Embu & Mbeere - Fables and Legends

Monkey and Crocodile (King'ang'i na Iguna)

This story, narrated by Paul Njuki - a 40 year-old Mbeere man from Ishiara - is an example of the "trickster" type of tale, which is popular all over Africa. They usually have the weaker animal triumphing over the stronger but more stupid one. From Ciarunji Chesaina's outstanding book "Oral Literature of the Embu and Mbeere" (1997: East African Educational Publishers, PO Box 54314 Nairobi, Kenya). See the copyright notice for textual extracts.

Monkey and Crocodile (King'ang'i na Iguna), narrated by Paul Njuki

Some time long ago, Crocodile and Monkey were very great friends. Crocodile lived in the river and Monkey lived on a tree which was there at the bank of the river.
   One day, Crocodile invited Monkey to his home for a feast. However, Monkey asked Crocodile how he could reach his home and yet he did not know how to swim.
   "Aaa! That is no problem!" Crocodile told Monkey. "I'll just carry you on my back and swim with you!"
   Monkey agreed. On the appointed day, Monkey lay on Crocodile's back as they had agreed. Crocodile started swimming.
   Crocodile swam and swam. They went, they went. Just as they reached the middle of the river, very far from the bank of the river, Crocodile coughed a little and said to Monkey: "Eee! Do you know? Our king is very sick and he has been told that he would only get well if he ate the heart of Monkey. Now I am just taking you for your heart to be removed so that our king can eat it and get cured."
   Monkey was so shocked that he nearly fell off Crocodile's back. But Monkey was not a fool the way Crocodile thought. When he had swallowed the words Crocodile had told him, he said "Aaa! My good friend! Have you never known that monkeys leave their hearts on top of the tree? Now the only thing we can do is to go back so that I can get you my heart if that is what you wanted!"
   So Crocodile turned and started swimming back to the river banks where Monkey lived. When Monkey was put down, he climbed up the tree very nicely just like a person who was going to take his heart and then go back for them to continue with their journey.
   Now Monkey picked a raw yage fruit [a wild fruit that grows in Embu and Mbeere]. He told Crocodile, "My good friend, open your mouth I throw my heart so that it doesn't drop on the ground and get spoilt!"
   Crocodile opened his mouth. Monkey threw the yage fruit, kabakabakabakaba! Puku puku puku! The yage fruit found Crocodile's teeth waiting for it. In the end the yage fruit broke Crocodile's teeth until all of them scattered on the ground.

Monkey laughed very hard and asked Crocodile, "You big fool! Have you ever heard of a person who moves around without his heart?"

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Traditional Music & Cultures of Kenya
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