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The King's Magic Drum

In: English and Literature

Submitted By AFIMJ
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Would the Tortoise in The King’s magic drum be bound for hell? The answer is yes.

In the Divine Comedy: Inferno the author Dante Alighieri takes the reader on a trip through the circles of hell from limbo to the deepest depths of hell. Through his work he takes the reader on a journey through the different circles of hell to show them what could be expected expect in the afterlife if they lead anything other than a virtuous life. What if Dante’s moral structure excluding limbo where applied to say the tortoise in the Nigerian tale “The King’s Magic drum” would the tortoise be sent to one of the circles of hell? The tortoise, because of his greed, gluttony and violence would find himself condemned to an eternity of torture in one of the many circles of hell.
Avarice is defined as an as excessive or insatiable desire for wealth or gain which can be boiled down to one word and that is greed which those that are guilty of this are punished in the fourth circle of hell. “Thus we descended into the fourth chasm…Now canst thou, son, behold the transient farce of goods that are committed unto fortune, for which the human race each other buffet; for all the gold that is beneath the moon, or ever has been, of these weary souls could never make a single one repose.” (Silva and Overton 620-621) There are two instances in the story that show the greed of the tortoise, first “Then the tortoise, who very much wanted the king’s drum, thought he would make plenty of palaver over this and force the king to give him the drum.” (Silva and Overton 555) After the child ate the palm nut dropped by the child the tortoise seized the opportunity and blew the situation out of proportion. This enabled him to gain an audience with the king with the intent to gain ownership of the drum. Second “and the tortoise immediately pointed to the king’s drum, and said that it was the only thing he wanted.” (Silva and Overton 556) Here the king offered the tortoise what would be considered by most as more than fair compensation for the lost palm nut but greed drove the tortoise to except nothing but the drum. Once the tortoise received the drum as compensation his sinning did not stop. Now the drum had the ability to produce as much food and drink the owner wanted whenever it was played and because of this the tortoise became gluttonies “When the tortoise had been in possession of the drum for a few weeks he became lazy and did no work, but went about the country boasting of his riches, and took to drinking too much (Silva and Overton 557) Here the tortoise is guilty of gluttony and this sin according to Dante was even worse than lust. Here the tortoise would end up spending eternity in the third circle of hell “In the third circle am I of the rain… Thy city, which is full of envy so that now the sack runs over, held me within it in the life serene. You citizens were won’t call me Ciacco; for the pernicious sin of gluttony.” (Silva and Overton 618) The tortoise’s sins did not stop there, for after he broke the Ju Ju on the drum by stepping over a stick he invited all across the land for a great feast and sinned again. This sin would land him in the worst ring of hell so far.
The seventh circle of hell reserved for those souls that where violent in life. This circle of hell is broken down in to three rings and the tortoise would find himself in the outer ring where murders and others that committed violence to others or their property “This one is Nessus, Who perished for the lovely Dejanira, And for himself, himself did vengeance take and he in the midst, who at his breast is gazing, Is the great Chiron, who brought up Achilles; That other Pholus is, who was so wrathful. (Silva and Overton 633) Now when he first received the drum he invited all across the land to a feast but few came. This was because most knew he was poor and would not be able to produce the plethora of food and drink needed for a feast so they ignored the invitation. So the tortoise knowing what would happen when the Ju Ju was broken “I asked everyone to a feast, but only a few came, and they had plenty to eat and drink. Now, when I want food for myself and my family, the Egbos come and beat me. Well, I will let the other people share the same fate, as I do not see why I and my family should be beaten when I have given a feast to all people.” He therefore at once sent out invitations to all the men and animals to come to a big dinner the next day at three o’clock in the afternoon. Knowing he had the drum. This is where the tortoise exacted his revenge. (Silva and Overton 557) Know when all had gathered he played his drum and Egbo men appeared and beat all the guests and only vanished when the tortoise was satisfied. Though he did not harm the guest’s himself he was the one in control of the drum that produced the Egbo men, so he could be considered the mastermind and in so is directly responsible for inflecting violence against others. Now the story “The King’s Magic Drum” took place in a different time period, in a different land with a different religion and moral standards. So looking at the story through Inferno tinted glasses of 1300 A.D. and later one would look at the tortoise as an evil person. Guilty of at least three of the deadly sins gluttony, greed and violence and that alone to any man, woman or child in Dante’s era would make the tortoise worth of all but the lowest three levels of hell.

References
Silva, Linda and William Overton. World Literature Anthology: Through the Renaissance. Vol. 2 and 3. American Public University, 2011. 12 04 2014. .

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