Krik ? Krak !!! In Haiti, stories are introduced by the invitation to hear the tale. The person willing to tell the story shouts out: KRIK! If people want to hear the tale, and they nearly always do, they answer in chorus: KRAK!!
So, “Mesye, dam, la sosyete, Krik? Krak!”, my name is Michèle and I have come here to tell you a little story.
This story takes place in the Republic of Port-au-Prince. If you don’t already know that all important things happen in Port-au-Prince, I must tell you that it is the center of the Haitian Universe and that everything one might ever want is there. There are no government offices, clinics, schools, theaters, concert halls, hospitals, libraries, fashion stores in any of the provinces. There is no life, no work, no future in the provinces. No people of consequence live and breathe in the provinces. Everything of note happens in the Republic of Port-au-Prince which is why the selection of a King for Haiti was to take place in Port-au-Prince.
So on a hot September afternoon, all the animals, large and small, gathered to discuss this issue of great importance. Imagine! A king was to be chosen! The animals arrived and were addressed by the tree lizard, Zandolit. “We have not had a decent king for many suns. Each animal looks out for himself, not for the good of all. Our lives would be better if we had a king who would take care of all of the Haitian people.”
Many voices created a chorus of opinions and grievances. Someone called out, “Bull should be our king!” A great discussion began. Suddenly, a voice was heard from the crowd, “The bull is no diplomat! He is easily angered and provoked to fight by a wave of the hand.” Another said, “Let the goat be king!” There was an immediate response, “The goat does not have kingly manners at all. He munches on plant leaves all day ! He looks like a fool chewing endlessly with his scruffy beard bobbing up and down.” Still another call rose up, “Consider the ram!” A voice from the back of the crowd shouted, “Nonsense, he meets his own kind and wants to fight. How can we have a king who does not even get along with his own kind?” They all nodded in agreement. Someone suggested the donkey. A gasp went out across the crowd. “No! The donkey has no pride, carrying wood and coffee on his back. Our leader should be proud, carrying only his crown!” Someone called out, “Make the rooster our king.” The response came, “So he can wake us up everyday at dawn? We’ll never get any rest!”
The animals laughed loudly. Someone suggested the turkey and the idea was quickly rejected, with a few remarks about his intelligence. There was some rumbling discussion and then a voice was heard, “Consider the rabbit!” Several animals offered their opinions, “He hides in the grass. He twitches his nose! Absolutely not what a king would do!” After a moment of thoughtful silence, someone proclaimed, “Snake! Consider snake!” The crowd answered, “He lives in a hole and crawls on his belly! Absolutely not!” The crowd mumbled, until someone said, “What about horse?” “He has a bit in his mouth and a man on his back. He cannot be king!”
The discussion went on and on, for several days and nights. The animals drank strong, hot, dark Rebo coffee to keep awake, and 5 star Barbancourt rum to keep their spirits up during this long process. It was finally the end of November when someone called out, “The dog should be king.” Either because they were exhausted or finally in agreement, the crowd clapped and approved. The animals waved the red and blue flags and beat on drums and danced joyful raras , as a great feast was prepared: Griyo, taso, krab nan kalalou…
As he was being draped in royal robes, Dog turned his head toward the smell of the cooking meat. His mouth watered. The other animals quickly wiped his jaw. The aroma of the meat grew stronger and the dog could not resist; he broke from the crowd, grabbed the meat and ran away, dropping his crown. The animals exclaimed, “Our king is gone.” All the animals agreed, “The dog is not our king. He is a thief!”
Zandolit said, “Every creature was rejected because they were judged by their weakness, not their strength. If you would have considered the strengths of our fellow creatures, we would have a king, instead we have none.”
So this is the story of how Haiti remained without a King. I hope you enjoyed it and until I see you again, I end my story with the traditional phrase: yo banm youn ti kout pye ki fè’m ateri isit la….(I was gently kicked until i reached these parts)
Michèle Voltaire Marcelin
Adapted from a Haitian Traditional Folk Tale
The Piece of Fire and other Haitian Tales (1964)