Maasai - Fables and Legends
The Warrior who went to God's Country
|From Naomi Kipury's excellent "Oral Literature of the Maasai" (1983: East African Educational Publishers Ltd., PO Box 45314 Nairobi, Kenya). See the copyright notice for textual extracts.
Once upon a time a group of warriors set off on a cattle raid, and on the way, one of the warrior's sandals broke and he had to sit down to repair it. As he did so, he said to the others:
"Comrades, please wait for me." The others said:
"Let the last one wait for you." He said the same to another group of warriors, who also told him the same thing:
"Let the last one wait for you." This went on until the last warrior came by.
"Please wait for me comrade," said the warrior with the broken sandal. "I will place a branch on the path that we will take when I get to the fork on the path, then you can follow that path and catch up with us," said the last warrior, as he hurried to catch up with the others. The other warrior agreed with him and continued mending his sandal.
The last warrior went on, and when he got to the fork he cut a branch and placed it on the path that the warriors had followed. As the warriors went on, a strong wind came and blew off the branch to the other path. When the warrior with the broken sandal got to the spot after repairing his sandal, he found the branch and he followed the path on which it lay hurriedly, in a bid to catch up with his friends.
As he went along, he came upon the moon grazing. He stopped to stare at him. The moon asked him:
"Hey you warrior, where do you come from and where are you going to in these parts?" The warrior answered:
"I am from home and we are off on a cattle raid but the other warriors left me as I was repairing a broken sandal". The moon further questioned him: "When you look at me, what do you think I look like?"
"Oh, you look very fine to me," answered the warrior. The moon further said to the warrior: "You may proceed and when you come across anybody, do not tell them what they look like, just tell them they look fine, and do not take anything along the way, and when you are given a choice between a good and bad thing choose the bad thing." With these instructions accepted, the warrior continued with his journey.
Soon he came upon a river with flowing water. As he was about to cross it, the river said to him:
"Hey you warrior, have a drink before you cross me." The warrior answered: "Let me first cross you, then I will drink you from the other bank." He crossed the river and went on without drinking the water. He next came upon a river of milk, and as he was about to step into it, the river requested him to drink from it before he crossed over to the other side. The warrior spoke to the second river in the same way as he had spoken to the first, whereby he crossed and continued on his way. When he next came upon a river of blood, the same thing happened. He crossed all the three rivers without drinking from any of them.
As the warrior continued on his journey, he came upon two swords that were sharpening themselves. They said to the warrior:
"Hey warrior, sharpen us then you can take the sharpest of the two." The warrior said to them: "Let me walk a little, then I will come and sharpen you." He went past them and continued with his journey. He next came upon delicious looking pieces of meat that were frying on their own. The meat said to him: "Hey warrior, stir us, then you can eat the cooked one." The warrior again managed to trick the meat as he had done with the other things, and left it.
As he went along, the warrior found two axes that were fighting each other. They said to him:
"Hey warrior, please separate us, then you can take one of us to your mother to hew wood with." The warrior said: "Hold on a little while, I'll be right hack." He went on with his journey. The warrior continued with his journey, and whenever he came upon something he played tricks with it, and left without doing anything with it. He left everything behind.
Eventually, he came upon a man who was herding God's cattle. This man had two heads, and all the cattle had two tails. After exchanging greetings' the older man asked the warrior: "Hey, how do you find me?" "Oh, you look just like everybody else," answered the warrior. "And how do you find these cows?" the old man further asked the warrior. The warrior answered: "They are like all other cattle." The old man then gave the younger man directions, and they parted.
The warrior went on. When he was about to reach God's homestead, the homestead moved further away. He walked on with patience until he reached it When he was about to enter the house, it also moved away. He went on until he got near it and entered inside it. As he tried to sit down, the stool also moved away from him but he followed it and managed to sit on it. And it so happened that there was a lady of God* in this house. After greetings and exchange of news, the old lady asked the warrior:
"Would you like fresh or stale milk?" The warrior answered: "What use do I have for fresh milk when stale milk is in plenty!" He was given fresh milk. Later on, just before bedtime the old lady again asked the warrior: "Would you want curdled or fresh milk?" The warrior said he wanted fresh milk. He was given curdled. When the time for people to retire for the night came, the old lady asked the warrior whether he wanted a bed that had been cleared of dust or one that was not. The warrior chose the latter, and was offered the former, whereupon he retired and was soon sound asleep.
At the earliest flickers of dawn, the lady went to wake the warrior up and said to him: "I want you to stay inside and when you hear the sound of thunder you should not utter a sound or come outside." The warrior did as he was instructed. In a few minutes he heard the sound of thunder and the house vibrated. The warrior remained still until the old lady invited him outside whereupon he found a large herd of cattle together with sheep, goats and donkeys. The lady said to him:
"All this is your property, drive it and go in peace." The warrior took the cattle through a different route from the one he had followed before, and returned to his country.
As he was nearing his village some clouds of dust were seen a distance away. After waiting for a long time the other warriors had given up their companion with the broken sandal. They assumed he had been eaten by wild beasts. His family had mourned Until they had become sober. Then the warrior arrived with an enormous herd. When asked how he had obtained the cattle, he related his whole experience in God's country. His companions had returned empty handed.
Meanwhile, when the brother of the fortunate warrior heard his story, he made up his mind to go to God's country, so that he may be granted cattle. His brother forbade him to go, saying: "Please do not go, for you are not able to do the things I did." But he insisted. He said: "I must go."
The warrior's brother went on and on until he came upon the moon as he was grazing. The moon talked to him in the same way he had talked to his brother, and asked him: "What do you think of me?" "I have never ever seen anything like you!" answered the warrior in astonishment The moon gave him directions, and he proceeded on the same path as his brother.
On coming upon the river of water the river requested him to have a drink before crossing. He knelt down and drank to his fill before crossing. He also drank from the river of milk and that of blood, crossing them all after doing so. He next came upon swords that were sharpening themselves. When the swords asked him to sharpen them and take the sharpest, he did so, leaving with the sharpest. He found meat that was frying itself. He sat down, cooked it and ate the cooked bits. When he found the fighting axes, he separated them, and took one along as they had asked him to. He did everything that his brother had not done.
He next came upon the two-headed man as he was grazing two-tailed cattle. They talked together for a little while, and the old man posed the same question he had put to his brother: "How do you find me?" The warrior boldly answered: "You have two heads." "And how do you find these cattle?" continued the old man. "They each have two tails," added the warrior. The old man, nonetheless, directed the warrior to God's village and returned to tend his cattle.
He walked on. When he was about to go through the gate, the village moved further away. He swung his club and threw it at the village, which then stopped. When the house moved as he was about to enter it, he hit it with his club and it stopped. When he tried to sit on the stool as it moved off, he took his club and hit it, splitting it into two, then he sat on the floor. When the old lady asked him to choose between fresh and stale milk he said: "Why should I choose stale milk when there is fresh milk!" He was given stale milk. At bedtime, he said he did not want fresh milk; he wanted curdled milk. He was given fresh milk. He chose a fine clean bed and he was given one with ashes. He was given all the bad things when he expressed preference for good ones.
Very early the next morning, the old lady went and gave him instructions to remain still and not to utter a sound nor leave the house when he heard the sound of thunder. But no sooner had he heard the sound of thunder than he shot up and went outside to check on what was making the sound. The lady once more asked him to go back to the house. But once again, as soon as he heard the sound of thunder, he rushed outside. He did this over and over again, and eventually the lady said to him: "You go, you do not want property." He returned to his country empty handed, but for the axe, the sword and the other weapons. The end.