You Killed My Brother. We Must Have a Duel

Donald M. Richardson? Olwyn Orde Browne? T. K. Steele? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: When I was a child I heard a circular story, i.e., a story that was designed to be repeated. The details are hazy, but I know there was a duel and a character named Zanzibar. Would you please help me to recover this tale?

Quote Investigator: In April 1952 the journal “Western Folklore” published an article by Donald M. Richardson of Berkeley, California that presented a circular tale. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

One night I went to a bar and there I met a man. He said to me, “What have you been doing lately?”
And I said, “Last night I shot a man.”
“What was his name?” said he.
“Zanzibar,” said I.
“Zanzibar?” said he.
“Yes, Zanzibar,” said I.
“And how do you spell it?” said he.
“Z-a-n-z-i-b-a-r,” said I.
“Not Z-a-n-z-i-b-a-r!” said he.
“Yes, Z-a-n-z-i-b-a-r.”
“Then you shot my brother and I challenge you to a duel!” And I, being the challenged one, had my choice of weapons, so I chose my rusty trusty pistol. Three times I fired. He fell. The next night I went to a bar, and there I met a man, etc.

Richardson did not create this tale. He was simply reporting that he had heard it. QI has also located an earlier citation circa 1941, but QI has not yet verified the citation with hardcopy or scans. The details are given in the addendum attached to this article.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You Killed My Brother. We Must Have a Duel


  1. 1952 April, Western Folklore, Volume 11, Number 2, Section: Notes and Queries, A New Circular Tale or Round by Donald M. Richardson, Start Page 123, Quote Page 123, Western States Folklore Society, California. (JSTOR) link