Mupuiyakalangi

- A cumulative tale -
(Ovimbundu)

Mupuiyakalangi [whose name means “the rain-maker of Kalangi”] accompanied his wife when she went to visit her family. They were welcomed joyfully at the village of his wife’s family, where even roosters crowed a welcome for Mupuiyakalangi. He considered this to be a sign of things to come.

In the evening they cooked a fowl for Mupuiyakalangi. When he had tasted it, he said, “I have just one thing to say about this fowl: the person who cooked it is a cook [among the Ovimbundu, the very highest form of praise is to say that a man is “a cook,” or “a hunter,” etc.].”

Dog had listened to Mupuiyakalangi and now said, “Those who eat food with gusto do not offer other praise.” When he had heard this, Mupuiyakalangi said to Dog, “For that insult, I am going to hit you with the broom.”

Dog replied, “Do not hit me for telling you that the knotted bunch of meat in your mouth is a testicle.”

Mupuiyakalangi gagged and choked until his tongue fell out upon the ground. Just as he was leaning down to pick up his tongue, the rooster rushed in, picked up the tongue, and ran away with it. Mupuiyakalangi chased the rooster, which so frightened the rooster that he dropped the tongue in the ash heap.

Mupuiyakalangi took up his tongue and went with it to the river to wash off the ashes which were on it. When he began to wash his tongue in the river, it slipped from his fingers into the water, and before he could recover it, a fish seized it and swam away with it. Mupuiyakalangi said to himself, “What a day! What weird things are happening to me!”

Mupuiyakalangi looked downstream and saw there a fish trapper. He hurried to him and said, “Brother, I have been unfortunate, for a fish swam away with my tongue. Please be kind enough to do me a favor. Let us open the stomachs of your fish, since one of them may be the fish which swam away with my tongue.”

The fisherman replied, “Just as you say, master.” So they began to open the stomachs of the fish. They finally found the tongue in the stomach of one fish. Mupuiyakalangi took his tongue from the stomach of the fish, and put it back in his mouth without washing it. Then Mupuiyakalangi thanked the fisherman many times for his kindness and help. The fisherman, to indicate his sympathy, gave Mupuiyakalangi some of his fish as a present. Mupuiyakalangi accepted the fish, bade the fisherman goodbye, and walked away along a path.

Mupuiyakalangi had walked but a short distance when he met a little old woman. They greeted each other, and then the little old woman asked him, “Will you trade your fish for some cowpeas?” Mupuiyakalangi agreed and they made the trade. When they parted, the little old woman said to Mupuiyakalangi, “As you go in that direction, you will come to the Plain of Kapule. Those who cross that plain must not look back. If you should look back, you will spill your cowpeas.’,

Mupuiyakalangi replied to her, “Lady Grandmother, you have warned me. The son has heard.”

The little old woman went on her way, and Mupuiyakalangi also went his way. He had gone but a short distance when he forgot the warning given him by the little old woman. He turned around to look back, and as he did this the basket fell from his head [the Ovimbundu customarily carry burdens, especially baskets, upon their heads] and the cowpeas were spilled. He intended to pick them up, but just then a rainstorm came down upon him from the east. He decided that it was best to first take cover from the storm, and then come out to gather up the cowpeas in the morning. So he ran to a nearby village.

In the morning, he returned to recover the cowpeas. When he came to the plain he found that the cowpeas had already sprouted and were growing. He thought over the situation. He decided that although there was some risk in allowing the cowpeas to grow, yet on the whole it was better to leave the cowpeas until they had borne and ripened their pods. Mupuiyakalangi waited and waited, until one day he said to himself, “I shall go and take a look at the cowpeas to see how they are growing.” When he came to the place, he found the pods full, all dry and ready to harvest.

He returned to the village and invited the people there to go with him the next day to help him harvest the cowpeas. At dawn the next morning, he and the people he had invited went to the plain to gather the cowpeas. When they reached the plain, they found that an elephant had been there and had eaten the cowpeas, to the last one.

Then Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko [most of the Ovimbundu have very long names. The parts of the names are descriptive, usually condensing the meaning of some proverb. The core of the name often comes from a namesake. If the namesake is still living and acquires additional names, then these are also added to the name of him who was given the namesake’s name. Here, Chimbenje means “big gun” or “big shot,” and Ukongo Wachimbenje means “the hunter of the big gun.” Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali means “he who has forged a hundred hoes on two anvils.” Kuvala means “at the village of the wife‘s family,” and Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko means “I am one who was not born at the village of his wife’s family.”] said to the others, “You, brothers, go back to the village, while I take my gun with me and track down this elephant.” Then Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje took up the spoor of the elephant and followed it.

He followed and followed until at last he found the elephant out in the wilderness, fast asleep. Because the elephant was asleep, its rear end was open like a fish trap which had been set. One could look inside and see what was there. Mupuiyakalangi stepped softly up to the elephant and looked inside. There inside were his cowpeas in plain sight. Leaning his gun against a tree, Mupuiyakalangi went inside the elephant and began to gather up his cowpeas and throw them out upon the ground. He kept this up until he had thrown out all the cowpeas. When he had finished, he raised his eyes and looked up into the chest of the elephant and saw hanging there the lobes of the elephant’s liver. Greed overcame Mupuiyakalangi, so he unsheathed his knife and said to himself, “I shall cut me off some liver.”

The cut caused the elephant to move, which caused Mupuiyakalangi to decide, “Now I will get out.” But as the elephant was shutting up his rear, Mupuiyakalangi got only his head out of the elephant before the opening closed tight around his neck. The elephant stood up and went away, without stopping for the cowpeas. Thus it happened that Mupuiyakalangi remained in the rear of the elephant for many days. Since the elephant ate many squashes and gourds, Mupuiyakalangi was able to keep himself alive by catching and eating the passing seeds.

One day Mupuiyakalangi happened to look up and saw a hunter stalking the elephant, so he shouted, “O hunter, if you are going to shoot, shoot it in the other end. Do not shoot it in the rump, for we, [the Ovimbundu indicate a person’s importance by referring to themselves or others in the plural] Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko, are in here.”

When the hunter heard this, he was frightened and said, “Haka! What miraculous thing is this I have encountered today? An elephant I am about to shoot tells me where to shoot!”

Then Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali Kuvala Duke Chitilileko spoke to the hunter and said, “There is nothing to fear. Do not be frightened, for it was not the elephant who told you where to shoot. It was I, Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko, who told you where to shoot.”

When the hunter heard who it was that directed him, he shot the elephant in the head and killed it. Then the hunter went away to their village [English usage would seem to call for ‘his’ here, but the Ovimbundu never say ‘my’ or ‘his’ village. To them, this would be presumptuous. They always say ‘our’ or ‘their’ village, in the plural] to summon people to help him cut up the meat. When the help came, they cut and cut until the beast was all cut up, and then they took Mupuiyakalangi out. They found that being so long inside the elephant had bleached all of his body except his head, so that he was white like an albino. They were curious and asked him, “Tell us all about yourself, and how you came to be where you were.”

In reply to their question, he said, “I am Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko. I went with my wife to visit my wife’s family. When we came to the village of my wife’s family, they welcomed us and rejoiced, and even the roosters crowed to welcome me. For me this was a portent. In the evening they cooked fowl for me. When I tasted it, I spoke up and said, ‘I have just one thing to say about this fowl, and that is: that the one who cooked this fowl is a cook.’

“Dog was listening and said, ‘Those who eat food with gusto do not offer other praise.’

“When I heard this, I said, ‘For that insult, I am going to hit you with the broom.’

“Dog replied, ‘Do not hit me for telling you that the knotted bunch of meat you have in your mouth is a testicle.’

“Then I gagged and choked until my tongue fell out upon the ground. Just as I was about to pick it up, a rooster rushed in, picked it up, and ran off with it. I chased the rooster and he dropped it in the ash heap. I took my tongue and went to the river to wash it. As I started to wash it, my tongue slipped and fell into the water, where a fish seized it and swam away with it. Then I said, ‘What a day, and what uncanny things are happening to me today.’

“I looked downstream and saw a man setting fish traps. I went to him and said, ‘Brother, I have been unfortunate. As I went to wash my tongue, a fish swam off with it. So if you will do me a favor, please let me slit the stomachs of your fish. It may be that the fish which went off with my tongue is among them.’

“He replied, ‘All right, master.’

“We started to open up all the fish, and we found the tongue in one of them. I, Mupuiyakalangi, took it up and put it back in my mouth. I thanked the fisherman, and then he gave me some of his fish as a present. I bade him goodbye, found a path, and started back to the village. I had gone only a little way, when I met a little old woman. We greeted each other. Then the little old woman said, “Will you trade your fish for some cowpeas?”

“I agreed to this, so she took the fish and gave me a basket of cowpeas. As I started to go along the path, the little old woman said to me, ‘As you go in that direction, you will soon come to the Plain of Kapule, and there, do not look back, for if you do, what you are carrying will fall and be spilled.’

“I replied, ’Lady Grandmother, you have warned me, and your son has heard.’

“The little old woman went on her way, and I took the path for the village. When I came to the Plain of Kapule, the warning of the little old woman had slipped from my memory. I turned to look back. The instant that I did this, the basket fell from my head, and the cowpeas scattered over the ground. I thought that I would have a job picking them up again, but just then a storm came down from the east. I thought that it was best to run from the rain to a nearby village, and to come back in the morning to pick up the cowpeas. In the morning, when I went out to gather up the cowpeas, I found that they had sprouted and were growing. The plants were strong and fine. Then I thought the matter over and decided that the best thing was to let them grow and bear. So I left them.

“I waited and waited at the village, and when it was time for the cowpeas to have borne, I went to see how they were doing. When I came to the plain, I found that the pods were already dry and ready to be gathered. I went back to the village and called some people to go out with me in the morning to harvest my cowpeas. In the morning, we went to the place and found that an elephant had been there and eaten up the cowpeas to the last one. Then I, Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko, said, ‘As for you, brothers, go back to the village, while I go to track down this elephant.’

“From there I followed and followed the elephant until I found him asleep. The elephant, being asleep, was open behind like a fish trap. I could see what was inside, and I saw my cowpeas there, in plain sight. So I leaned my gun against a tree, went inside the elephant, and began throwing out my cowpeas, until I had them all out. Then I saw the liver hanging there. I thought I might just as well have some liver, so I took out my knife and started to cut off a piece. When the elephant awoke and began to move, I said, ‘I am getting out of here.’

“The elephant began to shut up, and only my head was out when the exit closed tight around my neck. I stayed inside the elephant for many days, eating only the seeds of squashes and gourds, which the elephant had eaten. One day I happened to look up and see a hunter stalking the elephant. I called to him, ‘Shoot him in the head! Do not shoot him in the rump, for we, Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko, are here.’ Brothers, that is how this came about.”

Then they said to him, “You have already died. You will not die again.”

After they had heard his story and given their reply, they gave him some of the meat of the elephant. When he had taken this, he left to go home to their village. Because he had been inside the elephant for such a long time, his body was all bleached and white, like an albino. Thus, he had to go slowly, avoiding the sun.

One day, as he was walking along, he heard the sound of a whistle, “Pee-eep, pee-eep!” [among the Ovimbundu, whistles and gongs are sounded in front of traveling kings, who are carried by bearers. These sounds are to warn commoners to get upwind from the path lest they be harmed by the breath and smell of the king, which are believed to be extremely potent, capable of killing a commoner. The king’s person, and even its effluvia, are sacred]. From this sound he knew that someone carried in a litter was coming his way. He left the path and climbed a tree. Up in the tree, he hid himself completely in the leaves. It happened that when the king being carried in the litter saw this fine tree, he said, “Stop under that tree. Let us rest there, for it has a fine shade.”

The carriers turned aside from the path and stopped under the tree. When this happened, Mupuiyakalangi was much alarmed. The king and his company sat around under the tree for a long time. Mupuiyakalangi, up in the tree, was in great distress. Fear added to his distress, so that he could not contain himself any longer. The king was the victim. The followers were astonished and said, “Where did that water come from?” Then they added, “Let us look up into the tree.”

When they looked up into the tree, they saw that there was a person trembling and shaking in the treetop. They called to him, “Today you must pay a big fine for the big breach of good behavior you have committed against a visiting king. Now climb down.” He was so emaciated, and in addition so white like an albino, that they looked at him in astonishment.

They asked him, “How did you come to be in this condition?” Given this opportunity, he began to tell them his story. He said, “Brothers, I am Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko. I went with my wife to visit my wife’s family. When we came to their village, they received us very well and rejoiced. Even the roosters crowed to greet me. For me this was a portent. In the evening they cooked a fowl for me. When I tasted it, I said, ‘The one who cooked this is a cook.’

“Dog said, ‘Those who eat food with gusto do not offer other praise.’

“I said to Dog, ‘For that insult, I shall take the broom and hit you.’

“Dog replied, ‘Do not hit me, for that knotted meat you have in your mouth is a testicle.’

“I gagged and choked until my tongue fell out of my mouth onto the ground. Just as I was about to pick it up, a rooster picked it up and ran off with it. I chased the rooster until he, being frightened, dropped my tongue in the ash heap. I took up my tongue and went to the river to wash it. As I started to wash it, my tongue slipped and fell into the water, where a fish seized it and swam away. Then I said, ‘What a day! What weird things are happening to me today!’

“I looked off downstream and saw a man setting traps for fish. I went to him and said, ‘Brother, I have been unfortunate, for as I began to wash my tongue, a fish went off with it. If you will do me a favor, please let us slit the stomachs of your fish. It may be that the fish which swam off with my tongue is among them.’

“The fisherman replied, ‘All right, master.’

“Then we started to open up all the fish. We found the tongue in one of them. I, Mupuiyakalangi, took up the tongue and put it back into my mouth. I thanked the fisherman for his help. He gave me some of his fish as a present. I bade him good-bye, found a path, and started back for the village. I had gone but a little way when I met a little old woman. After we had greeted each other, the little old woman said to me, ‘Will you trade your fish for some cowpeas?’

I agreed to this. She took the fish and gave me a basket of cowpeas. As I was about to go along the path, the little old woman said to me, ‘As you go in that direction, you will come to the Plain of Kapule. Do not look back there, for if you do, whatever you are carrying will fall and be spilled.’

“I said to her, ‘Lady Grandmother, you have warned me, and your son has heard.’

“The little old woman went on her way. I took the path for the village. When I came to the plain, the warning of the little old woman had slipped from my memory. I turned to look back, the basket fell from my head, and the cowpeas scattered on the ground. I thought that I should have a job in picking them up, but just then a storm came down from the east. I decided that it was best I run to a nearby village and come out in the morning to gather up the cowpeas. In the morning, when I went to the plain to pick up the cowpeas, I found that they had sprouted and were growing. The plants were strong and fine. I thought it over and said, ‘The best thing is to leave them here to grow and bear.’

“I waited until it was time for cowpeas to be ripe, and then I went out to see how they were. I found that the pods were dry and the cowpeas were ready to be harvested. I went to the village to get people to come and help harvest my cowpeas. In the morning, we went to the plain to gather the cowpeas. We found that an elephant had been there and eaten them all up, to the last one. Then I, Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko, said, ‘Brothers, go home to the village, while I go track down this elephant.’

“Then I followed and followed the spoor of the elephant until I found him fast asleep. Since he was asleep, he was open behind like a fish trap set for fish. One could see all that was inside. There were my cowpeas in plain sight. I leaned my gun against a tree, went inside, and threw out all my cowpeas. When I had done this, I looked up and saw the liver hanging inside. I thought that I might as well have some liver to go with my cowpeas. I took out my knife and began to cut off a piece, when the elephant began to wake up and move. I said, ‘Now I am getting out.’

“But the elephant was shutting up, and I was caught around the neck so that my body stayed inside the elephant. I was in there a long time, having only the seeds of gourds and squashes to eat. One day I looked up and saw a hunter stalking the elephant, and already pointing his gun. I called to him and said, ‘Shoot him in the other end! Do not shoot him in the rump, but shoot him in the head.’

“When the hunter heard this, he was frightened and said, ‘What a marvel! The elephant tells me where to shoot!’ “I said to him, “It is not the elephant who talks to you, but we, Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko, who are here.’

“Then he shot the elephant in the head and it died. After the elephant was dead, he went to their village to call people to come and cut up the flesh of the elephant. They came and cut and cut until they took me out. They found that I had been in the elephant so long that my body was weakened, and my skin all white like that of an albino. They asked me how I came to be there. Then I told them that I was Mupuiyakalangi Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko, and related all that had befallen me. [The narrator may repeat here the entire adventure in detail. In the translation of this story, the informant’s and the story’s repetition has been retained, as essential to the Umbundu tone and spirit. At this point, the informant himself merely indicated that the previous narrative can be repeated at this point, without actually repeating it.]

“Those who listened to the story said, ‘You have died already. You will not die again.’ They gave me some of the meat of the elephant, and I started out to go back to my village. Because I was weak and white like an albino, I traveled slowly. When I heard the sound of a king’s whistle, I was afraid and hid myself in the top of this tree. When the king and his men sat down below, I was terrified and I could not restrain myself.”

The king’s men marveled at his adventures and said to him, “Brother, you have already died. You cannot die again. You are not far from your village. Just go along home.”

Then Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko entered the path and departed. As he went along, he heard funeral drums being played on the path ahead. He felt he had already suffered hardship enough, so he turned aside. He found a cave and went into it and hid. He waited there for some time. Then he heard the drums sounding outside the cave. He thought, “Now what more will happen to me today?”

As he waited and listened, he heard a person say, “Behold, here is a good cave! Let us bury the corpse in here.” After they had consulted the corpse itself by divination, and the corpse had consented, they pushed the corpse into the cave where Mupuiyakalangi was hiding. He seized the pole to which the corpse was tied and pushed it out again. Then the people outside said, “Look! The corpse will not agree to be buried in there. Maybe something is lacking.” So they took the corpse away and divined once more.

When they had divined the second time, the omens were still the same. Then they said, “Now it is settled. Let us bury the corpse in this cave. Then they pushed the corpse into the cave for the second time. Mupuiyakalangi seized the pole and pushed the corpse out of the cave again. This puzzled the burial party, and they said, “Haka! There is something uncanny here! Let us look inside and find what makes this cave so bothersome.” When they looked into the cave, they found Mupuiyakalangi. They said to him, “Who are you? How did you come to be in there?”

Then Mupuiyakalangi told them: “I am Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko, who went with my wife to visit her family. When we came to their village, they received us very well, rejoicing over us. Even the roosters crowed to greet me. This was a portent for me. In the evening they cooked a fowl for me. When I tasted it I said, ‘The one who cooked this is a cook.’

“When I had said this, Dog spoke up and said, ‘Those who eat their food with gusto do not offer other praise.’

“I replied to Dog and said, ‘For that insult I shall hit you with the broom.’

“Dog answered, ‘Do not hit me, for that knotted meat in your mouth is a testicle.’

“At that, I gagged and choked until my tongue fell out upon the ground. Just as I was reaching to pick it up, a rooster snapped it up and ran off with it. I ran after the rooster and he dropped my tongue in the ash heap. I took up my tongue and went to the river to wash it. As I started to wash it in the river, the tongue slipped and fell into the water. A fish grabbed it and swam away with it. Then I said, ‘What a day! What uncanny things have happened to me today!’

“I looked off down river and saw a man who had fish traps in the water. I went to him and said, ‘Brother, I am unfortunate, for I went to wash my tongue in the river, and a fish swam off with it. If you will do me a favor, please let us slit the bellies of your fish.’

“He replied, ‘All right, master.’

“Then we started to open the fish, and in one of them we found my tongue. Then I, Mupuiyakalangi, took it up and put it back into my mouth. After that I thanked the fisherman. He then gave me some fish as a present. I bade him goodbye, and finding the path, started for the village. I had gone only a short way when I met a little old woman. After we had greeted each other, she said to me, ‘Will you trade your fish for some cowpeas?’

I agreed to this, so she took the fish and gave me a basket of cowpeas. As I was about to go along the path, the little old woman said, ‘As you go in that direction, you will come soon to the Plain of Kapule. There they do not look back [the Ovimbundu are sensitive to the customs of different peoples and places, and are anxious not to violate them. Instead of saying, “Do not do...” or “You should not do...” the Ovimbundu frequently say merely, “They do not do....”]. If you should look back, whatever you may be carrying will fall to the ground and be spilled.’

“I replied, ‘Lady Grandmother, you have warned me. Your son has heard.’

“I continued on my way to the village, and the little old woman went her way. Her warning slipped from my mind. While I was crossing the plain, I turned my head to look back. At that very moment the basket slipped and fell. The cowpeas scattered. I thought that I should have a job picking up these cowpeas, but just then a hard storm from the east came down on me. I judged that it was best for me to run to a nearby village for shelter from rain, and then came back the next day to gather up the cowpeas.

“In the morning, when I came to get the cowpeas, I found that they had sprouted and were already growing. The plants were strong and fine. I thought it over and decided that the best thing was to let them grow and bear. So I left them there. I waited until the time when cowpeas should be ripe, and then I went to the plain to see how they were. I found that the pods were dry and ready to be harvested. I went to the village to get some people to come with me to harvest the cowpeas. In the morning, we went out to the plain to pick the cowpeas, and we found that an elephant had come in the night and eaten them up, to the last one.

“Then I, Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko, said, ‘Brothers, go home to the village, while I go track down this elephant.’ Then I followed and followed the elephant until I found him fast asleep. Since he was asleep, his back end was open like a fish trap set for fish. I could look and see what was inside. I saw my cowpeas there in plain sight. I leaned my gun against a tree, went inside, and threw out all my cowpeas. When I had done this, I looked up inside the elephant and saw the liver hanging there. I thought that I might as well have a slice of liver. I took out my knife and started to cut off a piece, when the elephant began to wake up and move away. I said to myself, ‘Now I am getting out.’

“The elephant was shutting up, and I was caught tight around the neck with my body still inside the elephant. I was in there for a long time. My only food was the seeds of squashes and gourds. One day I looked up and saw a hunter stalking the elephant and pointing his gun at it. I called to him, ‘Shoot him at the other end! Do not shoot him in the rump, but shoot him in the head!’

“The hunter was frightened and fell to the ground. He got up and said, ‘Oh! What a marvel! An elephant tells me where to shoot!”

“I told him, ‘It was not the elephant who told you where to shoot, but I, Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko, who am in here.’

“Then the hunter shot the elephant in the head, and the elephant died. The hunter, when he knew that the elephant was dead, went off to their village to get help in cutting up the meat. As they were cutting up the elephant, they found me. They took me out and found that I had been inside the elephant so long that my skin was all faded like that of an albino. My body also had no strength. They marveled much over this and asked me, ‘How did this happen?’

“Then I told them that I was Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko. I related all that had befallen me [here the entire previous adventure may be related again in detail].

“Then they said to me, ‘You have already died. You will not die again.’ They gave me some of the meat of the elephant, and I started out to go to the village. I had to go slowly, for I was weak and since I was white like an albino I had to avoid the sun. As I was walking along the path, I heard the sound of a king’s whistle. I was afraid. So I left the path and hid myself among the leaves in the top of a tall tree. The carriers turned aside from the path, stopped, and leaned the pole of the litter against a tree. The king and all his party sat down on the ground under the tree. I, still up in the tree, became very much frightened. Trembling with fright, I was unable to control myself. My water fell upon the king. His men said, ‘Haka! What is this, Where did that water come from?’

“They looked up into the tree and saw me. They said that there was a person up in the tree, told me to come down, and said that I should have to pay a large fine for insulting a visiting king. When they saw how emaciated my body was and that my skin was white like an albino, they asked me who I was and how I came to be that way. Then I related all that had happened to me [yet another full repetition is appropriate here].

“The king’s men marveled when they heard this story, and said to me, ‘Brother, you have already died once. You cannot die again. Since your village is near, just go along home.’

“Then I entered the path and walked along until I heard the funeral drums. I had already had so much trouble that I was afraid, and thinking that I should escape the funeral procession, I left the path. When I found this cave, I went inside and hid. When you pushed the corpse into the cave, I was afraid that you would bury me with the corpse, so I pushed it out again. My brothers, that is what brought me into the cave.”

When they had heard this, they said to him, “O brother, you have died. You cannot die again.” They told him that his village was near and that he could reach it that same day.

When he came into the village the people were frightened, as well as astonished. Some said that he was a ghost. Some said that it was not he. They all wished to know where he had been and how he came to be two colors. To rid them of all doubts he said, “You know that I am Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko and that I went with my wife to visit her relatives. When we came to their village they received us with rejoicing. Even the roosters crowed with joy to greet me. This was a warning portent for me. In the evening they cooked a fowl. When I ate it, I said, ‘The one who cooked this is a cook.’

“When I said this, Dog spoke up, saying, ‘Those who eat their food with gusto do not offer other praise.’

“In reply to Dog, I said, ‘For that insult I shall hit you with the broom.’

“Dog said, ‘Do not hit me, for the knotted meat in your mouth is a testicle.’

“In trying to spit it out, I gagged and coughed until my tongue fell to the ground. I was about to pick it up, when a rooster picked it up and ran away with it. As I chased the rooster, it let my tongue fall into the ash heap. I took up my tongue and went with it to the river to wash it. As I began to wash it, my tongue slipped and fell into the water. A fish came and swam away with it. Then I said, ’What a day! What uncanny things have happened to me today!’

“I looked down the river and saw a man setting fish traps in the water. I went to him and said, ‘Brother, I am unfortunate, for as I went to wash my tongue in the river, a fish swam away with it. If you will do me a favor, please let us slit the bellies of your fish. It may be that the fish which swam away with my tongue is among your fish.’

“The fisherman said, ‘All right, master.’

“We began to open the fish, and in one of the fish we found my tongue. Then I, Mupuiyakalangi, took it and put it into my mouth. When I had done this, I thanked the fisherman. He gave me some of his fish as a present. I bade the fisherman goodbye, and finding the path, started for the village. I went a short distance and met a little old woman. We greeted each other, and then she said to me, ‘Will you trade your fish for some cowpeas?’

“I agreed to this, so she took the fish and gave me a basket of cowpeas. As I was about to go along the path to the village, the little old woman said, ‘If you go in that direction, soon you will come to the Plain of Kapule. There they do not look behind them, lest they spill whatever they are carrying.’

“I replied to her, ‘Lady Grandmother, you have warned me. Your son has heard.’

“I went along toward the village. The warning of the little old woman slipped from my mind. While I was crossing the plain, I turned my head to look back. The basket fell to the ground and the cowpeas scattered everywhere. I thought that I should have a hard job picking up the cowpeas, when a storm of rain from the east came down upon me. I judged that it was best to flee to a nearby village to seek shelter from the rain, and come out the next day to gather up the cowpeas. In the morning, when I came out to the plain, I found that the cowpeas had sprouted and were already growing. The plants were strong and fine. I thought the matter over and decided to let the cowpeas grow and ripen. I left them as they were.

“I waited and waited until it was time for cowpeas to be ripe, and then I went out to see how they were. The pods were dry and the cowpeas ready to be harvested. I went to the village to get people to help me take in the crop. In the morning, when we went out to the plain, we found that an elephant had been there during the night and eaten up all the cowpeas, to the last one. Then I, Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko, said, ‘Brothers, go back to the village, while I go to track down this elephant.’

“I followed the spoor of the elephant until I found him asleep. The elephant being asleep, he left his back end open like a fish trap set for fish. One could look in and see what was there. I looked, and there were my cowpeas in plain sight. I leaned my gun against a tree, went inside, and threw out my cowpeas. When I had finished this, I looked around inside the elephant and saw the lobes of liver hanging there. I thought that I might as well have a slice of liver, so I took out my knife and began to cut off a piece, when the elephant began to wake up and move away. I said, ‘Now I am getting out.’ The elephant was shutting up, and I was caught around the neck with my body inside the elephant.

“I was in there for a long time. I lived by eating the seeds of squashes and gourds which the elephant ate. One day I looked and saw a hunter stalking the elephant and pointing his gun at it. I called to him, ‘Shoot him in the other end! Do not shoot him in the rump, but shoot him in the head.’

“This frightened the hunter, and he fell to the ground. Then he said, ‘Oh! What a marvel! An elephant tells me where to shoot.’

“Then I said to him, ‘That was no elephant. That was I, Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko, who is in here.’

“The hunter shot the elephant in the head and it died. When he had killed the elephant, the hunter went away to their village to get people to help cut up the meat. They came and cut and cut until they came to me and took me out. I had been inside the elephant so long that I was very thin and my body was all faded like that of an albino. The people marveled much when they saw me, and they asked, ‘How did you get in there, and how did it all happen?’

“I told them that I was Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko. I related to them all the misfortunes which had befallen me [of course, the whole story may be repeated again here]. When they had heard my story, they said, ‘You have died already. You will not die again.’

“They gave me some elephant meat. I entered the path and started for our village. I was weak and had to avoid the sun, so I went slowly. As I walked slowly along the path, I heard a whistle, which meant that a king’s party was coming. I was afraid, so I left the path and hid myself among the leaves in the top of a tall tree. When the king came near, he said, ‘Stop here, and let us rest under the shade of this large tree.’

“They turned aside and leaned the pole of the litter against the bole of the tree in which I was hiding. The king and all his carriers sat around under the tree. Up in the tree, I was terrified. I was so frightened that I could not contain my water. The water came down on the king, and the king’s men said, ‘Haka! What is this? Where did that water come from?’

“They looked up into the tree, saw me there shaking, and said, ‘It is a man. You there! You have incurred a big fine for defiling a visiting king. Come down quickly!”

“I came down. When they saw how emaciated I was, and that my body was all faded out like that of an albino, they asked me how I came to be in that condition. I told them about myself, that I was Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko, and recounted all the hardships that had overtaken me.’ [The informant stated that some Umbundu stories take several days to relate properly and entirely.]

“The king’s men marveled much when they had heard my experiences, and they said to me, ‘Brother, you have died already. You cannot die again. You are not far from your village; just go along home.’

“Once more I entered the path and walked along until I heard the drums of a funeral procession. I had already had so much trouble that I did not care to take further risks. I left the path, and when I found a cave, I went into it to hide. The funeral procession came to a halt outside the mouth of the cave. There they stopped and divined. Someone said, ‘How about this cave? Will it do for the burial?’ The decision was that the cave would serve. They brought the corpse and pushed it into the cave where I was. I was afraid that they would close the mouth of the cave and bury me along with the corpse. So I seized the pole to which the corpse was attached and pushed it out again. Those outside said, ‘Look! The corpse does not wish to be buried in there! Maybe something is lacking.’

“They took the corpse out and divined once more. The corpse again consented to go into the cave. Then the people said, ‘Now it is settled. Let us bury the corpse in the cave.’ The carriers came again and pushed the corpse into the cave once more. I pushed it out again. The burial party was puzzled. They said, ‘Haka! There is something uncanny here. Let us look inside the cave to find what it is that makes the corpse so unwilling!’

“They looked inside the cave and found me. They told me to come out. When I came out of the cave, they asked me, ‘Who are you? How did you come to be in there? And how did you come to be part albino?’

“Then I said, ‘I am Mupuiyakalangi Ukongo Wachimbenje Watelele Ochitachatemo Njundombali Kuvala Nduka Chitilileko.’

“When I had told them all the things which had happened to me [the last chance for complete repetition of the story!], they said, ‘Brother, you have died already. You cannot die again. Your village is near and you can reach it today.’

“Then I came along the path until I saw our village. I came in and sat down. Here I am. I have given you the account of my absence. Greetings!”

All his relatives were astonished and rejoiced. They fired guns. They said to Mupuiyakalangi, “As for you, Mupui, we have already held your funeral and mourned for you, for we said that you were dead.”

They slaughtered oxen and made a feast. They said to him, “Eat the feast of thanksgiving for a life saved. You have died. You cannot die again.”

*

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