How a Wicked Woman Burned

Men tell a tale of two rich chiefs, River Chief and Hill Chief. River Chief lived by a river and had a handsome son who was a clever fisherman, and an ugly daughter whose name was Ti. Hill Chief had no children.

River Chief sent Ti to him as a wife, and Hill Chief took her; she was a good and gentle woman and Hill Chief did not mind her ugliness.

After a time new life began to grow inside Ti, and Hill Chief prayed the child might be a boy. But his head wife, who was a wicked woman and had borne no children, became jealous of Young Ti and resolved to kill the baby as soon as it was born.

She took ugly Ti to midwives and she gave birth to a son. The head wife put the baby in a box and threw it in the river, and took a kitten to Hill Chief.

“Chief, see what the ugly girl called Ti bore you.”

Hill Chief gazed in surprise and shame at the kitten.

“I have never heard of such a thing before,” he said. “It is against nature.” He grieved that the blessing of a son was denied him. Being filled with shame he forbade any mention of this thing inside his house; and the head wife abused and misused Ti like a common slave, causing her much unhappiness.

The box with the baby floated down the river and was snared in a fishing net cast by the son of River Chief. He took the box to his father; they opened it, found the baby boy, and cared for it.

Again new life grew in Ti, and she bore second child, also a son. The head wife bound a cloth about Ti’s eyes, as she had done before, and Ti could not see. The head wife put this second baby in a box and threw it in the river; and she said to Ti:

“You have borne a baby dog. How is this?”

Ti wept and shook her head in grief.

“No,” she cried, “it was a child, my child. What have you done with it?”

But the head wife took a puppy to Hill Chief, saying:

“Your ugly wife Ti has borne the child of a dog, as ugly as herself.”

Hill Chief was amazed: first a kitten, and then a puppy. A curious affair. For shame he ordered that no one in his house should speak of this.

The second boy was also discovered in the river by the son of the River Chief, and saved; and the two baby boys grew up to handsome youths. River Chief began to suspect the two children belonged to Hill Chief, and one day he called his daughter to his side and asked:

“Ti, how is it that you have borne no children for your husband.?”

“I did! I have borne two children. But each time I bore a child the head wife bound a cloth about my head so that I could not see, and took the babies from me. I saw neither of them, and what she did with them I do not know. On the first occasion she gave a kitten to my husband, saying I had borne a kitten; on the second occasion she gave a pup to my husband, saying I had borne a puppy! But no one would believe it was not true. Each time I heard my baby cry; it was not the cry of an animal!”

River Chief realized that the two young men he and his son had raised belonged to Ti and Hill chief; and on the following day he said to the two boys:

“Today I send you to your father, your real father, who is Hill Chief and an honorable man. Go but do not tell him who you are, and return.”

He also warned them not to reveal their secret to their mother until the time was ripe. The two youths went to Hill Chief, and when he saw his own two sons, not knowing them he wept with sorrow that he had no sons of his own. He accepted them into his house and honored them, and sent them to the head wife’s house to eat the best of food.

The two lads saw the head wife scolding and beating their gentle mother, and watched her drive her from the house saying such an ugly creature was not fit company for two handsome young men.

The two boy’s bowels burned with anger, but they said nothing. On the next day they went back to their ‘father’ by the river.

At the proper time River Chief returned with them to Hill Chief, and there he asked Hill Chief to assemble all the people of the town to hear important words. to the gathering he said:

“You see before you two young men, both noble men of royal birth; it is thought they are my sons, but now their story can be told. Some years ago I gave my daughter Ti to Hill Chief as his wife.

Ti bore two sons, but Hill Chief’s head wife, being evil, threw them in the river; my own son fund and saved them, and they have lived in my family until now. I now give them back to Hill Chief with my blessing.”

The two youths went to their father and embraced him, and Hill Chief wept tears of joy, for his greatest wish had been suddenly fulfilled. He called Ti to his side, and honored her.

All the town rejoiced, and shouted for the head wife’s blood. The head wife cowered in the corner, sick with fear. Men brought her before the Chief, and she groveled in the dirt and begged for mercy.

“Mercy?” he cried. “Men, tie her to a post in the market place. Put sticks about her feet and light them, so that she may slowly burn.”

Thus the wicked head wife burned alive, Ti gained honor and the love of her husband and two sons, and the two great Chiefs united in rejoicing with their sons and wives.


How Antelope Revenged His Wife

Nemo, the Pigmy antelope, left his house and went on a long journey; his wife stayed in town. One night Chimpanzee came to the house and knocked on the door.

“Who knocks? asked Lady-Antelope. She would not open the door. Chimpanzee went to a diviner and asked for medicine to make his voice small like Nemo’s. The diviner told him to swallow a piece of red-hot iron; but Chimpanzee was afraid to do this and asked the diviner to help him.

The diviner heated a piece of iron in the fire until it was red, and then stuffed it down Chimpanzee’s throat.

Chimpanzee sat down and said nothing for a long time. He was quite certain that pieces of red-hot iron were not fit food for chimpanzees, but the diviner gave him sweet juices to drink and he felt better.

That night he went again to the door of Nemo’s house and said:

“Open the door, dear wife.” His voice was now small-small like Nemo’s, and lady-Antelope opened the door. Chimpanzee sprang on her and killed her. He ripped her stomach out and threw it in a drinking pot, and carried the rest of the body away to eat.

Antelope returned from his journey. He went to his house, found the door open and his wife gone, and saw something in the drinking pot. He said to himself: “Someone has killed my wife. I will go to the diviner and find out who it was.”

The diviner said to him:

“A herd will pass by. the last in the …”

“What kind of a herd?”

“Don’t interrupt divining. As I was saying, a heard will pass by. The last in the herd will be singing in a small-small voice, and he will be the one who will kill your wife.”

Nemo thanked him, and went to hide behind a bush with a spear. a herd of chimpanzees strolled by, and the last one was singing in a small-small voice:

“I took the life of someone’s wife, and craved her with a hunting knife…”

Nemo threw the spear and killed him. The other chimpanzees hurried back and drove Nemo away, then went and lay beneath a tree to sleep. Nemo cut kola nuts, and put half a nut in each side of the chimpanzees’ bottoms so that everyone would see this, and know that they were villains.


The Kitchen in the Sky

During Hungry Season all the animals except Chameleon became quite thin. Baboon was surprised to see that instead of becoming thin Chameleon grew quite fat, and one day he asked him how this could be.

“Every animal has a secret,” said Chameleon, “and that is mine.”

Baboon begged him to tell. “I promise I will tell no other animal,” he said. “I beg you, my good friend, explain how you grow fat while everyone grows thin.”

“Then you must hold to your promise. And especially you must never let Spider know.”

“I promise on my heart’s blood,” Baboon declared, and Chameleon let him know what the secret was.

“The Spirit of my mother lives in the sky,” he said. “Every day she lowers a rope so that I can climb up and eat some of the fine food she has.”

“That is a fine idea,” said Baboon. “I would like to climb up too.”

The following day he went with Chameleon to a secret place, climbed the rope, ate his fill, and returned to earth with his friend. Baboon was excited about his trip to the sky; he forgot about his promise and began telling all the other animals about Chameleon’s rope.

Spider heard, Deer heard, Possum and Snake and Ground-hog heard, and they decided they would also climb the rope. Next day they all went together to the secret place and arrived before Chameleon.

When the rope came down they began to climb, and as more and more animals swarmed up towards the sky Mother Chameleon wondered why the rope was becoming so heavy. She had to hold the rope, and although she was very strong her tail began to curl in knots with the effort of holding on.

When most of the animals were halfway up Elephant came along. He had not heard about the rope, but he thought that everyone had found an easy way to heaven, so he seized the rope and also began to climb this was too much for poor Mother Chameleon: she almost swooned with the effort of bearing Elephant’s weight as well, and the rope slipped from her hands.

All the animals fell down. Baboon fell on top of Elephant, and everyone also fell on Baboon; he landed so hard on Elephant’s upturned foot that his bottom has been pink and tender ever since.

Chameleon saw what had happened and knew that Baboon had betrayed him. He went away to hide in the forest; he learned to change his color whenever anyone approached, and thereafter he was invisible. He would creep slowly every day to another secret place where his mother would lower the rope, and no one has ever found out where it is.


The Prodigal Hunter

A young man grew up to be a mighty hunter. He became so famous he left his family and entered the service of a wealthy Chief.

The Chief paid him well, so that he became rich and proud; he neglected his old father and mother, who lived in poverty and almost starved to death.

But the chief himself was an arrogant man, and the hunter wondered if the master really loved him; he decided to find out. He went into the forest and slew a fine red deer, then sprinkled himself with blood and went back to the Chief.

“O Chief,” he said, “I beg forgiveness, for while hunting I shot at a deer and killed a man instead. protect me from his family, O Chief.”

The Chief was annoyed.“Go.” he said. “Go from this town and never return. I want no palaver with dead men and relatives here.”

The hunter sadly went away. He thought he would visit his family, so he went to them and said:

“I have killed a man while hunting. Will you help me?”

They received him with great rejoicing, and tears came to his eyes when he saw how much they loved him.

“My son,” his father said, “You have returned, and now our hearts were alive where before they were dead.”

“My son,” his mother said, “we will protect you in this house, and sell ourselves to pay for your palaver!”

Then the hunter laughed with happiness, and brought in the fine red deer.

“It was a deer I killed, and not a man. All these years I have been killing my own self, but now your love has made me live again!

He lived among his family in happiness until he died.