A Long Way Gone

A Long Way Gone Summary and Analysis of Chapter 10


In the coming days, Beah and his companions encounter varying levels of hospitality at each of the villages they approach. Many are still afraid and hostile, but in some villages the boys are greeted kindly and offered food and rest. Beah finds these more pleasant experiences to be more wearying than ongoing fear and isolation. He says “I knew that it was temporary and that we were just passing through. It was much easier to be sad than to go back and forth between emotions” (p. 69).

At one village, the boys are invited to join a hunting party. They do so, and the hunt is successful; they return to the village with their game and a feast - complete with music and dancing - occurs that night. Even as they enjoy themselves, the boys realize that their happiness is only temporary. The next village they find is deserted, and appears to have been so for a long time. That night Musa tells the familiar story of Bra Spider, a trickster figure who usually ends up becoming the victim of his own clever plans. In Musa’s story Bra Spider learns of several feasts happening on the same night; while everyone else gathers food and makes preparation for each feast, Bra Spider connives his way into an invitation to every one of the feasts. He puts one end of a rope in each village, tying the other end around his own waist, and leaves instructions for the villagers to pull on the rope when the food is ready. In this way, Bra Spider hopes to quickly arrive at each feast in succession and eat his fill. Unfortunately, the meals are all prepared around the same time, and Bra Spider finds himself pulled in all directions at once. This, Musa explains, is why spiders have thin waists. Although they all know the story, the boys enjoy Musa’s retelling of it.

As he drifts off to sleep, Beah recalls his naming ceremony. Although too young at the time to actually remember the event, Beah has a vivid account of the ceremony from his grandmother. He remembers his grandmother’s smile at the end of her telling him this story, then falls asleep.

The next morning the boys’ supply of food is gone. They begin accusing each other of hoarding it, but Saidu puts a stop to the recriminations by pointing out that the bag is still tied but one of the corners has been chewed through. The boys track their nighttime thief and find a wild dog, ravenous with hunger. The boys chase the dog off but are unable to recover their lost food.

The boys keep walking, looking for food as they march. A crow falls from the sky and, despite some misgivings, the hungry boys cook and eat it. The next night, the boys’ journey becomes eerie. The forest grows unnaturally silent. As they walk they see and hear three white-clad people ahead on the trail, so they hide in the bushes until the three figures pass. They can make out two tall forms and one smaller one, each with a cloth under its arm. The three figures seem to sense the boys’ presence nearby and talk amongst themselves in voiced difficult to understand. The figures continue on their walk and the boys slowly creep out of the bushes. Saidu is rendered catatonic by the experience and must be carried until they cross the nearby bridge, at which point he comes to, coughs up blood, and proclaims the three figures to be ghosts. The other boys agree.

The next day the boys arrive at a large village in the midst of dinner preparations. One woman among the villagers claims to know Beah (although he does not recognize her) and gives him news that his brother Junior came through this village looking for him, and she has seen his mother, father, and younger brother as well. She tells him they headed to the neighboring village, which houses many refugees from Mattru Jong and Sierra Ritule mining district. Despite Beah’s desire to set off immediately for the other village, the boys spend the night here to rest and relax. The boys sleep on the verandah of one of the houses, but that next morning Saidu does not wake up. The owner of the house comes out to help. He tries to wake Saidu, but concludes that the boy is dead. The village holds a funeral for Saidu, but there is difficulty getting it underway at first since none of the other boys is related to him. Kanei knows Saidu’s family, so he stands in for them at the funeral. The boys are assured by the villagers that they have a place to belong to now, and they will always know where their friend is buried. Beah accepts their kindness while hiding the bitter sense that they boys have no control over their futures, and so have little chance of ever returning to their friend’s gravesite.


As with Chapter 9, this chapter mixes pleasure and pain for the boys. Beah narrates events which, while positive in the remembering, bring with them emotional pain at the longing they produce. Musa’s story distracts the boys for a time, and even sends Beah into reverie about his grandmother, but the fact that these pleasant circumstances are memory and not reality is not lost on the boys.

The village they encounter is also a mixture of joy and despair. The villagers welcome the boys, and Beah receives hopeful news about his family. However, they lose Saidu in that village, which is yet another testament to the fact that any happiness they experience must be short-lived. Beah’s reaction to the villager’s hospitality - reminding them that their friend will always be buried here and therefore they have a place to return to - shows how the boys’ harsh circumstances have hardened them to emotional happiness. He knows they have become survivors, not merely wanderers, and so will act first for self-preservation even above the comforts of friends and family.