In the beginning, after the Lord made man and woman, he was kind enough to set them up in a right nice house together.
Now that was long, long, long ago and at that time man and woman were equally matched in everything. Since, there was no one else to tell them who should do what job, they both did any and every type of work that needed doing.
Because they were human, they would occasionally disagree and that would lead to arguments and fights. And I don't mean just fussin'. I'm talkin' some knock down fights. But since, like I said, they were equally matched neither of them could get the better of the other.
Eventually, man got tired of never winning a fight, and he thought to himself. "I think I'll go on up to visit the Lord and see if he'll give me more strength than the woman. That way she'll have to obey me." So, the next morning, bright and early, he took the long trip up to visit the Lord.
It was a right long tramp up a steep mountainside to reach the Lord's house. When he finally gets to the Lord's house, man says, real respectful like, " Good morning, Lord."
"Hello man", say the Lord, "and what brings you up here so early in the morning?"
"Well Lord" said man, " I'm havin' a little trouble at home and I figure you bein' the Lord and all, you would be the one to come to."
The Lord looked at man and said " Just say what ya got to say, man."
"Well Lord, I would like to ask you to give me more strength than the woman. You know Lord, sometimes she can be a mite strong willed and I know that if I had more strength than her, I would be able to make her obey me."
The Lord looked at man for a moment, then he smiled and nodded his head and said "All right man, if you're sure that's what you want, I'll give you more strength than woman."
Well now, man was so happy that the grin on his face stretched from ear to ear. He thanked the Lord and then raced off home. He could not wait to test out his new strength and as soon as he got home he hollered " Alright woman! Now this is how it's gonna be. I am the man and you listen to me. I am the boss from now on."
Now y'all know how well that went over! Woman didn't even bother to say "Boo!" They just commenced to fightin'. Now woman fought just as hard as usual but this time the man won!! She didn't know what had gone wrong but she rested up and tried again. And man won again! After the third time, while woman was catchin' her breath, man told her "This is how it's gonna be from now on. Ya can't beat me anymore so ya might just as well learn to obey me." And with that he walked away whistlin'.
I know I don't need to tell y'all how mad woman was. She did not even wait till the next morning. She marched straight off to Heaven to see the Lord. She calmed herself as best she could and said " Lord, I am here to see ya today and I am powerful mad. I want to know why you took my strength from me and I want it back."
"Woman," said the Lord, " ya got the same amount of strength that you've always had."
"Well then , how come the man can beat me in a fight now, when he couldn't before?" woman asked.
"Oh, that's cause he's got more strength now than before. He came up here early this morning and asked me for more strength then you so I gave it to him."
Woman said, real quick like " Then Lord, I'm askin' you for the same thing."
The Lord shook his head. "Woman I can't do that. What is done is done. Man asked for more strength than you and he will always have more strength than you."
I gotta tell you folks, woman was so mad she could not see straight. She left the Lord and stomped back towards home mumblin' and grumblin' to herself , tryin' to figure out just what she was going to do.
She was half way home when who should pop up but the Devil. He asked her why she was lookin' so down and she told him the whole story. When she had finished her story, the Devil thought for a moment and the told her, "Woman don't you worry a bit. You listen to me and you'll be just fine. I want you to turn around and go right back up to the Lord's house. Now when ya get there, you ask the Lord for the keys hangin' by his fireplace. When you get the keys, you bring them to me and I'll tell you what to do with them."
By now woman was so tired and upset, she was willing to try anything. So, she headed right back to Heaven. As soon as she saw the Lord, she smiled just as nice as you please at him and said, " Lord, sir, I know you're smart and likely know just what you were doing this morning when you gave the man more strength than me."
"Just ask for what you want, woman." said the Lord.
Woman smiled, "Well Lord, I would surely appreciate it if you would give me the keys that you have hanging beside your fireplace."
The Lord looked at woman and then laughed and said "Go ahead and take them."
You can believe woman didn't waste a second. She rushed right in and grabbed the keys. Then she bid the Lord a right pretty "Thank you, Lord," and rushed back to find the Devil.
When she got to the Devil she showed him that she had the keys. There were three keys on a big brass ring. The Devil smiled and said, " Woman, those three keys you're holdin' have more power in them than man can ever have strength. That first big key is the key to the kitchen door. You know how the man favors his stomach. Now this next key is the key to the bedroom, and man surely hates be kept out of there. And this last key, now that is the key to the cradle, and man does not want to be cut off from his generations. So what you gotta do is go home and lock up everything. Don't say anything. When the man comes to you , you don't unlock the doors till the man uses his new strength to do what you want."
Woman was so happy that she could not thank the Devil enough. "Devil I don't know what I would do if it wasn't for you. Thank you." With that, woman turned towards home. She had only gone a few steps when the Devil stopped her. "You just remember what I said, woman. Don't say anything to man. Just lock the doors and wait for man to come to you."
Well, the woman went home and did just what the devil said. Then she went and sat on the porch in the rocker and waited.
Man came home later that day still whistling and singing. It took him awhile to notice that some of the doors in the house were closed. At first he tried to open them using the extra strength he got from the Lord. He was sure that with all his strength he could do anything. But none of the doors budged.
So he stomped out onto the porch where the woman was still sittin' and rockin'. He looked at woman and said, "Who locked those doors?"
"I did," said woman.
Man frowned, "Who gave you the keys?"
Woman never stopped rocking as she said, "The Lord did."
Man ran up to see the Lord as fast as he could. "Lord," he said " the woman has locked me out of the kitchen, the bedroom and my generations. She said you gave her the keys."
The Lord nodded his head and said "Yes I gave her the keys but the Devil showed her what to do with them."
"Well Lord, can you give me some keys too?"
The Lord shook his head and said, " Man what I give, I give. Woman is now in control of the keys."
"But what about my kitchen, the bedroom and…and my generations!" wailed man.
"Guess you'll have to ask the woman, " said the Lord.
Now much as he hated to do it, the man went back home and he made nice with woman. And when he was respectful, woman opened the doors.
Things worked out for awhile with man and woman each workin' hard to be respectful of each other. One day man said to woman, "Ya know, I think we should make things even again. I'll give you some of my strength and you let me hold the keys." Woman thought about it for a minute but she seemed to hear the Devil's voice in here ear saying "Don't do it! You keep the keys and let him have his strength."
Woman told man no. She said she liked things just as they were.
And that's why things are as they are today.
Men still brag about their strength and women are still smiling and rocking holding the keys and waiting for man to come to her.
And that's all there is to that!!
An African American Folktale retold and copyrighted by LLL, Storyteller/Storysin