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“The Sword”

Sections: Information | Plot Description 


Information

  • First published:
    • August 1943 issue of the Atlantic

Plot Description

Dahl retells a version of this story years later in Going Solo. His servant is renamed from Salimu to Mdisho in that version.

Spoiler warning! Dahl starts the story with a description of the many ships that arrive in west Africa every September with the monsoon winds, laden with goods to sell. From one of these ships, he buys a beautiful sword. He takes it home and shows his house boy, Salimu, how to clean it and care for it. Later, as Britain was about to declare war on Germany, Dahl was ordered to take a troop of locals and to guard a key road out of Dar es Salaam. Before he left on the mission, he explained to Salimu that they would soon be at war with the Germans, who would try to kill everyone. Dahl’s mission was successful, and he returned home a few days later to find Salimu and the sword missing. Salimu returned later that night, covered in sweat and brandishing the now bloody sword. He explained how he had heard they were at war with the Germans, and that he wanted to help. He remembered a rich German who lived over the hills, so he took the sword and ran four hours through the jungle to his home. He ran straight into the German’s house, found him sitting at his desk in his pajamas, and cut the man’s head off. Then he ran all the way home, triumphant and proud.