The Man Who Never Lied – An African Folktale
Posted on: August 29, 2018.


It is ideal to be truthful, even under unfavourable circumstances, and face due consequences boldly, rather than lie to escape, or try to alter consequences to one’s advantage. To lie is a bane, and there are two sides to the act of lying.

The commonly encountered one: conjuring fake excuses to escape an unfavourable situation, evoking the victim’s sense of justice or sympathy. The complex one: manipulating the situation to one’s advantage, while framing the victim and assassinating that person’s character.

The Story…

Mamad was a wise man who, once upon a time, lived in the fabled land of Africa. But wisdom was not his only identity. Mamad was a man who never lied.

This everybody knew. All the people of the land, and even those who were twenty days away from where he lived. Mamad believed “Truth” to be the quintessential virtue of “Wisdom”.

People who interacted with Mamad found him to be wise and truthful on every occasion. He had a gentle demeanour and a pleasant disposition, dispensing rarely with a subtle, ironic touch of humour. Mamad was a person who preferred seclusion and divided his time between duty and meditation. He seldom presented himself in public, preferring instead to interact in private, with an audience of not more than two at a time. More than two is a crowd, and Mamad kept away from crowds. While his wise and virtuous nature was widely admired and respected, it also made him a few unscrupulous enemies.

Significant word of mouth about Mamad’s wisdom, and his virtue “never to lie”, spread across the land, and eventually the King heard about it. Filled with intrigue, and unable to digest the fact that someone could actually be so genuinely truthful, the King sent for Mamad, wishing to meet him in person to test his reputation.

The King’s courtiers approached Mamad and told him of the King’s wishes to meet him. Mamad accepted the invitation with due humility and allowed the courtiers to accompany him to the royal court.

Later, the King asked Mamad—

“Is it true, that you have never lied even once?”

“Yes, O King!”, replied Mamad.

“And you will never hence lie?”, the King inquired.

“I’m sure of that”, said Mamad.

“It’s good to speak the truth, but beware! A lie is cunning and gets on your tongue easily”, cautioned the King.

Mamad was once again summoned by the King, several days later. A large crowd had gathered before the royal palace, and the king, who was about to go hunting, held his horse by the mane, his left foot already on the stirrup.

The King ordered Mamad—

“Go to my summer palace and inform the queen that I will have lunch with her. Ask her to arrange preparations for a big feast. You are also to join me for lunch.”

Mamad bowed and proceeded to carry out the King’s command. Behind Mamad’s back, the King laughed and said, “Withdraw our hunting exercise. If Mamad informs the queen what I told him to, it becomes a lie. Tomorrow, he would be called a liar and made a laughing stock.”

But the wise Mamad told the queen—

“Maybe you should prepare a big feast for lunch tomorrow. Maybe you shouldn’t. Maybe the king will come by noon. Maybe he won’t.”

“Tell me, will he come or will he not?”, asked the queen, perplexed by Mamad’s paradoxical words.

“I don’t know whether he put his right foot on the stirrup, or he put his left foot on the ground, after I left.”

The next day, the King met the Queen and told—

“The wise Mamad, who never lies, lied to you yesterday…”

Subsequently, the Queen told the King what Mamad had conveyed to her…
…and the King realized that a wise person never lies and trusts only that which he or she observes with his or her own eyes.

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