Kikuyu - Fables and Legends

The Egg that Hatched a Beautiful Girl

From Rose Mwangi's "Kikuyu Folktales: their Nature and Value" (1970, reprinted 1983: Kenya Literature Bureau, PO Box 30022 Nairobi, Kenya). See the copyright notice for textual extracts.

The Egg that Hatched a Beautiful Girl, collected by Rose Mwangi

Listen: A man left his hut and went into the plains near his home. There he found an ostrich sleeping. He scared it off and found that she was sleeping on an egg. The man took the egg and tied it in a piece of cloth that he was carrying in his bag. He took the egg home. There he put it in a dry pot into which he poured some oil. The egg ate this oil for three days. And then the man replenished the pot with some fresh oil.
   Again the egg ate the oil for three days and again the pot was replenished.
   The egg was now growing bigger and bigger and on the ninth day the egg broke and a beautiful baby girl emerged and lay on the bottom of the pot.
   The man put more oil and this time he covered the pot. After every three days he uncovered the pot and put more more oil so that one day all the oil he had in the hut was finished. He slaughtered three rams and put their oil in gourds ready for the same purpose.
   One day he found that the girl was growing very fast. She was becoming too big for the pot and so he changed that pot and put her in a bigger pot. He poured more oil and stayed for six days and when he went to check on his girl, he found that the girl was trying to get out. He took her and put her on the floor. And this girl walked and sat by the fireside. She was very beautiful and the man was feeling very happy. She was like a daughter to him.
   It was after many, many moons and the man had come to love this girl very much. Everybody who saw her loved her. And then there was talk of circumcised her because she had become a big girl. The circumcision season came and the man took his daughter away to be circumcised with the other girls.
   Now this man had a wife and she was feeling jealous and angry because the girl was loved more than she was: 'What is this animal from the plains that is loved more than I?' She was not going to be nice to her. The girl stayed for some time with the other girls who were circumcised with her. Their doctor came to see them and gave them advice on how mature women should behave. When the convalescent period was over, the girls went home. Her father (she called the man father) was pleased to see her. He said to his wife:
   'This one will never go to the river to fetch water. When you make porridge too thick and you need more water from the river, you must fetch it yourself.'
   And so the girl stayed at home while the woman killed herself with work. Nobody was allowed to send the girl anywhere. She was a special girl. One day when the man was out in the fields on a time when the woman was grinding maize and making porridge in a large pot to be drunk throughout the season, she said to this beauty:
   'Mwari Umwe (Single Daughter), go and bring water from the river. The porridge has become too thick.'
   'I am not going to any river,' the girl replied, 'My father said that I should not be sent at all.'
   'You cheeky girl, don't you know that you are merely an ostrich egg picked up by the roadside?'
   The girl was very angry and immediately she stood and walked off towards the plains. Her father came home and called for her.
   'Sing Daughter, where are you?' This man would never eat anything before he knew that the girl was at home and all right. There was no answer from Single Daughter.
   'So and so, where is Single Daughter?' he asked his wife.
   'I don't know,' she answered.
   On hearing this he took his things and went towards the plains. He had not gone far before he saw the girl sauntering towards the middle of the plain. He called:
   'Single Daughter, Single Daughter, come back.'
   'Father, I cannot come back, your wife abused me. She called me an egg picked up by the roadside. I go back to where I belong.'
   The man was hurrying: 'Single Daughter, Single Daughter, come back.'
   'Father, I cannot come back, your wife abused me. She called me an egg picked up by the roadside. I go back to where I belong.'
   There was a river and when the girl plunged into the water, she came out turned into an ostrich. The ostrich ran and joined the others. The man went home angry and disappointed. He beat his wife and sent her home to her own people. He never married again after that.


Traditional Music & Cultures of Kenya
Copyright Jens Finke, 2000-2003

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