How a Wuni ate Nine Evil Spirits
An evil spirit lived in a hole in the ground, as evil spirits do, and he had a wife and seven children. When hungry season came and there was nothing left to eat, the seven children cried:
“Father, find us something to eat, or we will die!”
The wicked spirit went out to see what he could find, and when walking along a road he overtook a man who carried a kinjah of rice on his back.
“Stranger,” he said politely, “since we travel the same way I will help you. Place your burden on my back, and rest awhile.”
The man willingly agreed to this, but as soon as he had the kinjah strapped securely on his back the spirit started running. He ran so fast the man could not keep up, and escaped into the forest with the load of rice. He was feeling proud and happy as he drew near to his home, for evil spirits love stealing even better than they love eating, and he made pleasant noises for his family to hear. Also he sang a song:
“Put on the pot and make it hot
To cook what I am bringing.
I bring a prize, a fine surprise,
Which makes a song for singing.”
The rice was cooked and the happy family ate till their stomachs swelled. In the days which followed the spirit went out regularly to find men who carried burdens of food, and he always managed to steal something and bring it home. He was too lazy to grow his own food, and too dishonest to buy any. For several months he continued stealing, and finally things came to such a pass that men in a nearby town asked their Head Mawni to help them rid the land of this cunning thief.
The Mawni Society is the most secret and important of all Loma tribal societies, and the Head Mawni in every town possesses at least one Wuuni. A Wuuni is an unseen something which has no respect for evil spirits and will catch and devour one whenever it can; and it talks Loma through its Head. Mawni calls upon it only in cases of great need.
The Head Mawni of this town talked to his Wuuni and put it in a kinjah which appeared to be full of rice. The Mawni put the kinjah on his own back, and singing lustily to attract the spirit’s attention he walked through the forest. Soon the spirit appeared, stole the kinjah and ran away. As he drew near his home he made pleasant noises for his family to hear, and sang a song:
“A bag of rice is rather nice
And better if it’s stolen;
Let’s fill the pot and eat the lot
Until we’re fully swollen”
The Wuuni laughed quietly to himself, and a shiver trickled down the spirit’s spine. The Wuuni softly sang:
“An Evil Thing should never sing
While bearing bags untied;
They might have nice instead of rice,
Or something worse, inside.”
The spirit heard someone singing and hurried quickly to his hole. His family gathered around while he untied the kinjah – and out jumped the Wuuni!
The spirits cried out in alarm, and huddled in one corner of the hole.
“Give me food, snarled the Wuuni. The spirit trembled, and pushed his wife across. The Wuuni tore her to pieces and cracked her bones. “More!” he demanded. The helpless spirit pushed his children across one by one, although they cried out bitterly against his treatment, and when all seven had been swallowed the father spirit tried to make himself as small as possible.
“O Evil Thing,” the Wuuni sang,
You’ve stolen, lied, and cheated.
All those who do such things as you
Must be severely treated.”
But he did not eat the spirit at once, for the Head Mawni had requested him to bring the thief back to the town that night. The spirit, of course, was the undead part of a man who had died in the town some years before; and the family to which he had belonged, and the Head Mawni, wanted to find out why he had been doing such wicked things instead of helping with the crops. As is the custom in such cases a two-roomed house was chosen as the place of the trail; the descendants of the spirit gathered in one room, and the Head Mawni, the Wuuni, and the evil spirit entered the other one, which was quite empty except for a few dry sticks.
The Head Mawni asked the spirit why he had been so wicked since he left his mortal body.
“My family was unkind to me,” the spirit complained. I told them my spirit would trouble them when I died, but they only laughed. They made me suffer. When I died they neglected my grave. Why should I love such people?”
His family and descendants in the next room hotly denied this, and gave examples of their kindness to him. The Wuuni could be heard crying, “Let me kill him” in a nasal voice. The spirit argued bitterly with the people in the next-door room, but finally judgment was given against him, and it was decided that he must die.
“Can I kill him?” the Wuuni asked excitedly.
“You can kill him,” the Head Mawni agreed. The spirit shrilled in panic. The people in the next-door room heard the Wuuni cracking his bones as if they were dry sticks of wood, and then heard the sounds of eating. When they went in later the Wuuni had already gone away, and not even a crumb lay on the floor to mark the passing of the evil spirit. There was only the Head Mawni and a few broken sticks. The spirit no longer existed even as a spirit, and would never return to trouble the town again.
Thus an evil spirit suffered a terrible death and justice was done, as it always is done with liars, thieves, and cheats.