Kikuyu - Fables and Legends

A Communal Sacrifice in the Lake


See Rugano Rwa Wanjiru - A Lake Sacrifice for another version of this tale. 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.


A Communal Sacrifice in the Lake, collected by Rose Mwangi


The sun became very hot. The land became dry, thirsty and hungry, and the sheep, the goat and cattle died. The men became worried and so they went to the medicine man. He said:
   'Let women and men gather round such and such a lake with cattle sheep and goats. Let them give these things to the father of the girl.'
   Now the people collected these things of blood and gave them to the father of the girl. The girl was placed in the middle of the lake and the waters of the lake came to her ankles. Then she looked at the people who stood round the lake gazing at her. She sang:

Stranger in my father's homestead, do you say I perish?
Man in the village, do you say I perish?
Young man of the village, do you say I perish?
Young women of the village, do you say I perish?
Even my own uncle, you say I perish?
Rain come down, come bless the people and I perish.

The young men said, 'she cannot perish,' her lover was held rushing towards her saying: 'Let me kill her. Then she will be dead to me and to all the others'. The girl sang again:

Young man of my father, do you say I perish?
Young woman of my father, do you say I perish?
And my younger aunt, do you say I perish?
And my elder aunt, do you say I perish?
My young mother, do you say I perish?
And my elder mother, do you say I perish?
Even my grandmother, do you say I perish?
Rain come down, come bless the people and I perish.

Now she had almost disappeared and she sung:

And my friend, do you say I perish?
Who will be going with you?
Young women of the village, do you say I perish?
Women of the village, do you say I perish?
Even my mother, do you say I perish?
And my father, do you say I perish?
Rain come down, come bless the people and I perish.

Then the waters of the lake covered her head and she disappeared. And the rain came down like a waterfall and the people were happy.
   Now this girl had a younger sister. She used to go with the other girls to the lake to fetch water. And when the other girls had filled their gourds, they said: 'Help me lift the gourd onto my back', 'and me', 'and me', and they would leave the little girl alone.
   'What about me?' she said.
   'Ha! We cannot help you, you sold your sister for rain,' and they went home. Being thus left alone she said:
   'Waters of the lake shake yourself, come help me lift my gourd onto my back.'
   And the animal of the lake replied:
   'I have a son, I cannot leave my son behind. I have a daughter, I cannot leave my daughter behind.'
   The girl saw her sister come out flanked on either side by a boy and a girl. She wore shining beads round her hips and she gave the girl more beads, maize, meat and bananas. She helped her sister lift the gourd onto her back and then went back into the water.
   At home she found her mother was still out in the shamba. She resolved not to eat the food given to her or to wear the beads. She hoped to get more. She dug a hole and put them inside but she did not tell anybody, not even her father and mother. The other girls always called her when they went to fetch water. They enjoyed teasing her and leaving her behind.
   One day she said to her mother, 'Mother if I tell you something are you going to beat me? When I go to the river, the others refuse to help me lift the gourd because they say we sold my sister for rain.'
   'You malicious girl, why do you remind me of those who are lost to me?' And she was beaten away by her mother.
   Then the girl went to her father and he also beat her. Lastly she went to her younger father:
   'If I tell you something are you going to beat me like my father and mother?'
   'I am going to listen, I will not beat you.'
   'When I go to the river, the other girls refuse to help me lift my gourd onto my back. They say, 'we cannot help you, you sold your sister for rain'. As soon as they go I sing a song and my sister comes and helps me up with my gourd. She has given me some presents which I have hidden in the house. Tomorrow morning when you see us go to the river, hide yourself behind the bush and see for yourself.'
   When he saw the things that this animal brought, he told the girl that they must go to the medicine-man. They went to the first medicine-man and he made a mistake and they went to another one who knew that there was this animal which keeps the girl in the lake and which gives the girl presents. He said: 'Go, brew honey beer for eight days. When it is ready dig holes from the door front of your homestead to the river and in each hole place a gourd full of beer. Let the little girl entice the animal with a song. Let her start with the hole near the river'. And standing on each hole, the girl sang:

You man of the river, my father calls
With honey beer and meat.

She jumped to the next hole and the animal with the girl and the children on his side. He drank and drank and drank until he reached the gourd outside the door of the homestead. On drinking this, he reeled his head in the air, the woman and the children fell off and in another instant the animal fell back into the river with a big thud! The woman was taken into the house and lived with her people for ever. That is the end of the tale.


 
 
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