Embu & Mbeere - Fables and Legends

The Origin of Ndega's Grove

This story, narrated by Jesse Njeru - a 75 year-old Embu elder from Thau - is from Ciarunji Chesaina's outstanding "Oral Literature of the Embu and Mbeere" (East African Educational Publishers, Nairobi, 1997). See the copyright notice for textual extracts.

The Origin of Ndega's Grove, narrated by Jesse Njeru

Here here; that side just there. Here here overlooking Kiamuvove, just here overlooking Riakirathi, there was a river of rocks.
   Now at that river, that is where Nthara was bathing. And Nthara was a really beautiful girl. A beautiful girl whose skin shone like pigeon peas. If she laughed, the gap in her teeth! You listen! No girl could surpass Nthara in beauty.
   Now Ndega on his part, he was herding his animals at a bush near the river. Now, while Nthara was bathing, Ndega saw her and asked, "Who is that girl bathing who is shining like something out of this world? Let me go and see."
   When Ndega reached where the girl had been, she had disappeared. He looked for her among the reeds but he could not find her. When he failed to get her he went back to his cattle. The day passed before he could get her again, so he went home.
   The following day, Ndega went back to the same bush with his cattle. He grazed them for a while. When the sun was sitting in the middle of the sky, there is Nthara again, bathing in the same river.

Ndega swore, "Today, today if I fail to take the girl home! I'll know that my name is not Ndega the Rebel!"
   So he left the cattle grazing and descended, hiding by the bushes. He went hiding, bending dead silent. He just shot out before the girl, muku! The girl turned. Ndega greeted her, "You girl, receive my greetings!"
   The girl asked him, "What do you want that you frighten me so?"
   "Although you are hiding from me, I just want to take you with me to my house so that you can be cooking for me," Ndega said.
   The girl laughed shyly, the ways girls usually do.

When Ndega saw that, he loved her very much. He told her, "What I want is for you to come with me and become my wife. What is your name?"
   The girl told him, "I have no name."
   Ndega told her, "That is nothing. I shall look for a name for you. Your people..." The girl cut him short and said to him, "If I go with you, never ask me about my people! What have I told you? Don't you ever ask about my people!"
   "I shall never ask you," Ndega assured her.
   They went and started living together as man and wife. They lived together, they lived together. The wife got pregnant.

And Ndega, because he loved her so much, slaughtered a goat for her; a very fat goat. He did not wait for the child to be born because Ndega used to do as he pleased. The name Ndega originated from Ndega's stubbornness. Ndega the Rebel!
   Now Ndega prepared a rack and started roasting the choice pieces of fat meat for his wife. No sooner had he cut a small piece of meat to check whether it was ready that, Vurio! Didn't the woman snatch the meat? Ndega told her, "I shall be calling you Nthara, you snatcher!" That is where the name Nthara came from.
   Now when her time came, Nthara gave birth to a boy called Irugi. The boy grew up, the boy grew up. He became a grown-up. When Irugi became a grown-up, Nthara told him, "Migrate!"
   Irugi migrated and went to live in the scrubland in that place called Thau. He married and got a boy called Ireri. Now one day, Irugi came to pay his mother and father a visit. They brought with them a lot of beer indeed. Oh, don't you know Thau has abundant honey!
   Ndega drank the beer until he was completely drunk.

Nthara told him, "Won't you give me some beer?" Ndega asked her, "Now, while you are asking for beer, when will your people bring some?"
   Nthara asked him, "Didn't I forbid you to ask me about my people?"
   Ndega told her, "I wouldn't like you to tell me not to ask you about your people. Go tell your people to bring beer!"
   And Nthara told him, "Do you really want my people's beer? You will see it now."
   Now Nthara told Irugi, "Set off and go home." Irugi set off with his people and went home.
   Nthara started dancing kigaru. She swung herself and swung herself. As she danced, the rain sounded, puuu!

It rained and rained and rained and rained. Ndega's home and his cattle, his goat! Ndega was drowned with all his property. He disappeared. Now there, was filled with a huge lake. And then trees grew and eventually there was a huge grove. And the people named it Ndega's Grove.

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