How Kpahna Defeated a Goblin

Men built a bridge across the Lofa River, so that when the rain God visited the land and made the river quick with flood people could still pass across.

But in one of the rocks beneath the bridge there dwelt a Goblin who was most annoyed when ordinary folk walked above his head; and he formed the habit of devouring them. When a man approached, the goblin would leap upon the bridge and thus challenge him:

“O man, if you would cross this bridge you must give me a hundred lashes with your stick, and I will give you one. I will lie on my stomach and cover my face; see that you beat me well.”

This seemed a reasonable request, and the man would readily agree.

The Goblin would lie down and cover his face, and when he had received a hundred lashes he would rise and kill the man with a single blow from a palm-rib, and then devour him.

Word spread about the land that a goblin possessed the bridge; men ceased to pass that way, villages close to it were abandoned, and people fled away as the Goblin began to roam afield in search or human flesh. The Chief announced that he would give his daughter and half his riches to the man who would defeat the Goblin; but few men were brave enough to try, and those who did were killed.

A youth whose name was Kpahna heard of this reward. He was a village blacksmith, and his arms were strong. He hollowed out a termites’ hill, put in iron ore and charcoal and added glowing coals, pumped in air with leather bellows to make a rearing fire, and smelted iron into a heavy ball. He fixed the iron ball to the end of a long, strong stick, and went to meet the Goblin. He boldly approached the bridge holding the stick so that the iron ball could not be seen, and the Goblin jumped on the bridge to challenge him.

“O youth, only fools came to this bridge, and I eat fools for supper! Lash me a hundred times with your stick and I will lash you once.”

“You’ve forgotten something,” said Kpahna.

“Forgotten what?”

“The part about lying down and covering your face.”

“Ah. Well. Yes, I will lie on my stomach and cover my face, and see that you beat me well, for one of us must die.”

He lay on his stomach and covered his face. Kpahna swung his stick aloft and brought the heavy iron ball crashing down on the Goblin’s head.

“Aieee!” the creature hollowed. He sat on his tail and held his hands to this head, and moaned and rocked himself to and fro.

“Aieee! Who are you, o youth? That was indeed a blow of blows. From what land do you come?”

“I am Kpahna, and I come from a distant land where man eat goblins for their supper.”

The Goblin looked at him uncertainly.

“Well…. but you are only a simple youth. Try again.”

Again the bludgeon smashed down on his skull; and, as before, Kpahna hid the ball of iron behind his back.

“Warrgh!” The Goblin rose to his feet and staggered into the forest, groaning with pain. Kpahna called him back.

“I cannot let you beat me any more,” the goblin cried.

“You must. It was your idea, not mine. Are you such a cowardly Goblin that you cannot stand a few more blows?”

“Well, only a few more then.”

“Ninety-eight more, O most worthless of all Goblins.”

“Then I will not lie down this time.”

Kpahna laughed.

What a miserable Goblin! You will lie down and cover your face, for thus it was agreed. Unless you want me to hit you in another and worse place ….”

The demon hurriedly lay down. Kpahna whirled his stick around and round above is head until it sang a thin little song; then he slammed the iron ball down on the goblin’s head with a terrible, crunching crack.

The Goblin shrieked in agony. He struggled to his knees, fell over the edge of the bridge to his rock below and disappeared inside it. Kpahna leaned over the railing and sang a mocking song:

“Beat a Goblin, thrash a Goblin,
Make a Goblin suffer;
Beat his head until he’s dead,
Then eat him for your supper!”

The Goblin trembled, and crouched fearfully inside his rock. Kpahna reported to the grateful Chief; he was given honor and riches, and the daughter of the Chief bore him many sons. Thereafter when people crossed the bridge the Goblin would cry out:

“Who is that who walks above my head?”

And whoever it was, Siaffa or Boima or Zena or someone else, would sing in mocking tones:

“I beat a Goblin, thrashed a Goblin,
Made a Goblin suffer;
I’ll beat his head until he’s dead
And eat him for my supper!”

“Pass on, O Kpahna!” the Goblin would cry. “Move on, be gone, three blows from you is enough, and much too much.”

The Goblin stays within his rock, and men pass safely by.

WRITTEN BY: Patrick