Mustapha was a wealthy Emir residing in the then Sokoto Caliphate, ruling over the Hausa people in what is known today as the nation-state Nigeria.
Mustapha was a strong king who aided his allies and was a terror to his enemies. Yet he was kind and would often spare an old enemy who surrendered and bent the knee, restoring him to his position with the only difference being that he was a vassal to the Emir. Not just the leader, but his men, wife, children and all they had would be spared. Such consideration for the preciousness of human life made him a lot of friends and loyal followers. One particular king, an archenemy was besieged and almost slaughtered. Seeing that they were ready to go to the grave with him and not wishing it so, he fell to his knees before the victorious Emir and pleaded for the life of his men. Their only crime was loyalty to their king. The Emir set his sword aside then and raised the pleading King to his feet. Not only did he spare the king’s fighting men, he spared the king too and offered him a position as an officer in his vast army in addition to keeping his kingdom as King. The King accepted with joy and presented the Emir with a strange and marvellous gift. A guava tree that bore golden fruit.
Soon the tree grew stout and strong and began to annually produce it’s golden and precious fruit. Then a decade later, something strange began to happen.
Every year, Mustapha’s guava tree was robbed of one golden guava during the night.
Perplexed, he set his sons to watch over the tree. The first son Adamu, though he tried his very best, fell asleep in the wee hours of the night, and that year another golden guava went missing.
The next year, Abdul, the second son, a ferocious warrior took his bow and twelve arrows to lie awake for the thief. But he also fell asleep. And another guava went missing. The youngest son, Ahmed, with his father’s permission finally got a chance to watch for the thief. He set the slaves to watch the tree throughout the day while he slept. In the evening, he released them and stayed hidden in the shadow of the tree.
Chewing on the bitter bark of a dongoyaro tree, it was easy for him to stay awake. His diligence was rewarded as he saw, at midnight, what his brothers had failed to see. The thief was a golden bird. He tried to shoot it, but only knocked a few feathers off.
The feathers were so valuable that the Emir decided he must have the bird. He sent his three sons, one after another, to capture the priceless golden bird.
The sons each met a talking fox, who gave them advice for their quest: to choose a rough road that led through the forest but would take them quickly to their destination instead of the smooth paved road that led through a bright village of merry makers. The first two sons Adamu and Abdul ignore the advice and, one after the other, soon become distracted by the merriment in the village and forget all about their quest, kingdom and father waiting at home.
The third son Ahmed obeyed the fox, and decided to take the rough road. before long, he arrived at a big palace and met the fox sitting outside, waiting for him. The fox advised him to take the bird in its wooden cage from the castle in which it lived, instead of putting it into the golden cage next to it. But when he snuck into the palace and saw the beautiful golden cage with its exquisite construction he disobeyed, thinking that it was the proper and fitting home for the majestic bird.
The golden bird resisted at that, and made a lot of noise which roused the palace warriors, who wasted no time in capturing him. Because they had heard of his father’s kindness to his enemies, the King and Queen of the palace spared him. However, he was sent after a golden horse in a neighbouring kingdom as a condition for sparing his life. The fox again met him at the entrance to the kingdom and advised him to use a leather saddle rather than a golden one, but he failed at this again. He was then sent after a very beautiful princess kept under lock and key in a golden palace.. The fox advised him not to let her say farewell to her parents, but he gave in to her constant pleas and let her say goodbye. The princess’s father captured him and ordered him to remove a hill that had blocked his view of the sunset and sunrise as the price of his life, before nightfall that day.
The prince distraught went begging and pleading to the talking fox, and before nightfall, the fox removed the hill.
Shocked and yet pleased at the strength and courage of the young prince, the king let him go with his daughter. He meets the fox at the border of the kingdom and as they set out, the talking fox with a mixture of pranks and smooth talking, was able to secure the princess, the golden horse and the golden bird for Ahmed, the young prince.
As a price for its assistance, it asked the prince to shoot it and cut off its head and feet. The prince tearfully refused, as he couldn’t take the life of such a wonderful creature. The fox then left him saying…
“Beware Ahmed, and listen to me,
For what I have said thus far is true,
Avoid the purchase of gallowsflesh,
And make not your seat at the edge of wells.”
On his return, he met his brothers at a crossroad, where they had been caught and sentenced to death by hanging, for while he struggled and hustled and made his quest, they had been carousing and living sinfully, and had quickly run through their provisions for the journey like wildfire, and to sustain their easy and decadent lifestyle, had turned to brigandry.
Not wanting them dead, Ahmed pleads with the people and was eventually able to purchase their freedom.They found out what he had done and grew green with envy, planning to somehow get rid of him and keep what he had brought for themselves. They got their chance when Ahmed sat on a well’s edge from exhaustion after a day’s hard riding. Quick as a flash, the wicked brothers pushed him in. They took the golden bird, golden horse and the princess and bring them to their father, where they are received with much fanfare. The Emir, pleased with their achievements and tales of struggle decided to coronate one of the brothers at a set date.
However it was all in vain as the bird, the horse, and the princess all grieved for the prince. The bird refused to fly, the horse refused to run and the princess who had come to love Ahmed most of all, wept day and night for her dead prince, refusing to say a single word. The fox, moved by such sorrow returned to the well where he recruited the golden mermaid and together they rescued the prince. Quickly, as the coronation day arrived, the fox aided him to sneak into his father’s palace dressed in a beggar’s clothes.
Before the Emir chooses his successor, the bird, the horse, and the princess all recognized Ahmed as the man who won them, and became cheerful again. The princess and the fox then told the story of the betrayal and the Emir, furious, ordered that his sons Adamu and Abdul were to be stripped of their titles as heirs and sold into slavery. Ahmed then married the princess and was coronated as Emir.
After a long while, with much pestering from the fox, Ahmed gave in and cut off the fox’s head and feet at the creature’s request. The fox’s dead body began to burn and from the ashes, a man stepped out. The man was revealed to be the brother of the princess, finally set free from an ancient and powerful sorcery. At the death of Mustapha and upon Ahmed’s ascension to the throne, he became the new Emir’s most trusted adviser.