How Two Rich Maidens Sought a Naked Man
Long ago, beyond the memories of hundred men, there was a rich and powerful chief who had a son. The old chief did not know Ngala, and as he lay dying he saw famine and disease and war break up his powerful chiefdom.
The son of the chief found himself with no possessions, and though a proud and valorous son he was obliged to rob and lived by the edge of his sword. The enemies who held his lands called him Nyani, which means peer. Nyani had no clothes, and therefore he was naked; he lived in a hollow tree and was so strong and fierce that people avoided him.
Far to the north there dwelt a wealthy chief who had a lovely daughter; she was so beautiful that flowers reached out to touch her as she passed.
Far to the south there lived another chief who only daughter was as fair as the midnight moon — so beautiful that even the forest trees adored her.
Both of these two maidens grew weary of men who praised them with carefully polished words: for flattery comes easily to rich men who seek rich wives. It chanced that these two maidens, who lived very far apart, heard about the fierce but proud Nyani, and each decided to marry him.
One maiden traveled south, the other journeyed north, and each took a thousand warriors and slaves who carried riches. The maiden from the south arrived and asked people were Nyani lived.
“He lives in yonder hollow tree,” they said, and marveled that such a maiden should interest herself. but Nyani was not in the hollow tree; he had gone to look for food. She summoned five hundred warriors and said:
“Find this man Nyani, and bring him here.”
“How will we know him from other men?”
“He has no clothes,” she said.
Five hundred warriors marched on the nearby town to hung for naked men. They seized men bathing, men undressing, men who lay with wives; the town was in an uproar as warriors dragged men from huts and pulled them from the river. They found and bound a hundred naked men — and then the maiden from the north arrived.
She took five hundred slaves with food and clothes and riches and went looking in the town for Nyani; and when she saw the warriors with a hundred naked men she asked:
“Which among you is Nyani?”Nyani was struggling fiercely with twenty warriors. The maiden commanded her slaves to set food before the warriors, and Nyani was released. She persuaded him to bathe in the river, and then she rubbed sweet-smelling ointments on hiss body and gave him food and wine in golden bowls.
The maiden from the south appeared. She bore robes of gold and silver thread, precious jewels and perfumes, and with these she dressed Nyani, who stood silent and frowning at each of them in turn.
“Nyani, you are mine,” said one. “I found you and have dressed you, and I must be your wife. I kiss your feet.” She kissed hiss feet.
Nyani frowned a mighty frown.
“Silence!” he thundered. I’ll have no quarreling. I’ll marry both of you!”
They loved him for his honest manliness, and they loved him equally. But which of them had the right to be first wife?