Kikuyu - Fables and Legends

The story of Wamugumo

From "Gikuyu Oral Literature", by Wanjiki Mukabi Kabira and Kerega wa Muthahi (1988: East African Educational Publishers, PO Box 45314 Nairobi, Kenya). See the copyright notice for textual extracts.

The story of Wamugumo, by Kagia

The story of Wamugumo is not a story. He was a person just like you. He did not die a long time ago. His body had scales like this tree, called Muiri. He was a tall person, like eight feet tall. And Wamugumo would eat a whole cow alone. He worked at Ovori with Delamere [Lord Delamere was one of the richest and unscrupulous of settlers, and owned much former Kikuyu and Maasai land].
   Wamugumo would get hold of a cow and make it stand still when cattle were being inoculated. Wamugumo was liked by the European because he would hold a cow like an antelope until it was inoculated. When that European was dishing out flour he would give Wamugumo a whole bag alone. When he was feeding well Wamugumo would consume the whole bag in two days. And as you see him he would be given a calf as his relish for the ugali.
   Now, as they stayed together the European asked Wamugumo, 'Wamugumo will you be able to work?' He said, 'I would not be able to do the clearing of the bushes but I will handle the cattle.'
   He was asked,
   'If I take you over there, there where animals are shot, will you be able to carry?' He said, 'Even two cows I am able to carry'. He was therefore taken. As the European Game Wardens shot animals he would carry and load them on the vehicle. He would then say, 'Shoot another one'.
   Whenever they shot an animal Wamugumo would eat one whole half of the animal. He would then say, 'I don't feel like I am getting full.'
   After a while the European realised. 'This man is hopeless, he will never take anything home with him. Me too I will not take anything home with me.' By this time Wamugumo had eaten even the skins but had found them unpleasant.
   He then told the European, 'I would like you to take me back home.' He was told by the European, 'I am not able to take you home.' Wamugumo started off and met a gazelle on the way which he speared. He ate it and felt he had gained strength. He went along the path, went and found some cattle being watered.
   He knocked one down, ate and ate until he finished it.
   He said, 'I won't sleep', he started off again, went on and on and met with a buffalo. The buffalo started charging him, Wamugumo said, 'Now what do you want buffalo? Oh you want us to fight? By the time the buffalo was saying yes Wamugumo had pulled out his sword and struck it on the neck and killed it. He lit a fire, roasted and ate, and ate and ate. He carried the head and the rest of the meat he finished.
   He looked at his European's place, he looked again, then went on until he arrived. He put the buffalo's head down outside the house. You know Europeans like to place such heads on the wall as decorations.
   The European got out and asked Wamugumo,
   'How are you Wamugumo?'
   (Wamugumo) I am fine.
   (European) Where are the rest?
   (Wamugumo) We lost each other. That European discharged me. When I tell him to slaughter a buffalo for me he does not want to. When I tell him to give me enough meat he does not want to. I left him in the bush Has he not arrived yet?
   He said, 'No'.
   'This animal, I killed last night and brought the head for you to see. Ah, haven't you been with that European?'
   'You will then stay here until he comes'.
   'I will stay'.
   A calf was got for him, slaughtered and he ate it.

Every morning when Wamugumo arose he asked this European, 'Will you come so that I may show you where I left your European?' The European would refuse and Wamugumo would say, 'Then we shall stay here until he comes'. He would then be told,
   'You know if he fails to come I will call the government to come and shot you.'

Wamugumo would then ask him,
   'And you, when he comes shall I shoot you because he has come?'

The European would keep quiet. When he kept quiet just as they were talking the following morning the European arrives with his 'boy'. And Wamugumo would say, Here they are.
   Now the European started in English, informing him that Wamugumo deserted them in the forest on account of eating alone. The European would be told,
   'I have stayed with him and he eats a whole cow.'
   'Would he finish a whole cow?'
   'Yes, Give him one and you will see.'
   Cows were brought and then he was asked to select the one he wants. He got hold of a big one, shook its leg, shook it again and brought it down. He lit a fire and was then asked,
   'How many days will you eat this one?'

He answered,. 'wait and see'. He ate, ate and finished. The European he had lived with asked him,
   'Did you finish?'

He said,
   'Yes I have finished.'

The European said,
   'Your affairs, I will never discuss again.'
   Now, Wamugumo was not happy with the European's saying that he would kill him if the other European did not return. He said,
   'Now that he has come shall I kill you?'

He answered,
   'No, don't kill me.'
   Finally, the European had to go to the D.C.'s office where they agreed to give Wamugumo a plot where the people built him a house. He was left there and the European would give him a calf a day. Wamugumo would go to work in other places and his payment was in cattle which he would eat. His skin was like scales.
   Before Wamugumo went to Nyahururu he came from Tetu. That is where such surprises come from.
   The story ends there.


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

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