TALES BY MOONLIGHT

Folk tales and myths serve as a means of handing down traditions and customs from one generation to the next in Africa. For several generations, stories from Africa have traditionally been passed down by word of mouth. Often, after a hard day’s work, the adults would gather the children together by moonlight, around a village fire and tell stories. This is traditionally called Tales by Moonlight. Usually the stories are meant to prepare young people for life, and so taught a lesson or moral.


In the African folk tales, the stories reflect the culture where diverse types of animals abound. The animals and birds are often accorded human attributes, so it is not uncommon to find animals talking, singing or demonstrating other human characteristics such as greed, jealousy, honesty etc.

The setting in many of the stories exposes the reader to landform and climate in Africa. References are often made to different seasons such as dry or rainy season and their effect on vegetation. Happy reading


THE MOON
By Aimiuwu, Ehimwenma

The moon was full again, after about a month of serious rain in the evergreen rain forest. The youngsters always looked forward to the new moon because it was a special time to socialize with friends at an elder's house, to listen to stories that taught wisdom, common sense and morals.

The venue for to night's event was at Efe, the snail's house, which was at the middle of the kingdom. Youngsters came from around to hear what the aged Efe had to say. Believe it or not, other elders and parents were often there to emphasize important points the little ones needed to mature. It was not pass the time it took one to blink, Efe's house was filled like a thousand ants on a loaf of old bread. Then, Efe took his place on his host chair, and as he glanced at the multitude in his presence, he greeted "My friends, I greet you all. Parents and children, I salute and I welcome you all." and they all responded “Thank you and we greet you too." After everything had quieted down, Efe broke the one minute and a half silence as he began the main entertainment of the day.


“It was not too long ago, probably about the time most of your grandparents were in their early teens, there lived two Kings and one crown. One of them was a king for real because he had the crown and the other was called king because to his social class, he was an inventor. The king was Edugie, the lion. He was a famous, rich and powerful lion, who could buy the entire world with the cost of his breakfast. The clothes he wore when put in fire would not burn. His palace was half the kingdom and we heard that it was three times as big under the ground. My children, as I was saying, it was because of this lion that some animals gave up the kingdom's god and began to worship him. Whenever he stumbles, everyone would leave what they have been doing and run to hold him from falling and the lion too will act as if he is out of control. Now, on the other hand was Usi the goat. Apart from the leaves he put together to call his house, He had less than nothing. Any time he had enough to eat or called a meal, he ate so much to last him two weeks, then he then runs home and sit in one spot not to quicken the digestion. My father told me that he only saw Usi wear one dress in his lifetime and that the dress was so long, he was not sure if he ever had any underwear on.  He also told me that Usi's house was so large that if you were to lie down at one end of his house and row over, you would have passed the other end by a distance three times the size of the house. Even in the place of worship, whenever Usi came, they quickly dragged him outside because they were ashamed that his poverty might turn their god away. Whenever he stumbles, People quickly push him down, then those without foot mat and handkerchief would quickly come and use his only dress for whatever purpose they desired."

"One day all the rich, wealthy and famous came together and Edo the leopard with his kind heart suggested that they do something or maybe start a program to help the poor ones out of their miserable standard of living. He also suggested that good roads, food and adequate water supply should be provided in poor areas. As he said this Edugie gave an arrogant loud laugh and said "I will not believe anyone is poor in this mighty kingdom until I see someone feeding from the trash can and moreover if anyone is poor, he is poor because he was meant to die poor." At this, a lot of people applauded and decided not to give one-eight of a penny, but few gave and it reached the poor. It was because of Edo's idea that more than half the kingdom was angry with him, especially Edugie and Usi. Edugie was angry with Edo and his idea because the richest in the land was king and if he should give a little to the poor, then Ike the tiger or Oka the elephant might become the richest and have the crown. So maybe that jealous Edo was trying to dethrone him cleverly. Now, although Usi was poor and mocked by the upper class, a lot of the poor gave him maximum respect. In fact, he was called king because he was very creative and was the master inventor of his time. It was because he was poor that he would turn what others call useless and have thrown away into something cheap and very useful and it was as effective as those with golden handles for the wealthy. So when Edo's money got to him, he angrily refused to take it because he thought that Edo -one of the upper class- was trying to give him a piece of cake to make him feel rich. So that he would not be as creative as he should be."

"Life went on, The rich got richer and did everything they could to get richer and of course the poor were very rich, since they had everything the greedy rich ones left behind, which was approximately one-nineteenth of nothing. It was not too long, Edugie died. At his funeral, A lot of the upper class came in their two million dollar suits. It was clear that they were competing for the most well dressed Individual, Some of them, just bought their most expensive cars the previous night to the funeral. Even the cow that eats grass had golden canines (special teeth for cutting flesh). Edugie's casket was golden and was carried around the kingdom -all by itself in a golden plane that sits a thousand passengers -before coming to the funeral site. When the funeral service was over, The same people who were his friends that attended the funeral, those who worshiped him and those who ran to hold him whenever he stumbles said amongst themselves and in their hearts " Now that the old fool is dead, who will arise to be king and how are we going to steal some of his wealth before someone get to it before us"?

"Two weeks later, Usi also passed away. At his funeral a lot of poor individuals came to see their king buried. Some of them came with signs like “Poverty is the father of invention", "King of Poverty" and "May you own a dime of you own in the next life". This they did not to mock him but it was out of genuine love and blessing for their fellow animal of poverty. Each of them wore their most expensive piece of cloth round their waist as they carried his body to be buried. As they got to the site to lay his body, they stopped to put their resources together and buy land to lay their friend in. After they put their resources together, they found out that their money was only enough to buy land to put only his nose in. So they decided to carry him else where for cheaper rate. At this, the tortoise and other grumbled that he was too heavy and that his head (tortoise) is now finding it difficult to come out of the shell due to his weight. Instead of carrying him else where, they gave him to the wolves for supper after a general consensus. So the wolves prayed for them all and took him (usi's body) home to spent the night with them on their dinning table." "My beloved children, There are three lessons to be learned from my tale. First, It is very good to help people when you can but you have to be prepared for the shock, that those you are trying very hard to help might not appreciate it and that in trying to help, you may be taking away from others. This will end up turning against you as in the case of Edugie and Usi with Edo.    

Secondly, Whatever you do, do it very well because you believe in it and not to please others and displease yourself. Believe it or not, they might hail you in your presence but only God knows what they really think of you as in the case of Edugie after his burial. Lastly, Nobody knows his or her friend. We are born and we socialize but who really cares about you, apart from your immediate family. As in the case of Usi being feed to the wolves by his so called friends for dinner." After he finished his story, everyone present thanked him and he thanked them back and sent them home with greetings, blessings and well wishes for their loved ones.


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HE WHO HAS PATIENCE HAS EVERYTHING.

Patience is a virtue, we are often told, and this little story illustrates how patience brought one couple more Happiness than either children or money. A Nigerian Folk Tales
In the olden days, there lived a man who was so poor that he had only one cloth and that was in rags. He had only a single wife, and she was childless. They had not other work to do except collecting firewood from the bush and had no reasonable hope of ever improving their condition. Nevertheless, they were content and believed that the future might bring them a better lot.

The poor man also had a friend called Abinuku – he is angry to death – who hated everybody in his heart but did not show it in the face. The poor man thought he had a friend – but in reality, there was nobody to love him but himself.

The poor man prayed to God for many years, asking him to better his life; when at last the time came that the almighty God was ready to help him, He sent three heavenly creatures to visit the poor man, and they were called Monkey, Child and Patience. He told the poor man that he would be allowed to keep one of these wonderful creatures, while the others must be allowed to return to their Maker.

The three wonderful creatures set out on their long and troublesome road from Heaven to Earth. One day they arrived at a large river. The water was cold and deep, but patient quietly walked through the flood. Then Child – said to Money: “I am too weak to cross this river. You are big and strong. Please carry me across.” But Money said angrily: “You impudent child! Would you make a senior work for you? It is you who must carry me through the river - or there will be a trouble.” They were fighting for a long time, but in the end Patience returned and carried them both across.

The three wonderful creatures finally arrived at the poor man’s house. They were well received by the poor man, who gave them all the food he could find in his home. The poor man felt pleased and honoured by their visit, but when he heard what they were coming about he got worried and confused. He felt quite unable to choose and he asked the advice of his wife.

“You foolish man, the wife said. “Don’t you realize that we need money most of all? If we have child, what can we feed it on? And if we have patience – what use is that?”

The poor man was still not sure what to do so he went to his friend Abinuku and asked his advice too. Abinuku was very jealous because the three wonderful creatures had not come to him. He did not want him to have either money or child and so he advised him to choose Patience. “If you choose Child – you will not have money to feed it. But if you choose Money and you have not child – your property will go to slaves after your death. So you had better have Patience.’

The poor man did not know the answer to that and so he went and chose Patience. His wife was very annoyed when she saw Money and Child leaving the house and Patience settling down to live with them.

But the poor man was content and Abinuku secretly triumphed. Now, Money and Child went on their way and they came back to the same river and they began to argue again who should carry the other across.

They quarrelled for a long time, and in the end they decided that, as they were unable to cross the river, they might just as well return to the poor man’s house. When they arrived at the poor man’s house there was great happiness and the house became a house of song.

Thus, Money and Child will in the end settle down where Patience had made its home. Patience is the father of every good thing in life but do not misunderstand me, my friend, when you sit in your garden and a snake comes to bit you – I am not telling you to be patient then.

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THE VALUE OF A PERSON

This story is a very important advice regarding the value of a person. The council consists of different parts of the human body that compete for the power to control the entire human body.

Once upon a time, members of the human body council met in order to choose a leader. Each member introduced himself to explain the role he played in the entire human body. The Head told the other members of the body, ‘I want to be the leader because, if we want to look at a person, we do so through the Head. I have intelligence and wisdom.’

The other members of the body told the Head, ‘We know that you have the intelligence and wisdom, but you have ringworm and you have lice; therefore, you do not deserve to be our leader.’

The Hand also announced, ‘I want to be the leader because it is I who helps the man. If provoked, I can defend the human body by administering shots. The head should be strong. If someone is sick, I make him eat. If you need to cut something, you use me.

The members said to the Hand, ‘You cannot be our leader because you slap people, you hit people and you touch everything. Therefore, we do not give you the power.’

The Eyes spoke up, asking for power. He said, ‘We make it possible for people to move around, read, and see the light of day.’

The members replied to the Eyes, ‘Look, you are hungry, you are thieves, you look at the neighbour’s wife, diamond in a package, and other people’s money. You cannot be a leader.’ Other members refused.

The Foot in turn told the members, ‘I want to be the leader because I move people from one place to another.’

The members said to the Foot, ‘Foot, you perform karate, you kick people, you are always hidden in the shoe. You do not deserve to be our leader.

The Knee said, ‘I want to be the leader because, if someone wants to pray, he kneels.’

The members said to the Knee, ‘You are hidden under people’s clothing. You cannot be our leader.’

The Mouth said, ‘I want to be the leader because, when I go to the Senate, I will speak for you.’

The members said to the Mouth, ‘You Mouth are provocative. You do not have self control. You insult people, you accuse people falsely. You cannot be our leader.’

There remained only one member, and that was the Anus. He told members that he also wanted to be chief.

The members became very    angry and told the Anus that, even if the power was given to every other member, they could not give it to the Anus.  

Anus said, ‘You will all know that I am the head. I will go home and you shall seek me.’ The Anus went home and closed his door.

The other members stayed to party. The Hand took the food and gave to the Mouth. The very happy Mouth ate joyfully. She sent it to the Stomach and the Stomach was happy to receive the food. Man walked around without any problem. The Feet moved smoothly.

The first day passed, the man was well. The second day, things still went well, as well as the third day. However, on the fourth day, oh oh oh, the man's belly was bloated. His eyes were puffy, his hands and feet were shaking. The man was unable to move.

On the fifth day, the members decided to seek the Anus at his house. When they arrived at Mr. Anus’ house, they said to him, ‘Anus, it is you who should be our leader, we came to hand power over to you.’ Therefore, Anus accepted the offer.

He pressed the first button, the man let out some gas. The man begins to move his hands and feet and they asked the man, how are you now? The man replied, ‘I feel better.’ Mr. Anus pressed the second button, and the man was able to empty his bowel and felt comfortable.

Dear friends, really, all members of the body are very important and each member plays an important role in the life of a person. The foot cannot say to the eye, ‘You are not important.’ The hand cannot say to the head, ‘That does not matter.’ All members perform useful functions.

MORAL

Nobody should say to someone else in the society that they do not matter. A big person cannot tell a little person that he does not matter because everyone is useful in their own way.

A car owner cannot disrespect the mechanic for, when his car breaks down, he will look for the mechanic to fix it.  

Someone who has many shoes cannot make fun of the shoemaker for, on the day the shoes are damaged, he will seek the shoemaker.

In like manner, nobody should say that I, Kabinda, am not important in Anike Foundation. When the President of the Foundation wants to have information about our country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, he will seek me.

Each child is very important within the family because everyone plays an important role within the family. Therefore, members of the family should always have deep respect for one another.

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THE KING’S DAUGHTERS, 

A long time ago, a wealthy king had three beautiful daughters. They had everything they wanted offered to them on a platter of gold. However, only one thing was lacking in their life, none of them had a husband, nor did they have a suitor. This made the king very unhappy. He had food, but he could not eat. What shall we do now?

He asked his wife. I want my children to be happily married, but they think that no one is good enough for them.

The king’s daughters’ were however not bothered. “I want to marry the richest man alive,” said the oldest sister. “I want to marry the most handsome man,” the younger sister said arrogantly. As for the youngest sister, “I want to marry a king like my father. Only he will be richer and more powerful. Oh! What a life I shall live being the queen of a great empire.” Their mother the queen added, “Whoever marries my daughters will be a lucky man, seeing how beautiful they all are. Oh no! My daughters will only marry the best men in the whole land.”

..the richest man alive!

I want the most handsome of them all!

The king’s heart was very troubled. He told his wife, “ I’m finding my daughters men who will love and care for them. I will not watch them grow old without husbands and children.” Do whatever you want, said the queen, but my daughters will only marry anyone who can tell their names. That way, I will be sure they are marrying the wisest man in the entire land.

It was announced throughout the land, that the king wanted the wisest man to marry his children. Whoever could tell their names would be given their hands in marriage. The rich and famous went with gifts to the palace to try but they couldn’t guess the princesses’ names. No one ever called them by their real names. Everyone called them “the princesses”.

Soon, every available man in the land had gone to ask for the princesses’ hands in marriage, but no one could tell their names. So, the tortoise, a very crafty animal decided he would give it a try. But before he went to the palace, he sneaked around the princesses, following them everywhere without their knowledge. Just when the tortoise started to think there was no hope for him, luck smiled on him one day. The princesses went apple picking on the outskirts of the town. They hadn’t gone very far when the youngest princess saw a bike. Now, a bike was a very uncommon sight in those days. The youngest princess was so excited that she started singing. As she sang, she called her older sister by her real name. The younger sister rushed over, and she did the same, calling their oldest sister. They ended up singing together, dancing around the bike and calling each other’s name. That was how the tortoise knew all their names.

But alas, the tortoise remembered all the princesses’ names. He went to the palace and told the king. The whole town gathered, and the tortoise said the name of each princess. Everyone was shocked. The king had no choice but to give all his daughters to the tortoise as his wives. The princesses and the queen were extremely sad. But there was nothing anyone could do. And so, the tortoise started to take the princesses home as his wives. On their way to tortoise’ home, the princesses were so ashamed, that they each chose a very different lifestyle rather than become the tortoise’ wife.

And so it happened that since that day, no one ever saw any of the princesses again. The king and queen were very sad, but there was nothing anyone could do. If only the princesses and their mother had known, they would not have been so proud and arrogant in choosing their husbands.

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THE CHEETAH AND THE LAZY HUNTER,
A Traditional Zulu Story

Long ago, a wicked and lazy hunter sat under a tree. He was hungry, but did not want to be bothered to find food. Below him on the grassy field, there were robust springbok grazing. Our friend, the hunter did nothing, he only watched the animals as they fed, wishing he could have meat without working for it.

Suddenly he noticed the movement of a female cheetah seeking food. She singled out a springbok who had foolishly wandered away from the rest. Suddenly she gathered her long legs under her and sprang forward. With great speed she came upon the springbok and brought it down. Startled, the rest of the herd raced away as the cheetah attacked her prey.

The hunter watched as the cheetah dragged her prize to some shade on the edge of the clearing. There, three beautiful cheetah cubs were waiting for her. The lazy hunter was filled with envy for the cubs and wished that he could have such a good hunter provide for him. Then he had a wicked idea. He decided that he would steal one of the cheetah cubs and train it to hunt for him. He decided to wait until the mother cheetah left the vicinity to make his move. He smiled to himself, feeling like a genius.

Imagine dining on delicious meat every day without having to do the actual hunting!

When the sun began to set, the cheetah hid her cubs in a bush and set off to the waterhole. The hunter quickly grabbed his spear and trotted down to the bushes where the cubs were hidden. There he found the three cubs, still too young to be frightened of him or to run away. First, he chose one, then decided upon another, and then changed his mind again. Finally he decided to steal all three cubs, thinking to himself that he would do better to keep them all.

Mother cheetah returned half-an-hour later only to find her cubs gone. She cried until there were no more tears in her eyes. Day and night she cried and searched for her cubs. Until she met an old man who came to find out what the problem was. 

The old man was wise and knew the ways of the animals. When he heard what the wicked hunter had done, he became very angry. The lazy hunter was not only a thief; he had broken the traditions of the tribe. Everyone knew that a hunter must use only his own strength and skill. Any other way of hunting was surely a dishonour. The old man returned to the village and told the elders what had happened. The villagers became angry. They found the lazy hunter and drove him away from the village. The old man took the three cheetah cubs back to their grateful mother.

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THE TORTOISE, THE DOG AND THE FARMER
A tale from Nigeria,  

Once upon a time, there was famine in the land of the animals because the dry season had extended more than usual. There was no rain in the land and every animal was looking rather thin and unhealthy because very limited food was available. However the tortoise observed that his friend, the dog was looking very fresh and healthy. He wondered what the secret of the dog’s well being was and decided to find out.

The next day, the tortoise decided to pay his friend, the dog a visit. On getting to his house, the tortoise said, “My good friend, you know we have been friends for a very long time, please tell me the secret of your rosy cheeks and your bulging stomach, despite the famine throughout the land. I need to know so that I do not die of hunger.”
The dog replied, “There is no secret to it my good friend, it’s all my hard work that has paid off.”

The tortoise was not fooled by the dog’s reply and he decided to press further. He said,” My friend, I know that you have found a way to beat this famine, please tell me, I will keep your secret.” The dog however denied that there was any secret behind his well being. So, the tortoise thanked him and left, but he could not get the issue out of his mind so he came up with a plan.

The next day, he decided to shadow the dog’s movements. He hid behind a tree and observed the dog leave home very early in the morning with a basket. He tailed him all the way to the neighbouring village, making sure he was at some safe distance behind the dog all the time.

The dog made his way to a farm and, after looking around to make sure that no one was watching, started harvesting yam off the farm into his basket. The tortoise then announced his presence to the dog. The dog was shocked that his friend would go to that extent to find out his secret, but there was nothing he could do. He decided to let the tortoise in on his terrible act of stealing from someone else’s farm. So off they went on the next day, and the next, and the next....

Each time they went, the tortoise took a little more than he did the previous day. It then occurred to the dog that the more yams the tortoise added each day, the longer it took them to get back home, so he decided to caution him. “My good friend tortoise, the quantity of yam you take home each day is becoming too much. Yesterday, we left for home at 5.45pm. The farmer may catch us and then that will be the end of us.” The tortoise replied nonchalantly, “Don’t worry my friend; I’m storing enough yam at home for the rainy day. The farmer will never catch us.”

”I don’t think you should be greedy; you could get us in trouble if we harvest too much yam than we can carry easily enough to escape being caught by the farmer,” said the dog worriedly.

So the next day, at 5.30 prompt, the dog announced that he was leaving for home. But the tortoise pleaded for some more time to harvest yam. Shortly after, the dog put his basket on his head and started heading home. The tortoise noticed this and shouted after the dog.

The dog however refused to listen and made haste to avoid the farmer. The tortoise pleaded for hours, but the dog by then had long gone. The farmer arrived on his farm and found the tortoise with a basketful of his yam. He handed him over to the king’s men and the tortoise was brought to justice. When the dog saw what had happened to his friend tortoise, he was afraid, he then realized how unfair his actions towards the farmer had been. From then on, he decided that he would never take whatever did not belong to him so that he would not get himself into trouble like the tortoise.

”Dog, wait for me, wait for me, I can’t carry my basket alone, it’s too heavy, please help me,”

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AKANKE AND THE JEALOUS PAWNBROKER

There once lived in a village an old man who had only one daughter named Akanke. This old man was so poor that all of his neighbours and friends believed that he was destined for poverty from birth. Although he was a hardworking man from his youth, as he grew older it was so that his poverty became more serious.

At last he became so entirely old and weary that he could not go and work on his farm for his living. Then his only daughter, Akanke, advised him to pawn her for money so that he might get money for his food. So without delay, but with great sorrow, this old man took Akanke to a pawnbroker who lived in another village, and he pawned Akanke for forty naira. Having got the money, this old man returned to his village with the money.

The pawnbroker was a middle-aged woman. She was very greedy and jealous, and she had only one son who was about twelve years old. She loved this her son so much that she indulged him in everything': she did not even allow him to do any work.

The work that Akanke was going to do for her was to grind corn until Akanke's old father would be able to refund the forty naira for which she was pawned.

In the village of this pawnbroker there was a very large flat grinding stone, on which all the people of the village ground their corn, pepper, and many other things. None of the people of this village could tell how the strange stone came there. It was on the outskirts of the village, and it was by the side of the strange road which the goblins used to pass through to the place of their meetings in the night. Anyone who came there on the night of their meeting would be carried away by the goblins.

But as this pawnbroker was merciless, she forced poor Akanke to go and grind corn on the stone every night. She was not worried at all whether Akanke was carried away by the goblins. When it was the seventh day of the week, when everyone avoided the place of the stone, Akanke reminded her mistress, the jealous pawnbroker, 'It is the night that the goblins will pass by the stone to get to the place of their meeting.'

The pawnbroker answered, shouting with great annoyance, 'Akanke, you are a fool to remind me of the goblins' meeting this night! Don't you know that your old father has pawned you for money? Eh, Akanke, you must understand as from now that a pawned girl like you must work at any time in the day or night! Better you put the basket of corn on your head and go and grind it for me, or if you refuse to go to the stone this night, then better you go and tell your old father to pay my forty naira back at once!'

Willing or not, Akanke, with tears rolling down her cheeks, carried the corn to that strange grinding stone that night.

Akanke had hardly got to the stone when she knelt down before it and began to grind the corn as hastily as she could in fear, so that she might leave there before the goblins would come and pass through there to the place of meeting.

Akanke tried her best to grind all the corn so that she might leave there before the arrival of the goblins, but all her efforts were in vain. At last, a one-headed goblin who first arrived and met her there stopped and shouted horribly at Akanke: 'Who are you, grinding corn on this stone in this night? Don't you know that we goblins are having our meeting this night, and that we will pass through here to the place of our meeting?'

'Yes, I am sure that you goblins will pass through here this night, and of course I reminded my mistress, the jealous pawnbroker, about it. But she forced me to come here,' Akanke explained with fear, in a trembling voice.

'Better you leave here now, I 'advise you,' that one headed goblin warned Akanke with a terrible noise, 'because if the two-, three-, four-, five-, six- and seven headed goblins, who are my masters, meet you here, they will carry you away. Leave now before it is too late for you!' Then he passed through there to the place of their meeting.

But Akanke could not return to the pawnbroker without grinding all the corn.

A few minutes later, the master goblins arrived. They were two-, three-, four-, five-, six- and seven-headed goblins. The one with seven heads was their king. He stopped together with the rest in front of Akanke and shouted impatiently, 'Who are you so brave as to come here to grind corn this night? Are you human or some other being?'

'It was not my wish to come and grind corn here this night, but my mistress, who is a jealous pawnbroker and to whom I am pawned for money, has forced me to come here this night.' Akanke was trembling from feet to head, with fear, as she explained this to the king of goblins, and tears were rolling down her cheeks.

Luckily, he listened to her attentively. He did not attempt to kill or take her away as he usually did. Instead he was sorry when he had heard her explanation. After he paused for a while, he told her to spread her head tie on the grinding stone. When she had done so with fear, he pulled out one of the seven horns which he wore on his seven heads. When he had put the horn on the head tie and recited some magic words on it, a strange cowrie came out from it, and it fell on to the head tie.

'All right. Wrap up the cowrie with your head tie and take it to your old father, and put it in the room and leave it there for one night. He should go back to that room the following morning, and whatever he finds in the head tie when he unwraps it, it is his. And I am sure that you and your old father will be happy. But I warn you, don't attempt to come to this stone at night again!' In this way, the king of goblins had taken pity on the condition of Akanke and her father.

The king of goblins had hardly left there when Akanke, with great fear, wrapped up the cowrie with her head tie, and she then went in the darkness direct to her father. She and her old father put the head tie in the room as soon as she entered the house. After, she told him how the king of goblins had had mercy for her although she had ground corn on the stone in the night when the goblins passed through there on their way to their meeting.

It was to Akanke's and her father's greatest surprise that they entered the room the following morning. They did not believe their eyes at first when they met more than two thousand naira on the floor.

And that very morning, her father took above forty naira from that money. He and Akanke went to the jealous pawnbroker. He refunded her forty naira, for which Akanke was pawned, and in addition he gave her a few naira as a reward.

But the pawnbroker was so jealous when she saw a large sum of money in Akanke's father's hand that she refused the reward. She saw that although she had treated Akanke badly, the bad treatment had forced her to meet her good fortune.

'Take your money away. I know how Akanke got it, and I shall send my own son to go and grind the corn on the same stone, and my son will get an even larger amount of money from the same king of goblins. Go back to your village now!' the jealous pawnbroker spoke jealously, and she proudly frowned at Akanke and her old father. Then Akanke and her old father left for their village happily.

The jealous pawnbroker shrugged and said to herself as they left, 'Who would accept such a little amount of money as a reward from them when I know where Akanke got it!' The very next night that the goblins would pass by the stone to go to the place of their meeting, this jealous pawnbroker gave some quantity of corn to her son. She told him to go and grind it on the same stone.

As soon as he began to grind the corn, the king of goblins and his followers met the boy there. All of them stopped. 'Who are you again?' the king of goblins shouted with great passion. 'Yes, it is high time enough to teach the people of this village a lesson. Last time,' he continued with annoyance, 'I met one lady here, and of course it was your mother, the pawnbroker, who sent her.

'But this night I shall take you away to my house instead of giving you money, because your mother is disturbing us here too much,' he shouted angrily at the boy.

Then he gripped the poor boy so suddenly that he shrank with fear to the size of a lizard. The king threw him in the big bag which was hung on his left shoulder, and he and his followers went direct to the place of their meeting.

After his mother, the jealous pawnbroker, had waited till the following morning but did not see him return, she went to the strange stone. But she found nothing there. She tried with all her effort to get her son back, but she failed.

Then she went to the soothsayer. The soothsayer disclosed to her, 'Your son is still alive, but he is in the custody of a certain creature who is more powerful than a human being.'

'What is the remedy now?' the pawnbroker asked impatiently. 'I mean, how can I get my son back from that creature?'

The soothsayer was without mercy. 'If you want to get your son back, you will sacrifice four goats, four fowls, four bottles of palm oil, and a large sum of money to the Iroko tree, to the god of iron, to the god of thunder, and to the god of rivers,' he said.

'But my money will not be sufficient to buy all those things!' the pawnbroker said, weeping bitterly. 'What shall I do then, good soothsayer?'

'I am sorry, indeed,' the soothsayer said, deceiving the jealous pawnbroker, 'but just to help you, I say go and bring all of the money that you have got at home.'

Then the pawnbroker ran to her house and brought all the money she had to the soothsayer. He took it all from her, but her only son still could not be found. Thus the jealous pawnbroker lost both her son and money as a result of her greediness and jealousy.


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The Affair of the Hippopotamus and the Tortoise; or,
Why the Hippopotamus lives in the Water

MANY years ago the hippopotamus, whose name was Isantim, was one of the biggest kings on the land; he was second only to the elephant. The hippo had seven large fat wives, of whom he was very fond. Now and then he used to give a big feast to the people, but a curious thing was that, although everyone knew the hippo, no one, except his seven wives, knew his name.
At one of the feasts, just as the people were about to sit down, the hippo said, "You have come to feed at my table, but none of you know my name. If you cannot tell my name, you shall all of you go away without your dinner."

As they could not guess his name, they had to go away and leave all the good food and tombo behind them. But before they left, the tortoise stood up and asked the hippopotamus what he would do if he told him his name at the next feast? So the hippo replied that he would be so ashamed of himself, that he and his whole family would leave the land, and for the future would dwell in the water.

Now it was the custom for the hippo and his seven wives to go down every morning and evening to the river to wash and have a drink. Of this custom the tortoise was aware. The hippo used to walk first, and the seven wives followed. One day when they had gone down to the river to bathe, the tortoise made a small hole in the middle of the path, and then waited. When the hippo and his wives returned, two of the wives were some distance behind, so the tortoise came out from where he had been hiding, and half buried himself in the hole he had dug, leaving the greater part of his shell exposed. When the two hippo wives came along, the first one knocked her foot against the tortoise's shell, and immediately called out to her husband, "Oh! Isantim, my husband, I have hurt my foot." At this the tortoise was very glad, and went joyfully home, as he had found out the hippo's name.

When the next feast was given by the hippo, he made the same condition about his name; so the tortoise got up and said, "You promise you will not kill me if I tell you your name?" and the hippo promised. The tortoise then shouted as loud as he was able, "Your name is Isantim," at which a cheer went up from all the people, and then they sat down to their dinner.
When the feast was over, the hippo, with his seven wives, in accordance with his promise, went down to the river, and they have always lived in the water from that day till now; and although they come on shore to feed at night, you never find a hippo on the land in the daytime.



THE TWO FRIENDS

Two boys were born on the very same day in an African tribe, and they grew up to be firm friends. Ndemi was the rich one. Jinjo was poor. They looked so alike that nobody could tell the one from the other.

After spending his youth in the usual tribal pursuits - grass cutting, hunting of hares, mice and rats, and later bigger game - Ndemi had a yearning to see something of the world outside. It was only natural that he should ask his poor friend to go along with him.

When they reached the next village, Ndemi was so dazzled by the beauty of a most lovely girl called Malama that he immediately asked her to marry him, adding, "I would be prepared to give a hundred cattle for such loveliness."

"My father is Chief of the village," she replied, "and it is his wish that I should marry a man capable of doing superhuman things. He sets a task for my suitors, such a difficult one that I fear I shall grow old without ever being married."

To the Chief the young man said, "Sir, I wish to marry your daughter, surely the most beautiful woman in the whole of Africa. Tell me what to do and it shall be done. Where others have failed, I shall succeed, because my love for your daughter is boundless."

But the young man became despondent when the Chief told him what his task would be. Guarded by an old woman, he would have to spend six days and six nights in a hut - without any food or water to sustain him. And if he did not succeed, if he cried for food or water before the time was up, he would be killed. So consumed with love was he that he accepted the conditions.

They put him in a prison-like hut that had no windows. And in the long and narrow doorway, the old woman slept on her mat like a human watchdog. Ndemi put his bed-mat against the wall that faced the street, and so the first long day crawled slowly from sunrise to sunset.

When the night was dark and the villagers asleep, Ndemi's prearranged plan came into operation. After wetting the wall, Jinjo made a small hole in it with his knife, and through this hole he quietly pushed a hollow reed, dipping its end into the calabash of water. On the other end, Ndemi was able to drink the sweet, life-giving liquid without even rising from his mat, and when the calabash was drained, Jinjo removed the reed, plastered the wall with mud to hide the hole, and quietly stole off into the darkness.

Every night he did this, while the old woman became more and more suspicious, for no previous suitor had lasted more than three days before crying for food and water. On the fifth night she commanded Ndemi to sleep against the other wall of the hut while she lay down on his bed-mat. For the first time in his life the young man knew fear.

While the village was sleeping and the bullfrogs croaked down at the river, the old woman heard a soft scraping noise and after a few minutes a hollow reed poked through and she drank the water from Jinjo's calabash. In triumph she shouted, 'So that's how you've sustained yourself these past five days - by cheating! The Chief will hear of this in the morning, my own calabash filled with water will be the evidence that will end your life.'

Jinjo heard this as he withdrew the reed with trembling fingers. He also heard his friend weeping with sorrow, and he knew a mingling of sadness and fear. Stealing back into the darkness, he wondered how he could help the friend who was to him as a brother.

Suddenly a voice came squeaking out of the darkness: "Young man, you are worried. Can I be of assistance?" Jinjo looked hard in all directions but could not see anybody. "Look down," squeaked the voice, "I am Davyaga, the rat. Tell me your problem and I will try to find a solution."

When Jinjo had told his tale, Davyaga said, "Leave it to me. You sleep well tonight. Your friend is no longer in danger." And he was gone, rustling through the dry grass. Reaching the old woman's hut, Davyaga gnawed a hole through the wall, and while the old woman went on sleeping, a horrible leer of triumph creasing her face, he pushed the calabash through the hole where his friends, the white ants, stood waiting in rows, drawn up like soldiers on a parade-ground. When they had finished eating the calabash, not even the smallest chip remained.

The sun came up and the old woman found that she had no evidence, and as nobody would believe her fantastic story, Ndemi was able to marry Malama and take her back to his village with him. There his father built a house for them, and a house for the poor Jinjo. To Ndemi and Jinjo, he gave magic knives, made by the giants in the far-off mountains and so alike that nobody could possibly tell the difference between them. "One day you will need the magic of the knives," he said to them.

After some months Jinjo the poor one, announced that he had a desire to travel to a faraway village and find a wife for himself so that he could be as radiantly happy as Malama and Ndemi. But first he planted a silk-cotton tree, and said that he would leave when it was as high as his knee.

When the tree had grown and he was about to set off on his travels, he said to Ndemi, "See how it flowers, this cotton-seed tree of mine that I planted in a hole cut out by magic knife given me by your father. If these leaves become withered and dry, it will be a sign that I am either dead or in the most desperate trouble. Good-bye, and may your happiness grow during my absence."

For days he traveled across plains until he could see in the distance a village. Approaching, he heard the sound of weeping and wailing, a vast sad sound coming from the throats of hundreds of people. And just ahead of him he could see a lonely girl sitting in the dry riverbed. She was as beautiful as Malama, and he was in love with her before he even came close to ask her what was causing the misery in the village.

"The River God is cruel and demanding. So the river flows only when a young girl is sacrificed. One by one, all the young maidens have been devoured by the River God, and now it is my turn, I, Kalima, the daughter of the chief, for I am the last one left, and my people will die without the water that only my sacrifice will bring them. So go away and leave me, before the River God comes at sunset to devour me.

But Jinjo refused to go, for what man will leave the woman he loves when she is in danger? All day he sat with her, telling her of his love for her, and how he would take her back to his village as his wife after he dealt with the cruel River God.

As the sun sank, there was a rumbling in the sand near them, and out of the earth came the biggest snake Jinjo had ever seen. It was as thick as the mighty baobab tree, and the young man was filled with fear, but he dashed forward and with a sweep of his magic knife he cut off the monster's head. Water came gushing out of the huge headless snake, and even as it tried to slither back into its hole Jinjo was cutting it into pieces. Out of each piece the water flowed unceasingly. Laughing with joy and relief, Jinjo and Kalima ran out of the river-bed as it filled with the sweet life-giving water until the river was flowing through the village and the thirsty villagers were drinking greedily.

Of course, Kalima and Jinjo married immediately, but because she had - according to tribal law - already been sacrificed to the River God and therefore no longer really living - they had to build their hut some distance from the village. This did not worry them, as they were able to entertain their friends in their hut, and many grateful villagers came to pass the time of day with them.

A few weeks after the marriage there was an astonishing happening. Every piece of meat in the village - chops, steaks, even sausage sizzling in the pan - suddenly jumped up and ran towards the distant hill. The young man could not believe his eyes. Never before had he seen meat actually running.

"This happens quite often," Kalima explained to him. "The meat runs to that distant hill. It swallows the meat, and will do the same, it is said, to anybody who goes near the mighty rock at its foot. This has never happened, for all are afraid of that rock and never go close enough to be engulfed."

A few days later Jinjo went hunting with ten young men from the village. Seeing an antelope, they gave chase, and in their excitement kept running even when the animal passed the dreaded rock, which opened its stony mouth wide and swallowed them all.

At that very moment, many miles away, Ndemi happened to be standing at the cotton-seed tree planted by Jinjo and now as high as his chest. Even as he looked, the leaves withered and dried up, and he knew that his friend was either dead or in great danger. He set out immediately.

Three days later he reached the hut where Kalima and Jinjo lived. He looked so much so much like Jinjo that Kalima thought her husband had returned from the hunt.

"Three days you have been gone," she cried. "You must have hunted many animals for the pots of the villagers." "Yes," he replied, pretending to be Jinjo so that she would not be alarmed. "It was a splendid hunt and we were very successful, but I must go away again immediately, for a great herd of buffalo is moving across the plain and we need all the meat we can get before the winter comes on."

And in spite of her pleadings, he ran to the village and spoke with the chief who said sadly to him, "Of course, we haven't told Kalima what happened, but ten young men and Jinjo have disappeared. They haven't been seen for three days and it is believed that they were swallowed up by the rock on the sacred hill."

"Jinjo is my dearest friend," said Ndemi. "I must rescue him. Let some young men guide me to this abominable rock and I shall see what I can do." They tried to dissuade him, but he was persistent, and ten young hunters led him to the rock. "There it is," they said. "We admire your bravery, but we ourselves are too afraid to go any farther."

Ndemi strode up to the rock, and the watchers saw it bending over to swallow him. But he stabbed at it with his magic knife, and the watchers cheered as the rock broke into two halves, and the ten lost hunters and Jinjo marched out, singing, laughing, and happy to be back with their friends in the sunlight again.

"Which one is my husband?" cried Kalima as the two young men, looking exactly alike, stood before her.

"I am your husband," said Jinjo, "and this is my dear friend Ndemi who saved us all." And he told her of their friendship and adventures together, and how Ndemi had come to help him when the cotton-seed tree's leaves withered and dried up.

"Such likeness!" she cried. "Such friendship and devotion! How truly wonderful it is and how proud I am of both of you."

They went back home with Ndemi, built a house near his, and the two young men and Malama and Kalima remained dear friends for the rest of their long lives.


@WPP Jr
Editor/Publisher