The Man Who Tried To Catch The Night

A traditional myth from Central Africa:


Two men once had a great argument concerning their skill in trapping and hunting. One boast let to another until they began to exaggerate, and at last one said that he could make such skillful basket traps that he could even catch the night.

When he was challenged to do so, he carefully plaited a basket trap of the most closely woven reeds, and in the evening set it in a dark corner of the forest, saying, “If I cannot catch the night with my own hands, I will enclose it in my basket trap.”

When the wind moaned in the treetops he shouted, “Who are you?”

The answer was, “I am the dusk,” but although he ran until he knocked his shins against the trees in the falling light, he caught nothing.

Sitting still beside his basket trap he heard the wind rustling in the reeds and shouted, “Who are you?”

“I am the twilight,” rustled the wind, but although he ran until he scratched himself in the thorns, he caught nothing.

Returning to his trap once more he kept watch, and hearing the wind make the branches creak against each other he called, “Who are you?”

“I am bedtime,” creaked the branches in the wind, but though he ran until he became tangled in thick vines, he caught nothing.

Wearily he groped his way back to the trap, and after waiting until his eyelids drooped he was suddenly awakened again by the wind raising ripples in the stream.

“Who are you?!” He called desperately.

“I am midnight,” replied the stream, and though he ran until he fell into a pool, he caught nothing.

Drenched and cold, he wished that he had not been so boastful, but still hoped that he might catch the night. Again he took up his position beside the trap, and when the wind blew up a storm of rain and thunder he shouted, “Who are you?!?!”

A rift appeared in the clouds and a star shone out saying, “I am the star that heralds the dawn.”

Photo courtesy of NASA

Photo courtesy of NASA

The tired trapper climbed the highest tree, but could not reach the star, or the heavy clouds, or the violent flashes of lightning that darted here and there from the sky. Venturing out onto too thin of branch in the rain and darkness he slipped and fell into a thorn bush.

Painfully he untangled himself and turned to his basket trap. As he peered into it in the darkness, it was so dense a black inside that he hurriedly tied it up, saying, “If I can’t catch the night in my hand, at least I have got it in my basket.” Then, away in the distance he heard the first cock heralding the dawn in the village. Joyously setting out for home he opened his trap in front of his friends by the first rays of the morning sun. To his shame there was nothing but daylight in it. As his friends laughed at him, they said, “Another time you will have more wisdom than to boast of that which is impossible.”

A moral to this story is that if you think that you are going to catch the night, the reverse is more likely to be true, that the night has caught you in its trap. God is just as that. For it is dark & it is light & moves from one to the other, this is the planet we live on & why it is actually so temperate- otherwise 1/2 of the world would burn as the other 1/2 froze to death. Also don’t look directly into it… I hear you go blind which could be part of my problem in trying to reach someone from the human race to talk to about such pressing issues as your soul, where you come from, crime & forgiveness, who God is and that sort of thing that you might have been sorely missing the last couple thousand years or more. Information is a useful thing sometimes.