A Long Way Gone

What are some parables the author uses in the novel?


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In Chapter Eight, Beah recounts a story his grandmother once told: there was a hunter of wild pigs who used magic to transform himself into a wild boar. He would lead the herd into an open area then transform himself into a human and shoot the pigs. The pigs discover the secret plant which the hunter is using to effect the transformation back into a human being; once he is gone, the pigs destroy every leaf of this plant they can find. When the hunter attempts his trickery, he cannot turn into a human again; the rest of the pigs surround and kill him. Now wild pigs distrust humans, fearing that any human being they see is there to avenge the hunter.

In Chapter Ten, 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.

In Chapter Twenty-One, Beah listens to stories told by others and remembers one his grandfather told long ago:

A hunter goes into the bush to kill a monkey. Knowing he is a target, the monkey tells the hunter, “If you shoot me, your mother will die, and if you don’t, your father will die.” The hunter is left in this dilemma for the audience to discuss and attempt an answer. None of the children’s answers are considered good enough by the storyteller, but Beah comes up with his own answer and rationale: “if I were the hunter, I would shoot the monkey so that it would no longer have the chance to put other hunters in the same predicament.” With this statement, Beah ends his memoir.


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