Parable of the Drowning Man

GL is a USC student from the country of Georgia, and he shared a fable, or igavaraki he heard while growing up there:

AL.) So one of them, it’s uh, it’s about a man who was drowning in a river. So a river is carrying this man down and he’s asking God for help. Uh, so, he’s going down a river and suddenly he sees a branch. But he doesn’t grab onto the branch because God’s gonna save him, so he, like, keeps going down the river. And then he keeps going down the river and there’s, like, a fisherman and the fisherman reaches his hand out, and he’s like, “Grab my hand, I’m gonna save you.” But the guy’s like, “Nah, God’s gonna save me.” And then the guy keeps floating down the river. And then he sees a rock, but he doesn’t, like, grab the rock because God’s gonna save him. And he falls of the waterfall, hits the rocks, dies, and then in heaven he asks God, “Why didn’t you save me?” And God is like, “I tried to save you three times but you just don’t move your hand.” 

Me.) Yeah, so where’d you hear this?

AL.) Uh, it’s like a popular kind of like, in Georgia we have a thing called igavaraki, which is like, um, like a story with, like, a meaning attached to it.

Me.) Oh, so kind of like a fable.

AL.) Yeah, kind of like a fable type vibe. So, I don’t know, it’s been told by, like, sometimes teachers might tell you. My grandma told me this one, I think. 

Me.) Oh yeah that’s pretty funny.

AL.) I’ve heard it like two times, so…

I had never heard this growing up, so I was quite surprised to hear how common this story is. After a brief google search, this exact story, often called the Parable of the Drowning Man, shows up in several different versions. Versions online often have different ways for the drowning man to prevent himself from death, but none of them matched what AL shared with me. This seems to be an example of Oral Formulaic Theory, where the active bearer of the narrative doesn’t know the specifics of the story, but rather the general story beats. The informant seemed to be making up the objects the man could have grabbed on to as he was telling the story.