Ture and How It Began with an Egg

- Zande -

One day Ture went to riverside forest to cut grass (for weaving) and he brought it home and put it down under Nanzagbe’s verandah. A cockerel went and laid its very small egg [i.e., an egg laid by a hen with secondary sexual characteristics of a cock] in the grass. Ture’s children went hunting lizards, poking them out (of their hiding-places), and when they looked they saw this cockerel’s egg. They ran and told their father about it, saying ‘Father, ah, a chicken has laid an egg in your grass!’ Ture went and took up this egg and turned it in his hand, admiring it and wondering what sort of egg it was that was so small. He then knew at once that it was a cock’s egg because hens’ eggs are not so small. Ture dropped it into his bag and forgot about it.

One morning Ture slung his bag over his shoulder and went roaming over burnt country as was his habit. He went on and on and met some buffaloes playing their game with a fruit of the dama tree. When Ture saw it he was greatly amazed. So he said ‘My friends, I have here a very good thing, much better for your wonderful game than that just ordinary rough dama fruit you are playing with. Look at it!’ Ture then brought out the egg and showed it to the buffaloes. They begged him for it and he gave it to them. The buffaloes started to play their game with it and it was a fine sight to watch. Ture put down his bag and sat down to watch this wonderful thing. One buffalo would throw it and another would catch it and throw it back to the other. In this way they played without dropping the egg. The game went on until one buffalo who was left-handed tried to catch it and it fell and broke. So Ture began to sing a song, saying

‘I went and cut grass, cut grass,
Cock scattered it and laid its egg in it,
Cock took its egg oo,
Cock gave it to me ooo,
Buffaloes have taken it from me, buffaloes have broken it e,
Hi where will you turn Ture?
Hi where will you turn Ture?’

The buffaloes consulted among themselves and cut off the tail of the left-handed one and gave it to Ture in the place of his egg. Ture threw it into his bag and went ahead. Ture went on and on until he met a big tutue [a black insect that stings people] fanning its bellows with its bottom [i.e., fanning the fire with its bottom instead of with bellows]. Ture said to it ‘Friend, if your buttocks scorch, what will you say? Take this fine animal’s tail and fan your bellows with it.’ The tutue took the tail eagerly and began to fan its bellows with it and started to beat out many iron instruments. When it wanted to fan the fire again with it, it slipped from its hand and fell into the fire and was burnt, leaving only the bony part. Ture sang

‘I went and cut grass, cut grass,
Cock scattered it and laid its egg in it,
Cock took its egg,
Cock gave it to me oo,
Buffaloes took it from me, buffaloes broke it e,
Buffaloes took their tail oo,
Buffaloes gave it to me e oo,
Tutue took it from me, tutue has burnt it,
Hi where will you turn Ture?
Hi where will you turn Ture?’

Tutue looked about and picked up an axe and gave it to Ture. Ture put it in his bag and went on his way. Ture went straight ahead till he met a woodpecker pecking wood with its beak in search of honey. Ture said ‘O my friend woodpecker, if your beak splits open on the tree what will you say? Take this axe there to split the wood with it to get at the honey.’ The woodpecker cried ‘That’s a good idea Ture! O friend! I am quite exhausted with pecking for honey with my beak. Oh you are so kind!’ The woodpecker took Ture’s axe and began to cut into the wood for honey. The man (the woodpecker) took out honey and it filled containers as if it had no owner. When the woodpecker tried to cut the wood again Ture’s axe slipped from its hand and fell into the hollow of the tree. Ture said

‘I went and cut grass, cut grass,
Cock scattered it and laid its egg in it,
Cock gave it to me e ooo,
Buffaloes took it from me, buffaloes broke it,
Buffaloes took their tail oo,
Buffaloes gave it to me e oo,
Tutue took it from me, tutue has burnt it,
Tutue took this axe, tutue gave it to me oo,
Woodpecker took it from me, woodpecker lost it ooo,
Hi where will you turn Ture?
Hi where will you turn Ture?’

The woodpecker went and gave Ture a heap of honeycomb. Ture wrapped it in big leaves and dropped it into his bag and went ahead.

Ture travelled till he found himself on a river bank. He heard women ladling out water (in fishing) vuuvuuvuu. Ture went up to them and met their children all crying their heads off. They begged Ture to calm the children for them so that they might go on ladling out the water. Ture collected these children and took them a little way downstream. He said to their mothers ‘I am going to feed your children with honey. You won’t hear the cry of a child again.’ Ture ate his honey and then put just the comb (without honey) into the children’s mouths. They were so full of honeycomb that their bellies were bloated. In the evening when Ture knew that the women had come out of the stream and were cutting up the fish he took the remaining honey and smeared the children’s mouths with it, and their breasts, and they were in a mess all over. He then took them to their mothers. This affair delighted the women. They said to one another ‘Had it not been for Ture today how would we have caught our fish with these children’s beastly whining?’

They cut up all their fish. One would offer fish to Ture for him to take home and Ture would just look up at the sky. A woman would bring good fish to Ture and Ture would just look up at the sky. They asked Ture, saying ‘What do you want then, Ture?’ Ture would just look up at the sky. They therefore got up and took their children and told Ture that they were going, since he refused to accept fish from them. They were ahead and Ture behind them. They asked Ture where he was going to. Ture heard it as though he had no ears. They said among themselves ‘We will see this day where Ture is going to.’

When they reached their homestead they separated, each going to her own hut. They were, however, living in one big homestead while their husbands were out fighting. Ture carefully noted the one who appeared to him to be a widow and followed her. Ture went and sat at the edge of the courtyard. She made a fire in the courtyard and invited Ture to come and sit by it. Ture said ‘In my home, when Nanzagbe makes a fire she carries me to sit by it.’ She shouted to her friends, saying ‘Girls oo, just listen to this! He says that in his home they always carry him to the fireplace!’ They replied ‘You brought Ture from his place, so you carry him to the fireplace!’ She lifted Ture and put him down at the side of the fire. She cooked fish and porridge and gave them to Ture. He said that in his home they put food into his mouth. She shouted again to her friends, saying ‘Girls oo, Ture says that in his home food is put into his mouth!’ They replied ‘Well, you brought Ture from his place, so you can put food into his mouth!’ She made a bed for Ture in her hut but Ture said that in his home he was carried to bed. When she told her friends, they said to her ‘You dragged Ture from his place, so you can carry him to bed!’ When they got to the bed Ture said that in his home his wife undressed him before he lay down to sleep. When she told this to her friends, they said ‘You carried Ture from his place, so you can undress him!’ Ture told her that in his home Nanzagbe lifted him to her breast. She screamed, but when she told it to the others they told her to lift Ture to her breast, since she had dragged him from his place! After a short time she called all her friends to come and see what sort of a man Ture was.

So Ture lived with these women as their husband. The women washed and dressed Ture and brushed his feet with maize cobs and trimmed his toe- and finger-nails and fed him like a baby and carried him to bed. One evening as Ture lay across the women’s thighs they were cracking their finger-nails on his head [a customary endearment to soothe a child and send it to sleep] and his eyes were closed. I A small boy asked his mother to inquire of Ture about their empty honeycomb: ‘Hasn’t he collected some more?’ His mother questioned him closely in the kitchen about the honey which Ture said he had fed them with. The child said ‘You see, when Ture ate his honey he gave us only the honeycomb (he spat from his mouth)! After that he smeared our mouths with honey.’ She hurried to the fireside and broke the news to her friends. The women rushed against Ture with their mortar pestles. He fled with all speed from them at night.

After a long time Ture sought some cunning whereby he might go again to visit those women. So he went and dressed leaves over his barkcloth and looked like a woman. He gathered flowers of spear-grass and rubbed them into his hair and his hair was very white with them like that of an old woman. Ture rubbed ashes on his face so that it was just like that of an old woman. When he took a staff in his hand to lean on it (stooping) nobody could believe it was Ture. In the evening Ture hobbled into the women’s courtyard supported by his staff. The children ran to welcome him, rejoicing, saying ‘Here comes grandma, here comes grandma, there is granny, there is granny!’ Ture came and collapsed by the fireplace, and the women surrounded him, making a lot of fuss over him, thinking that he was their old mother who had come. They gave food to Ture. He ate it and then went in and lay down to sleep. The children lay beside Ture cheek-by-jowl, believing that it was their grandmother. Early in the morning Ture came out and sat under the granary, as is the way with old people. The women dispersed to prepare food and only the children gathered round Ture while he told them stories of the old days. Ture sat carelessly (his private parts were visible). One of the children saw his parts at the corner of his barkcloth and went to her mother, singing thus:

‘I have seen Ture’s testicles from the corner of my eye,
I have seen Ture’s fat (testicles) from the corner of my eye,
I have seen Ture’s testicles from the corner of my eye,
I have seen Ture’s fat (testicles) from the corner of my eye.’

Her mother seized and beat her and rubbed her in chickens’ dung and chased her away, asking why she was speaking ill of her grandmother! The child returned and sat down and sang the same song. She was beaten in vain, the child persisted in saying the same thing. The women came together and decided to go and investigate this matter. However, Ture had already heard the child’s song. When the women were near, Ture sprang up and landed far off, saying ‘It is I, I am the son of Ture’s father! I have been fooling people all my life. I have got the better of you. I have eaten up all your food. What will you do to me now?’ When they made for him with their mortar pestles Ture fled with all speed.

So when somebody does something very naughty like deceiving people we say, ‘Even Ture who did many things, did he ever do that?’

— from the Yambio District in the Sudan, noted by
Richard Mambia sometime during the years 1961-1963

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