Embu & Mbeere - Fables and Legends

A Woman and Hyenas

This story, narrated by Mwenda Njeruan - an 80 year-old Mbeere woman from Ivurori - is a warning with a strong proverbial message. Hyenas are, as ever, the bad guys. 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.

A Woman and Hyenas, narrated by Mwenda Njeru

Long long ago, there was a woman who lived in a certain village.

Once upon a time, the villagers decided to migrate to another land. That woman decided she was not going to move. She said she did not need to be bothered.
   Now when the woman was left alone, she developed a very big wound on the leg. After many years, she also grew old. Then in that area, trees and bushes grew so that the whole neighbourhood was bush and forest.
   One day, hyenas came to force the woman to open the door so that they could eat her. However, the woman heard the hyenas before they got to the door. So she sang in a loud voice:

You sleeping ones
Wake up and take up your swords
Hyenas have invaded us
The hyenas are at the doorstep.

When the hyenas heard that song, they were afraid, so they ran away. The hyenas used to come every day in order to find out with whom the woman lived. Now they investigated very thoroughly and found out the woman's secret. They found out that the woman just sang to disguise the fact that she lived alone; she did not live with anybody. The hyenas knew the woman had neither a husband nor children.
   One day the hyenas came to eat the woman. The woman sang:

You sleeping ones
Wake up and take up your swords
Hyenas have invaded us
The hyenas are at the doorstep.

The hyenas replied:

Woman in this house
We have realised you live alone
And you have a big wound on the leg
Today you cannot escape!

After completing their song, the hyenas broke into the woman's hut and ate her up, including her bones.

A person who lives alone dies alone.

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