Today is our last African folk tale (this time around). Tomorrow we travel up the prime meridian into the land of the Celts, Angles and Saxons only to begin our Eastwards journey again. Todays tale is titled “The Daughter of the Sun and Moon”.

 

Kimanaweze’s (Kima-nah-whe-zee) son, when the time came for him to choose a wife, declared that he would not “marry a woman of the earth, but must have the daughter of the Sun and Moon. He wrote “a letter of marriage”-a modern touch, no doubt added by the narrator(1) -and cast about for a messenger to take it up to the sky. The little duiker (mbambi – a rock rabbit) refused, so did the larger antelope, known as soko, the hawk, and the vulture. At last a frog(2) came and offered to carry the letter. The son of Kimanaweze, doubtful of his ability to do this, said, “Begone! Where people of life, who have wings, gave it up dost thou say, ‘I will go there But the frog persisted, and was at last sent off, with the threat of a thrashing if he should be unsuccessful. It appears that the Sun and Moon were in the habit of sending their handmaidens down to the earth to draw water, descending and ascending by means of a spider’s web. The frog went and hid himself in the well to which they came, and when the first one filled her jar he got into it without being seen, having first placed the letter in. his mouth. The girls went up to heaven, carried their water-jars into the room, and set them down. When they had gone away he came out, produced the letter, laid it on a table, and hid.

 

After a while “Lord Sun” (Kumbi Mwene) came in, found the letter, and read it. Not knowing what to make of it, he put it away, and said nothing about it. The frog got into an empty water-jar, and was carried down again when the girls went for a fresh supply. The son of Kimanaweze, getting no answer, refused at first to believe that the frog had executed his commission; but, after waiting for some days, he wrote another letter and sent him again. The frog carried it in the same way as before, and the Sun, after reading it, wrote that he would consent, if the suitor came himself, bringing his ‘first-present’-the usual gift for opening marriage negotiations. On receiving this the young man wrote another letter, saying that he must wait till told the amount of the ‘wooing-present,’ or bride-price (kilembu).

 

He gave this to the frog, along with a sum of money, and it was conveyed as before. This time the Sun consulted his wife, who was quite ready to welcome the mysterious son-in-law. She solved the question of providing refreshments for the invisible messenger by saying, “We will cook a meal anyhow, and put it on the table where he leaves the letters.” This was done, and the frog, when left alone, came out and ate. The letter, which was left along with the food, stated the amount of the bride-price to be “a sack of money.” He carried the letter back to the son of Kimanaweze, who spent six days in collecting the necessary amount, and then sent it by the frog with this message: “Soon I shall find a day to bring home my wife.” This, however, was more easily said than done, for when his messenger had once more returned he waited twelve days, and then told the frog that he could not find people to fetch the bride. But the frog was equal to the occasion. Again he had himself carried up to the Sun’s palace, and, getting out of the water-jar, hid in a corner of the room till after dark, when he came out and went through the house till he found the princess’s bed chamber. Seeing that she was fast asleep, he took out one of her eyes without waking her, and then the other.He tied up the eyes in a handkerchief, and went back to his corner in the room where the water-jars were kept. In the morning, when the girl did not appear, her parents came to inquire the reason, and found that she was blind. In their distress they sent two men to consult the diviner, who, after casting lots, said (not having heard from them the reason of their coming), “Disease has brought you; the one who is sick is a woman; the sickness that ails her the eyes. You have come, being sent; you have not come of your own will. I have spoken.” The Sun’s messengers replied, “Truth. Look now what caused the ailment.” He told them that a certain suitor had cast a spell over her, and she would die unless she were sent to him. Therefore they had best hasten on the marriage. The men brought back word to the Sun, who said, “All right. Let us sleep. To-morrow they shall take her down to the earth.” Next day, accordingly, he gave orders for the spider to “weave a large cobweb” for sending his daughter down. Meanwhile the frog had gone down as usual in the water-jar and hidden himself in the bottom of the well. When the water-carriers had gone up again he came out and went to the village of the bridegroom and told him that his bride would arrive that day. The young man would not believe him, but he solemnly promised to bring her in the evening, and returned to the well.

 

After sunset the attendants brought the princess down by way of the stronger cobweb and left her by the well. The frog came out, and told her that he would take her to her husband’s house; at the same time he handed back her eyes. They started, and came to the son of Kimanaweze, and the marriage took place. And they lived happy ever after-on earth.

 

NOTES

In its present form, as will have been noticed, this story is strongly coloured by Portuguese influence. The water-carriers, the Sun’s house, with its rooms and furniture, the bag of money, all belong to present-day Loanda (Luanda). But, for all that, the groundwork is essentially African. The frog and the diviner would, by themselves, be sufficient to prove this. (The frog, by the way, is usually a helpful creature in African folklore.) The glaring improbabilities in the story must not be regarded too critically; it is constantly taken for granted, as we shall find when considering the animal stories proper, that any animal may speak and act like a human being-though the frog, in this instance, seems to possess more than ordinary human powers. The specially strong cobweb prepared for the daughter’s descent, while the water-carriers had been going up and down every day without difficulty, may have been necessitated by the number of the bride’s attendants; but we are not told why they should have returned and left her alone at the foot of the heavenly ladder.’

 

The people of the Lower Congo have a story about the spider fetching fire from heaven at the request of Nzambi, who is here regarded as the Earth-mother and the daughter (according to R.E. Dennett) of Nzambi Mpungu, the “first father,” or the personified sky. (Other authorities insist that everywhere in Africa the relation of sky and earth is that of husband and wife.) He was helped by the tortoise, the woodpecker, the rat, and the sandfly, whom he conveyed up by means of his thread. The story maybe found in Dennett, Folk-lore of the Fjort [Fiote], p.74

 

In other cases we find people reaching the Heaven country by climbing a tree, as is done by the mother in the Yao tale of “The Three Women.” In the Zulu story of “The Girl and the Cannibals” a brother and sister, escaping from these ogres, climb a tree and reach the Heaven country.

 ————————–

Footnotes

1 We often find stories brought up to date in this way.

2 The frog’s magic powers are implied, if not explicitly stated.

————————–

From Bantu Myths and Legends compiled by Alice Werner (1933)

ISBN: 978-1-907256-38-7

URL: http://www.abelapublishing.com/cg_bmal.html

 

 

 

 


 

Advertisements