Bandi Ethnic Origin Historical Account

The Bandi

Old Bandi myths refer to a large inland area of water as being the place of origin of the Bandi, and state that they came to Liberia from that point several centuries ago. Their legends would seem to allude to Lake Chad; but Paramount Chief Jallah of the Bandi describes the movement of the Bandi as having been generally southward from some undetermined point far north in what is now French territory. There is evidence that they did come from the North, forced by war or lured by hopes of salt and conquest.

ribal legend says that Ngala (God) made the first of the Bandi in the form of a mighty chief called Yallawalla. Presumably Yallawalla had a wife, or wives, for he fathered a powerful son called Harlingi; Harlingi had many, many children, and these became the Bandi.

When the Bandi moved south much serious fighting was involved. The Kissi arrived before the Bandi, also from the North, and a terrible battle took place between the Kissi and the Bandi some time after the Bandi arrived. The dispute, Jallah alleges, developed in the following manner:

The Zoes, or medicine men, claimed that they possessed more power than anyone else among the Bandi. The liars said this was not true, and when no one would believe them they decided they would demonstrate their powers. A liar went to the Kissi and told their chief that the Bandi were preparing to make war on them, and that they should gather a strong army to defend themselves. He then returned to the Bandi Chief and declared the Kissi were preparing a strong army to attack the Bandi:

But a Bandi Zoe threw medicine on the liar and no one believed him.

The liar hurried off to an unknown neighboring people and told their chief that the Kissi were preparing to attack them. That group sent spies and saw the Kissi preparing an army. The nameless group took the initiative and marched against the Kissi, and thus a great battle developed. All the Bandi Zoes pooled their powers but could not stop he fight; inevitably the Bandi tribe was drawn in, other tribes became involved, and finally so many warriors were killed that no one could think of anything better to do than go home, and no one knew what the fight had been about anyway.

The liars had proved their point, but had nearly destroyed their tribe.


Toad, Snail and Hornbill

All the animals came together for a feast, and there was eating and dancing and drinking for a whole week. On the last evening of the feast three old men entered the town; and their names were Toad, Snail, and Hornbill. No one had ever seen people like them before, and no one knew where they came from; nor did any one know which of them was the oldest, so they were shown equal respect.

On the following day the Chief called all the criminals together and asked them to elect a new Chief, as he himself was about to die. The animals were not happy to hear this, for they loved the old Chief and feared his place might be taken by some young fool who would show no respect to the wise old men. Everyone agreed that the oldest animal among them should be elected chief; and since Toad, Snail and Hornbill were the oldest people anyone had ever seen, it was decided the oldest one of these should be elected.

“I’ll be the new Chief!” Toad croaked. “I’m the oldest, I’m the oldest!”“I have lived since time began!” Snail declared. “It is obvious that I’ll be Chief.” “I was old before time was,” said Hornbill; and none of the three could agree. The animals decided this important matter should be decided by a Judge. The Judge took his seat and demanded:

“Are you ready?”“Goo!” cried the animals, which meant “We have been ready for sometime.” Toad, Snail and Hornbill stood up. Turning to Toad, the Judge asked:

“Toad, can you tell us why you consider yourself older than Snail or Hornbill?”Toad said: “I am so old I knew the world when it was pimpled all over with little hills. Between the hills were holes where evil spirits dwelt, so that any living thing had to jump from hill to hill in order to avoid the spirit-holes. I was the only living thing, and that is how I learned to jump.”

Everyone clapped, and said among themselves: Truly, he is the most ancient of animals and must be our Chief.Snail’s turn came and he said:

“When the world was still a ball of soft mud, without hills or holes or anything else, no animal with legs would live. Only by sliding slowly on a slimy belly could one move, and that was how I moved, and still do. No other creature lived when I was young.”

The animals cheered. “Here indeed is the oldest animal in the world,” they said. “Snail must be our Chief!”But then Hornbill raised a wing for silence, and announced:“Of a truth, I am much older than either Toad or Snail. I was born before the world began. There was no mud, no hill, no hole and hornbills caught their food as they flew about the sky. And if a hornbill died he was buried in his beak, for there was no other place to bury him. So, look at my head! Do you not see my mother’s coffin there?”

The fact was evident, and the animals clapped and cheered. Hornbill had proved himself the oldest creature in the world, and was appointed Chief.


Why Friday is a Holy Day to Certain Non-Muslims

In the town call Yandohun there lived a Chief called Yargai; and the people of Yandohun were heathens, while their neighbors were devout Muslims, known as Moli Men.

The Moli Men kept Friday as their holy day, and on this day they rested from their labors; but the heathens of Yandohun went about their affairs as usual. Now, the father of Chief Yargai had been a wise and worthy man who had ruled the town with justice and good sense; before he died he made his son guard the welfare of his people, and render aid to those who needed aid.But under the rule of Chief Yargai the prosperity and power of Yandohun declined: men gambled in the town, or slept, instead of tending crops; the rich grew lazy and the poor grew lean, and no one thought of helping the needy and infirm.

One day, which happened to be Friday, Chief Yargai sent his youngest son to bring palm wine from the forest, and when passing beneath a cottonwood tree the young lad heard a voice which said:

“O Tekawolo, hear us!”

Tekawolo looked up, and in the cottonwood tree he saw two snakes. He trembled with fear. We are the spirits of your father’s parents, and being displeased with the rule of our son we command you to bear him this message: “Tell him to remember the promises he made his father. Tell him to leave his idle ways, to govern the people, to plant new crops, and restore the honor and power of Yandohun. And tell him to fill the stomachs of the poor, and the aged, and the sick. Tell him to do these things or he will die.”

Tekawolo hurried off to Yandohun, his heart fluttering and his eyes big with fright. running through the gates of Yandohun he fell in the midst of a group of gamblers, who shouted in anger and pushed him away; but now Tekawolo’s spirit fell and so great was the fear inside him that his mouth was white and he dropped to the ground and groaned.

The gamblers called to his brother.

“O Boima! Bring kola nuts, for Tekawolo eats his tongue and is near to death!”

Boima brought two kola nuts. Tekawolo ate the two nuts and became calmer. Many people gather. When he could speak he told his remarkable tale to the assembled townsfolk, so that they too grew nervous, and then he reported to his father, Chief Yargai. The Chief was filled with the wonder of this day and set about restoring honor and prosperity to his lands and town: and since this singular day had chanced to be a Friday, it was decreed that Fridays would in future be observed as holy days.

This is why the heathens of Yandohun, to this time, work diligently for six days of the week, but rest on Fridays and give honor to their ancestral spirits.


How Pride Destroyed a Beggar

Masa was a beggar who had no family or land, he begged food when he could, and when he could not he hired himself to labor in the fields of other men. One day when bearing a heavy bag of cassava to a distant town an overpowering weariness possessed him and he sat to rest beneath a tree. He fell asleep.

He slept for seven months, and since he was a poor and unimportant man no one came to look for him. As he slept he dreamed a dream in which he entered a great city, and here he met a fair maiden called Vona.

The two young people fell in love and Masa agreed to Marry Vona as soon as she had been accepted into the Sande Society. She was to be called to this important women’s society within two months.Now Masa faced a serious problem, for he had no presents to give the girl or her mother.

Since begging brought no wealth and animals abounded outside the city walls, he decided to turn trapper to secure both food for himself and skins for trade. He made fifty Traps and set them in the forest.

Near the first trap lay a large black rock, and when Masa came to collect the animals in his traps the spirit of black rock said:
“Every animal in you traps must be placed upon my head, or I will rise and swallow you!”

Masa was astonished to hear the rock talk thus, and being fearful of the threat, he placed his animals upon its head. The animals disappeared within the rock. He shifted his traps to another place, but next day the rock had moved there too, and again demanded and received all the animals in Masa’s traps. This went on for many days. No matter where he put his traps, the rock was sure to follow. Masa had no animals to take home, and Vona’s mother became angry.

“O worthless hunter!” she exclaimed one day. “Do you hunt animals, or do they hunt you? You ask to wed my daughter, yet you bring no gifts. You wish to have her as your wife, yet you cannot feed yourself. I will not have my daughter marry such a poor and worthless fool.

Masa and Vona grieved at this, for they loved each other dearly.
On the evening before the ceremonies of the Sande Society Masa went once more into the forest, though his hear was heavy inside him. His traps were empty, for he had angered all the animals in the forest and had been obliged to give them to the spirit of the black rock. In despair he sat down on the rock himself, hoping the spirit might devour him too.

But the black rock said to him:“O hunter for a month and more you have given me every animal you caught, and now I shall reward you for your labors. Beat me seven times with your stick.”

Masa took his stick and hit the black rock seven times. The rock opened, and out rolled seven heavy stones of gold — so heavy that he could scarcely lift the smallest. He was happy to see them, and thanked the spirit of the rock. He left his traps, hid six stones of gold and carried the seventh into the city.

Here he purchased the richest gowns and jewels, white horses and fine gifts, and attended by dancers and musicians he rode in glory through the streets to the dwelling of the maiden city. Here he purchased the richest gowns and jewels, white horses and fine gifts, and attended by dancers and musicians he rode in glory through the streets to the dwelling and her mother; and people marveled among themselves to see the lowly beggar riding like a king.

So Masa married his beloved and days of feasting followed. Two months of his dream had passed. He and his bride lived in a palace with honor and wealth and unaccustomed happiness, but as time passed and Masa learned the power of wealth he grew arrogant, as well as fat, and dealt harshly with his servants. Then he fell ill with a strange illness.

The most famous diviner in the city came, and after reading sands he said:

“A bag of cassava weighs heavily on your spirit. Eat no more cassava or your spirit’s strength will break.”

Masa ate no more cassava, and soon grew well, but he became so cruel and haughty that his servants came to hate him and one day they put cassava in his food. Masa ate the meal: and he completely disappeared. He who was rich and lived in a palace with the loveliest of wives was swallowed by air.
The dream had broken.

Masa woke up underneath the tree deep in the forest. His loincloth was rotten, pigs had long ago eaten his bagful of cassava, his body was dirty and his hair was the home of insects. He had returned to poverty and in poverty he remained, for he had destroyed his fortune with arrogance and pride.


The Power of Thieves and Liars

The Chief Thief and the Prince of Liar lived together in a house, and neither could agree which possessed the greatest power for causing mischief. They decided they would have a competition and Thief set out to do his best, or worst.

He entered a prosperous town by night, a town where many rich men lived. He crept into homes, stole money and jewels, carried off chickens and clothes and food, drove off the cattle and goats and sheep, took all the totems and kidnapped the Chief’s favorite wife.

What palaver there was in the morning! Women arose to light fires and raised the alarm instead: their husbands seized spears and rushed through the town seeking culprits and shouting excitedly; the Chief called for his wife, and his pipe, and his sword, but all had mysteriously disappeared. Thief laughed and laughed and went home to Liar.

“Is that all you can do?” asked Liar. “Can you only cause confusion in the town? Well, now I’ll show you what the Prince of Liars can do!

He went to a place where two great town lay close together; they were ruled by powerful chiefs called Saa and Numa. In one of these towns he befriended the wife of Chief Saa. This woman often quarreled with her husband, who was cruel, and Liar confided to her that he had magic powers which could make her husband respect and love, and cause him to agree with anything which she suggested. The woman was delighted to hear this.

“I know a certain medicine,” said Liar, “which will make your husband love you as he never love before. But to make this medicine I must have some hair from his belly.”

He urged the woman to take a knife cut hair from her husband while he slept, and she agreed to do this that very night.

Liar approached Chief Saa, the woman’s husband and to him he said:“O Chief, I heard the women talking, and I know your wife is planning to murder you tonight. Take care, and watch her closely lest you die!”

Chief Saa was surprised to hear this, and decided to wait and see if Liar’s words were true. Chief Saa’s wife was the sister of Chief Numa who ruled the neighboring town, and now Liar went and talked with the second Chief.

“Chief Numa,” he said, “your sister is married to Chief Saa, and Chief Saa intends to murder her tonight. Send guards in secret, after dark, so that your sister may have aid if she should need it.”
Chief Numa frowned in wonder when he heard this; for if his sister was thus murdered the two great towns would go to war. He sent guards secretly to hide by Chief Saa’s house.

That night Chief Saa and his wife lay down on their bed to sleep; and when she thought her husband slept she took a long sharp knife from underneath the bed. But the Chief was not asleep, and he saw the long blade gleaming.

She began to cut hair from his tender belly.

“Warrgh!” he cried. “Fiend!”

He swept her hand aside, and as the blade slashed her leg she shrilled in pain. Chief Numa’s guards became alarmed and beat upon the door. Chief Saa’s own soldiers came. Fighting broke our. A courier ran to Numa, and he assembled his men and rushed headlong into battle with the warriors of Saa.

A violent battle ensued and lasted for seven days and nights. Both of the towns were burned and the women and children killed. Other peoples entered the fight and heavy slaughter followed until all villages and towns were burned and the land was ravaged, dead and smelled of blood.

Thieves can steal and plunder, but the wickedness of liars know no end.


The Man Who Scorned Spirits

Near to a town there was a small area of bush land which, the people said, was the private property of the forest spirits. A man decided he would make his farm on this land, and only laughed when his friends begged him not to. He had no respect for either spirits or the opinions of other people.

On the first day he cut some bushes and went home. Next morning he found all the other bushes had been cut. He felled a tree and on the third day he discovered all the other trees had been felled.

“I am the happiest and luckiest of men,” he thought; “I won’t have to work hard this year, for the Forest spirits are my slaves.”

He lit a small fire and went home. During the night all the bushes, trees and stumps were burned.

In the morning he told his wife to plant one seed of rice, and leave a basket of rise grain there overnight. During the night the seed was planted throughout the field.

At harvest time he cut one stalk of rice, and then went home already counting the profits he would make.

But when he returned in the morning he found all the rice crop had been harvested…and taken away. His crop had disappeared.

Which proves the people as a group are wiser than any single man.


How Time Began

This is an interesting myth illustrating the Bandi’s conception of Life and its social problems when the world was very young.

Ngala made the world and the moon and the sun. The sun shone all the time, so that there was no night, for Ngala considered that constant light would benefit men and beasts. For every man there was a woman, and all mankind was black. There were no white or brown or yellow people, there was only a single race of noble and pure-black men.

In those days men and animals were friends and wandered freely in the forests eating fruit and nuts and green things; caves and houses were not needed, for when a man or a beast was tired he lay down where he was to sleep. Men possessed no spears and animals had no claws, for no flesh was ever eaten.

Little children left their parents whenever they pleased and wandered for months and years in foreign places; and this was a sources of worry and grief to men and animals, for they loved their children well. Sometimes children wandered away and were never seen again; mothers and fathers wept in sorrow and invoked Ngala’s aid.

Ngala then withdrew the sun, and all the men and animals were alarmed. They could not understand what darkness was. Families grouped together in defense against unknown terrors, and children roaming far afield called pitifully for their parents.

After a time Ngala caused the sun to shine again, and everyone was happy; children returning home began to wander about again, so Ngala divided Time into nights and days to encourage the little ones to go back home and not stray too far from their parents.

In common protection against the night men and animals united in a single family clan and lived together under a giant cotton tree; they all lived there because there was no other shelter. They took good care of the tree for it was the only home they had: and all the animals and Man loved one another.

One day the son of Man discovered a piece of fire discarded by Lightning Bug, and he played with it. Being a normal child with mischief in his heart he waited until no one was watching, then carried fire to the foot of the cotton tree— and when animals and men saw and smelled the smoke the giant tree was already well alight.

A great cry of despair arose among the animals, and they stood about in fear, helplessly watching fire consume their home in a roaring, smoking blaze. After many hours the trees groaned, and cracked, and came crashing down to earth amid a shower of bright red sparks.

Men and animals fled in all direction.

“It is finished!” cried the animals. “We have been betrayed by Man. We had agreed to live in peace beneath the cotton tree: but it is not good to stay any longer with wicked man. There is war between us!”

Most of the animals fled far into the forests and made their homes in caves and thickets; men built houses, and a few brave or foolish animals decided to live with them — such as dogs, and goats and cows. They built houses of mud and thatch, and their group multiplied.

On the other side of a mountain, there was a certain pond which Ngala had used as a bowl for his colors then he painted animals. The remains of the colors had settled to the bottom of the pond, and the water looked clear and sweet.

A group of naughty children who had strayed far from their homes found the pond and joyfully ran to bathe: but their swimming and splashing stirred up Ngala’s colors, and the children were astonished to see their skins change color from lustrous black to white, and brown and yellow. In great alarm they rushed from the pond and washed themselves in a stream, but the colors were fixed and would not be washed off.

When the children went back home their people thought they were bewitched, and made them leave the group. The children traveled far away and made their homes in distant lands: and such was the beginning of the colored races of the world.

Ethnic Origin

The Origin of Wubomai

Condensed from reports made by Paul Korvah and Mr. S. Atkinson, the sequence of this legend has suffered damage while in transit through many generations and does not explain how a Bandi clan became part of the Loma tribe.

In olden times there was a mighty Bandi chief called Fonikgema; he was the richest and most powerful man in all the region of Halipo, and although his family name was Halingi he was head of the Tahamba Clan. Halipo was a large town which now lies close to Kolahun, Government Headquarters of the Kolahun District in the Western Province.

Fonikgema’s clan made war palaver with the Kissis. A cruel conflict ensued in which the very rocks were shattered and trees were torn from the ground and used as clubs. When the battle was over, Fonikgema discovered he had captured a beautiful Kissi maiden whose name was Kumba; she was a gentle and sweet-natured lady of high quality and he took her as wife. He already had give sons by his Bandi wives, but Kumba gave him two more sons called Fala Wubo and Seimavile Halingi.

The seven sons grew to manhood. The five sons of Fonikgema’s Bandi wives took many women to themselves and each began to form a new clan; but Fala Wubo and Seimavile were the sons of a slave woman, and therefore could not inherit either power or property; and the proud Bandi people whispered against them.

Fala Wubo was an accomplished warrior, hunter and blacksmith; he had married and sired two sons, but was not the man to submit for long to social discrimination. He decided to find new lands where he and Seimavile Halingi could live in freedom and found new clans. He fared abroad beyond the limits of Bandi territory, and climbing a tall mountain he saw fertile hills and valleys reaching as far as the eye could see.

“Kanifokoi!” he cried, which means “Rejoice!”, and thus was the mountain named. He fell to wondering who possessed these lands, and if he could gain some for himself by treaty or by war. He went home to report to his brother Seimavile; together they consulted a Moli man or Mohammedan called Famoiya, who was the best diviner in Halipo.

Famoiya consulted his magic sands, and eventually he said: “Your children will be honored and will bring great power and fame to your clans on one condition: two of your finest cloths must be presented to the chief of the lands you saw.”

Thus the wily Famoiya avoided a direct answer, as the best diviners will; but he did volunteer to go alone to this distant land, beyond Kanifokoi Mountain, and discovered the inhabitants were a tribe of giants from eight to nine feet in height, who called themselves Wono. Their arms were as thick as oranges; their principle weapons were bows and arrows, and hair of their heads were never cut. In all, they had a fierce and dreadful appearance.

Fomaiya courageously made his way to the main town of the Wonos, a large and well fortified town called Bitiyema and presented himself at the house of the Chief. The Chief was away hunting. This was a fortunate thing for the diviner, for the Wono Chief had no respect for strangers and was accustomed to putting them in a pot with potato greens, but Famoiya met the wife of the Chief as she was coming from her bath. He politely greeted her and announced:

“I belong to a distant tribe, and come to your land bearing messages of peace, goodwill, and friendship. My big men ask me to give you these fine cloths that our honorable intentions may be known and respected.”

The woman took the cloths and felt and fingered them with growing wonder and delight; for cloth was quite unknown to the Wonos. She had no wish to kill a man who could bring such splendid gifts, and said:

“My husband will be coming soon; but he eats strangers, so hide out back in the woodpile and I will see what I can do.”

Famoiya concealed himself and soon the Wono Chief appeared. He was a powerful giant nine feet high. His wife told him of the Mandingo stranger who brought presents from Halipo, but the savage giant fell into a rage, ground his teeth till chips flew and declared that strangers were not welcome in his land. Particularly those who came with gifts – for it was such as they who plotted to overthrow honest chiefs.

The diviner managed to slip away, and returned to Fala Wubo and Seimavile Halingi. Since the Wono Chief had violated the universal law called Zee, which held that ambassadors of peace must be respected, the brothers now felt justified in making war upon the Wonos. They assembled a strong army, and with Famoiya as their priest they sacrificed a bull and marched against the giants.

They were driven back. Time and again they joined battled with the Wonos, but the giants always drove them back.

At the insistence of Fala Bubo’s sons the army was divided into two; and the sons, Willibald and Kezi-zilema went to the right to decoy the Wonos from their town, while Wolobala went left through Galama and managed to reach the very gates of Bitiyema. He had been warned not to attack if the defenses were too strong, but being young and impetuous and anxious for glory he boldly led his men against a formidable garrison of giants.

He suffered severe defeat. The place of slaughter has been known ever since as “Koiwolomai,” or the Place of Crushed Maggots. The greatest warrior who fell was Valamuza; his skull is worshipped to this day.

Famoiya now dreamed a dream which revealed that a great sacrifice must be made before victory could be won. He told Fala Wubo to catch an elephant alive and sacrifice it after appropriate rituals had been performed.

This was considered impossible to do. Famoiya went on to say that if an elephant could not be had, then some man must volunteer to take its place. Seimavile Halingi at once came forward and offered himself as a living sacrifice: but Fala Wubo loved his brother well, and would not hear of it. Seimavile insisted; Fala Wubo would not hear him.

At that moment came news that a Wono expeditionary force was advancing through the High Forests towards a town called Da-azure, on the French side of the border. Fala Wubo decided one final onslaught must be made.

Rapidly the two intrepid brothers regrouped the battered remnants of their army, called for volunteers from neighboring tribes and hired the services of the most famous warriors in the land. Their army was now more powerful than it ever had been before. They marched to Da-azu, and launched a determined and vicious assault on the Wono force: and soon the over-confident Wonos found they were fighting a desperate rear-guard action which brought them to the mouth of an enormous cave.

Out-numbered, outfought, and suffering heavy loss, the Wonos sought refuge deep inside the cave; and the victors massed outside wondering how the remaining giants might be slain or enslaved. Fala Wubo and Seimavile appealed to their priest, Famoiya, to discover some solution. Realizing that equivocation would no longer serve his purpose, Famoiya sought the aid of two of his followers, Faubela and Fandawule, and they made powerful medicine and threw it on a gourd of sand, and placed the gourd at the mouth of the cave.

The sand immediately turned into a horde of big driver ants which streamed into the cave and bit the giants. Some giants were eaten, others were driven mad with pain and rushed forth from the cave. Most of them were killed or captured, but a few fought free and fled back to Bitiyema.

There remained one bloody battled to fight before the giants could be decisively defeated: this was the battle for Bitiyema, where all the remaining Wonos were assembling to defend their central town against the persistent attacks of the invaders. It now became essential to sacrifice an elephant, or some human volunteer; and Seimavile Halingi came forward again and declared he was willing to die for the sake of his descendants and those of Fala Wubo.

Fala Wubo, with considerable reluctance, now found himself obliged to accept his brother’s offer; defeat at this time would be a permanent disaster. The two brothers returned with their army to Halipo, and there Seimavile’s friends and relatives assembled. He was to be buried alive, and the burial was to take place on a Friday. Seimavile sat alone in a house until the fatal day, with no comp0any other than the rich foods which people sent him.

The burial hole was dug and Seimavile was brought forth. Fala Wubo, Seimavile and Famoiya each cut one finger and trickled their blood into a Mandingo ink vessel; using this blood. Famoiya wrote certain promises and agreements which assured the safety, prosperity and honor of Seimavile Halingi’s people. This written document was wrapped up and placed inside a pouch to be preserved as a charm. It was, and still is, kept by the oldest of Famoiya’s living descendants. It is called Famoiya, and is kept today by a man called Mbangua.

Seimavile’s brothers did not stay to witness his sacrifice. Seven arrows were aimed at his body and fired. He was lowered into the grave. Food was placed in there with him. The grave was sealed by a plank hewn by cutlasses, and a brass bucket was placed at the head. For seven days Seimavile Halingi lay in the hole crying in agony; and then died.

Fala Wubo meanwhile led his army against the fortified town of Bitiyema. His initial attack was strong and well-planned, and his warriors surged forward with fierce determination. They broke or overflowed the outer defenses of the town. In a series of swift and savage thrusts they pressed in with hacking swords and stabbing spears; and the twang of the Wonos’ bowstrings sang a song of sudden death. The battle raged day after day until bodies were piled on bodies and the very winds cried out against such carnage.

The Bitiyema creek ran red with blood for twenty days.

The Wono were defeated and destroyed. Those few who managed to escape sought refuge on a mountain top and grieved for their slain tribe. This mountain is now called “Wologizi,” the Mountain of Mourning.

Thus ended the long wars for possession of this land; Fala Wubo became the chief of all the Wono lands, and the clan which sprang from his loins are called the Wubomai. From that time no enemy has every conquered the Tahamba Clan, from which Seimavile Halingi and Fala Wubo came; Seimavile’s descendants live in Halipo, and for a long time after his death they used to occasionally sacrifice a black bull beside his grave.

A certain tree grew over the grave, and together with any sacrificial bull would serve as an oracle. An important question would be asked the full, and if it ate leaves from the tree, the answer would be “yes.” If, when the bull was killed and carved up for consumption, a traitor to the clan ate any of its meat, the food would be as razors in his stomach.

The custom of sacrificing bulls beside Seimavile Halingi’s grave has died; the grave is overgrown and neglected. Mbangua, who keeps the Famoiya (the document written in blood before Seimavile’s death) says that in the old days it took a chief or any augury to begin a war, but now all men listen to what the Government says. Even the inviolability of Seimavile Halingi’s family is no longer in force, and the promises men made to him have been forgotten.

The Liberian Bureau of Folkways adds an interesting footnote to this legend, offering several suggestions which may serve to guide the story along more authentic lines:

Falingama (Fonikgema) was a warrior of unusual fortitude who was born in distant Mecca of a man called Adama and a woman named Mawah. Having become famous in his own land he decided to carry his sword to foreign fields, and sat out to seek a certain mountain called Mamanda; travelers from the African Sudan had told him this was a fertile and well-watered place where a man with power and initiative could establish a prosperous chiefdom.

With his followers he journeyed west, and having traveled a great distance he met and fought a warlike tribe who called themselves the Kissi. Through this encounter he won himself a beautiful Kissi woman called Finda, and she bore him a son called Fala. Falingama settled at a town which men knew as Torlikoller, and Fala, who was his youngest son, surpassed his brothers in the warlike skills demanded of those times: the young warrior became known as Fala the Conqueror, or Fala-kruba, which the years corrupted to Fala-wuba.

Falingama died and was succeeded by Fala-Kruba, who continued to extend his father’s chiefdom; when he was old he had advanced as far as a town called Tolluzalazu, and at this place early one clear morning he saw a distant mountain-top now known “Woonsawa.” And seeing it, he exclaimed:

“Indeed, a man will be a child and develop into manhood, but no old man may ever regain his youth and grow again to manhood.”

His children asked what he meant, and he explained:

“Ah, my children, if I could become young again and possess my former strength I would not rest until I reached yonder three-headed mountain; and there I would build me a town.”

His children then vowed they would build him a town under that very mountain, even if he died before he reached it: and Fala-wuba did die before he reached that place, but in dying he declared that if the promised town was built his spirit would certainly dwell within the mountain. His children built a town in the appointed place and called it Bitiyema, and it is still believed that Fala-wuba’s spirit lives nearby in Woosawa Mountain to this day: and the area around it is known as Wubamai.

The Wubamai people used to honor Fala-wuba with human sacrifices, but with the coming of “’Merican-palaver” and Government influence, the practice of sacrificing humans was abolished, and in these more enlightened times a black cow is offered.


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?


How Spider Robbed a Goblin and Cheated Death

During Hungry Season Hare discovered a Goblin’s home in a secret place beyond the forest, and in Goblin’s house were many boxes full of rice. When Goblin was away cunning Hare crept into the house, opened a box, and filled a bag with rice. As he was about to leave a bat flew down from under the roof and said:

“Hare, you are stealing Goblin’s rice!”

“So I am, said Hare. “Would you like some to?”

Bat was the guardian of Goblin’s rice. He never stole any rice himself because he could not open the boxes, and now, because he was hungry, he replied:

“Yes, I would like some. Fill this bowl for me.”

Hare filled the bowl and went away, and Bat did not tell Goblin. Hare was a generous animal, and gave some of his rice to Spider. Spider ate greedily, and then inquired:

“Clever Hare, where did you get this rice?”

“In a Goblin’s house,” said Hare.

“Let us go and get some more!”

“Tomorrow. We will leave when the first cock crows.”

Spider did not sleep that night, and spent all his time counting the kinjahs of rice he would steal. Every time he counted up to nine he would have to begin all over again, for Spiders can only count to nine. His greed made him so anxious that at midnight he climbed to the top of Hare’s house and sang the rooster’s song. Then he went down and knocked on Hare’s door.

“Oh Hare, let us go now. The first cock has crowed.”

“Go away, Spider, and sleep,” said Hare. “I know it was you who crowed. We will leave when the women get up to carry water.”

Spider went away and began counting up to nine again. After a while he got two buckets and loudly banged them together, and said in a woman’s voice:

“Oh well, I suppose we had better go and fetch water now.”

Then he knocked on Hare’s door again and said:

“Oh Hare, let us go now. The women are going to fetch water.”

Hare was angry and said something rude. But he could not sleep any more, so he got up and went off with spider through the forest to Goblin’s house. They had to wait for an hour before Goblin went off to his fields; then they crept inside his house and opened a box of rice. Spider had brought an enormous kinjah, and now he rammed and crammed as much rice into it as he could and stuffed his stomach as tightly as he could. Hare could not take so much.

Bat flew down and said to Spider:

“Let me have a little rice.”

“I’ll let you have nothing,” said greedy Spider. “Go away.”

“I only want small-small,” pleaded the little animal.

“Even bats must eat.”

“Spiders must eat too. Go away!”

Hare filled Bat’s bowl with rice. But as Spider and Hare were leaving Bat flew to Spider’s big kinjah and quietly climbed inside; and he began to eat Spider’s rice. Spider’s kinjah was so heavy that he took all day to reach his home, and all the time Bat was eating, eating, eating. He began at the bottom and ate his way upwards, leaving behind him a pile of bung, and when Spider reached his house very little rice was left.

He staggered wearily into his house and set the kinjah down.

“Wife,” he cried. “Children! Come and see what you clever father brings.”

Spider was feeling very proud, but he was also tired and ravenous with hunger. His wife and children came. He opened the kinjah and gave them a little rice, deciding he would eat the rest himself. but when he put his hand inside the kinjah to get rice for himself he found only a great quantity of bung; and Bat flew out laughing and squeaking.

Spider stared in amazement. He emptied the kinjah on the floor, but only bung was left inside. He seized the biggest knife he had and hunted Bat all around the room. Bat settled on the stomach of Spider’s wife. Spider was crazy with anger. He savagely struck at Bat, but Bat flew off and Spider cut his wife in two.

Spider was arrested by the Chief for wife-killing, which was not allowed, and a council was held to decide whether Spider would be drowned in the river or burned alive.

“Please burn me!” Spider begged. “Drowning in deep water is a terrible affair. In fire I’ll turn to smoke and float up in the air.”

Of course, when they heard these words the Council immediately decided that Spider should be drowned; they took him to the river bank and there they threw him in. Spider landed lightly on the water and ran to the other side.

“Silly fools!” he cried. “Fire would surely cause my end, but water is a Spider’s friend!”

Ever since that day men have hunted Spider with sticks pulled from the fire.

Proverb: ‘Ashes fall on those who throw them.’


The Baby Star Who Visited a Fish

  • “O Star, my pond is a small and unimportant pond. Why did you choose to come here?”

“No special reason,” said the star. “The water here is clear and sweet, and I am only a baby star.” An then, thinking the fish was a simpleton, he added: “Tell me, will the moon bathe in the sea tonight?”

“I will tell you,” answered the little fish, but first you must tell me why one of my crabs lives with a water-snail.”

The baby star laughed at such foolishness.

“How stupid you are,” he said. “I live up in the sky. What could I know of such things?”

“And you are two fools,” the little fish declared; “for I live in this pond, and what could I know of the sky, or the moon, or if she will bathe in the sea tonight?”

The little star blushed with shamed and flew away. Wise men treat strangers with respect, and save themselves much trouble.


The Man Who Sought Riches and Respect

A certain poor hunter searched in the forest for many years trying to find his fortune; but all he found was birds and animals and fruit. He went to a diviner and asked what he must do in order to become rich and well-loved by his people. The diviner said:

“Bring a leopard into the village market place, and then report to me.”

The hunter went away wondering how this thing might be managed. He could not use his spear, or even traps, for a leopard in a trap fought to escape and always hurt itself. And even if he caught an unharmed leopard, it seemed unlikely that the animal would willingly come to the village. The hunter thought and thought for several days; then he went out in search of leopards, and finally he found the one he sought. It was a female leopard, and she had three kittens which he guarded in a cave.

The hunter killed a deer, and left deer meat by the cave. On the following day he did the same; each day for twenty days he left meat in front of the leopard’s cave until the leopard learned to wait for him, and to greet him as a friend.

On the twenty-first day the hunter brought more meat and sat down by the cave as if to rest. He had left his spear in the forest. The leopard entered the cave and brought out her three babies, and together they ate the deer meat as the hunter watched and smiled.

In time he hunter was accepted by the leopard family as both playmate and companion. They grew to love his kindness no less than they loved his meat; and indeed, the hunter learned to love them too. Sometimes he took the babies for a walk, or romped with them among the trees, and their mother trusted him to bring them back.

And thus it was that the hunter took one baby away among the threes, then further, and further yet, and carried the little animal towards his village. The baby leopard trusted him, and was happy and was excited to be traveling so far. It was not afraid of the village people, for the only man it knew had been a gentle friend.

The hunter showed the baby leopard to the diviner, and explained what he had done.

“Hunter,” said the wise old man, “you have done well, and even better. Let my judgment be you guide: be as kind, considerate and gentle to your fellow men as you have been to your wild leopards, and not only will riches come to you, but men will learn to love you and respect you as their friend.

The hunter followed his advice, and became a rich and happy man.