Long, long ago the chief of the Dagomba people had a son. He loved the boy so much that he could not sleep if the boy was not near him at night. One evening the chief sat under a big tree near his house. Some Dagombas sat around him. That night was warm and there was no rain. One could hear the tom-tom of the drums. Children sang and danced near them.
“Life is good,” the chief said. And the people clapped their hands. The Dagomba people always clap their hands when they agree with somebody or something.
Then the chief’s wife came up to the chief and said, “Oh, Chief, it is time for our boy to sleep.”
“But he is with you, in the house,” the chief said.
“Isn’t he here, with you?” the woman asked.
“Woman, I tell you, he is not with me. Go and look for him.”
“Oh, my dear Chief,” the wife said sadly. “He is not in our house.”
The chief stood up quickly
and cried, “Stop the dance! Let the drummers go and drum asking for my son.”
In a minute the drums began their talk. “The Chief’s child is lost,” they said. “Who finds the child must bring him to the Chief.”
All the people ran from place to place and looked for the boy. But they did not find him. The Chief was very angry. He said, “All my people must help to find the boy.”
And the people looked and looked for the boy. They were looking for the boy for many hours. Then a man cried out: “Here he is!”
The Chief came up to the man. There, under a tree on the grass, the boy was sleeping.
“Get up, my dear,” the Chief said to his little son. But the boy did not hear him. “Get up,” said his father again. Then the boy opened his eyes.
“Father,” he said and got up. And they walked off together. The Chief was very happy.
The drums began their talk again. “The Chief’s son is here! The Chief’s son is here!” they said.
Then the chief looked back angrily at the tree: “Burn that tree! It hid my son from me!”
And the Chief’s servants put their torches to its trunk and branches. The tree began to burn and soon fell on the grass.
At the same time the happy father went home with his son. The people ran after them with songs and dances.
From that day on every year in July, the Dagomba people have their Fire Festival. The chief goes out of his house and the people light their torches. They begin to dance and put their torches to tree trunks. But today they burn only two or three branches, and not the whole tree.