The Handsome Ogre-Girl of the Pool

(Akamba)

Some men once went out hunting. When they had walked some distance, they met a girl who was decked with chains that dangled to and fro. One of the men saluted her, and she returned the salutation. He said to her, “Give me food!”

“Take it, here is some!”

“I do not want any!”

“What do you want, then?”

“I want to take you home as my wife to our village.”

“Wait, then, and I’ll fetch my mother!” She called, “Mother!”

Wau!”

“Here is a man who wants to take me to wife!”

The man saw how the water of a pool began to surge, and it rose up and down violently. He saw a head resembling a flame of fire appearing above the surface of the water. Then the man and his friends took fright and fled, throwing away their provisions and their bows and all their clothes. They ran to their camp and said, “In this neighbourhood we do not wish to sleep. We are very frightened, and tomorrow we shall go back home.”

They returned home to their village and said to the people there, “We have seen a girl and her mother who live in the water. And the girl is very good-looking, but her mother, oh! oh!”

“What does she look like?”

“She is an ogre!”

“Let us go and take that girl to wife; we are not afraid of ogres,” said some.

They got their equipment and set out into the wilderness. A boy who was quite small joined them. They remonstrated at length with the boy and told him to turn back, but he refused. They went on and came to the place where, on the preceding day, the other men in fright had thrown their things away. They said, “Never mind! Let us go on and bring the girl back home with us!”

They went on and found the girl. They greeted her: “Wakra [have you awakened], girl?”

“Aah!”

“Give us food!”

“There is food in the calabash.”

“We do not really want food.”

“What do you want, then?”

“We want to take you home with us to our village.”

“Well, wait, then, and I shall fetch my mother, so that she may see you!”

“Your mother, why should you call her?”

“I summon her so that she may come and see him who wishes to take me to wife.”

“Well, call her, then!”

“Mother! ”

Wau!”

“Come here that you may see the man who wants to take me to wife!”

They saw how the water began to surge, high, then higher. They saw a head looking out of the pool, and it looked like fire. They all ran away, only the small boy remained. In their flight they threw away the calabashes containing their provisions. And they repaired to the camping-place from which they had started. The ogre-mother pursued the men for some distance, and then she slowly returned and became very small. Then she said to the boy, “Good-day, son-in-law!”

“Aah!” said the girl.

“I understand that some man wanted to take you to wife, but this one is a child,” the ogress said to her daughter.

The boy said, “So I am, mother, but never mind that!”

“Well, sit down, then, and talk with your wife, and come tonight over there to my hut.”

When evening arrived, the wife said to him, “Get up and let us go to the hut!”

“But where are we to sleep? Will that be in the water?”

“There is a hut.” She took him by the arm. “Close your eyes! And open them when we are inside the hut!”

The boy shut his eyes and then opened them again, and found that he was in a hut free from water. And the woman, his mother-in-law, was sitting there weaving a bag and looking like a Kamba woman. She said to him, “You go and lie down on the bed over there and sleep!” And they went and lay down. And in the morning they went to the garden. The boy went to make a new garden for his mother-in-law. When he came back, she asked, “Do you wish to return home?”

“Yes!”

“Then take your belongings and be off!” And to her daughter she said, “In case, when you get home, your husband should happen to die, you must give instructions that he is not to be buried, but that they must throw him outside. And when he begins to putrefy, you are to take a maggot which you shall put into a honey jar. That maggot you must smear every day with fat. You must go on smearing it with fat and, eventually, it will grow into a child. That child you must go on smearing with fat, and then it will increase in growth, and you must give it milk. And by and by you will see that it is your husband who has returned.”

“I will do as you say,” answered the girl. The next morning they returned to the husband’s home.

When the people saw the boy arriving with the girl, they wailed and said, “Alas, alas! That beautiful girl has become the wife of a child. Has anyone ever seen the like.” And they looked about for medicine to kill the boy, but found that they were unable to kill him in that manner. Then they said, “We will show you something else.”

And they took their bows and went to hunt bush buck. The boy’s brother went and took up his station for the hunt in a spot out in the wilderness, and the boy placed himself opposite him. The brother shot him. Then he called for help, “Come here, all of you! I happened to shoot Syani when I aimed to kill a bush buck.”

“Seeing it was you who did it, there can be no case against you, as you were his brother.” They put the body of the boy down in the wilderness and returned home.

In the evening they said to the girl, “Syani is dead.”

She asked, “In what way was he killed?”

“By his brother.”

She wailed a great deal. Then she ceased, and asked the brother, “How did you manage to kill him?”

“I was aiming to kill a bush buck.”

“Well, I do not care for other men. I am now going to live alone.”

She wept for two months. After that she asked where they had put her husband in the wilderness. She went there and found a maggot. She took it, brought it home, and put it into a honey jar. She smeared it with fat and continued to do so daily. It grew into a child and could grow no further within the jar. Then she took the child out and put it underneath her bedstead in the we [the innermost, partitioned portion of a hut, where the wife sleeps, with her husband if feasible]. Her husband’s brother lived there in the hut, but they did not sleep together.

The boy grew apace. She made food for him and brought it to him under the bed. The man asked her, “Who is it that you are feeding over there underneath the bed?”

“It is rats, it is just rats that are always hanging about there.”

One day the boy went outside the hut, and then she noticed that he had grown into a big man. She gave him sword, quiver, and bow, and said to him, “It was this child that was killed when they were hunting bush buck. To-night he will take revenge.”

“Good!”

Now the brother had gone to drink beer at some villages far away. He returned in the evening, speaking with the beer. As he reached the gate of his fence, he heard someone talking with the wife within. He said, “Who is that?”

The wife answered, “Come here, and you will see him!”

He took his stick in order to beat the man. He walked in, and when he got to the door of the hut, he was shot by the brother whom he had killed and who now took his revenge. He dropped to the ground, was slashed with the sword, and died.

The next morning the husband and his wife moved away from the place. They went and settled at a place called Kavithe.

*

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