy season.
Now once upon a time in the dry season, there was a village that was very far from the waterhole, where they went to get water for drinking, cooking, and washing.
One day, a girl was going from that village to draw water from the waterhole, when the rope holding her water pot broke, the pot fell to the ground, and broke into many pieces.
This was a terrible problem. “Oh, no! I must find a new pot,” she cried. She looked up. And there, hanging from a cloud, was a rope. She took hold of it, and pulled on it, but it didn’t fall into her hand, it hung there as if attached to something strong.
Since she didn’t know what else to do, she climbed up the rope. And in the sky, she found a ruined village. An old woman was sitting there, and asked what she wanted.
The girl told her story, and the old woman told her to keep walking in this sky land, and if an ant crawled up into her ear she must leave it alone, as the ant would tell her what to do.
She wasn’t sure how this was supposed to get her a pot, but she didn’t have any better ideas, so she kept walking. And pretty soon, an ant did crawl into her ear. The girl kept walking, and came to another village, where she heard the ant whisper to her to sit down at the entrance.
If she had come this far, she might as well do as she was directed and see what happened. So she sat down at the gate. Some Elders came out in shining clothes and asked what she was doing there.
Well, she thought it would look silly to these shiny, important people if she told them she wanted a new pot, even though it WAS important to her. Thinking quickly, the girl said she had come to look for a baby. That SOUNDED serious and important.
When they heard this, the elders took her to a house, gave her a basket, and told her to collect some corn from the garden. The ant whispered that she should pull one cob at a time, and arrange it carefully in the basket. So she did.
The elders were pleased with her work, and told her to cook the corn. So she did, following the ant's instructions. Again, the elders were happy.
The next morning they showed her two babies, one wrapped in red cloth and one in white cloth. She was going to choose the one in the red clothes, when the ant told her to choose the one wrapped in white instead.
The elders gave her the baby, and as many cloths and beads as she could carry. It wasn’t a new pot, but it was something better. Her family welcomed her home with joy and greeted the new baby with delight.
Bad fortune broke her rope and her pot, but because she looked around for a solution (seeing the rope), was polite (to the old woman), willing to follow directions (from the ant), and willing to do what was asked of her (by the elders), good fortune brought her something better.
I adapted this story from this source: http://www.gateway-africa.com/stories/The_Girl_Who_Broke_Her_Pot_Ronga.html and I'm happy to have it used for any non-profit purpose.