Chief Who Goes To Work In One Year And Returns the Next Year inquires about the owner of the footprints

    The chief of the east answered: “The owner of the footprints that you were seeing is my daughter. A person should not be praising his own child, but she is exceedingly beautiful. She is also the one I love the most. A certain sorcerer who lived in my village caused her to live in the Bingo River like the fish and various water creatures. In this land of ours there is a firm law against anyone who steals. If anyone takes anything that does not belong to him, he is placed in prison for twenty-three years. If he is not imprisoned he is killed by hanging. This sorcerer was an acceptable young man in every way, but the only thing that spoiled him was that he took whatever he saw--in other words, he was a thief.

    “One day the people of this land caught him on some other people’s farm and they brought him to my house; but because of his fine appearance and personality I put him in prison for ten years. Bear in mind that the law required twenty-three years, but I cut it down to ten years. After he had been in prison for ten years I released him. The next thing he did was to snatch away the possessions of poor people and widows. He then was brought to my house a second time. I was very angry because it looked as though I were helping him to steal. Therefore, I put him in jail for twenty-three years, because if a man is cured of hydrocele and he develops a swollen stomach, he will be allowed to die. After he had served his term he came out. He kept on thinking about what he would do to hurt me. Since he knew that I loved my daughter very much, he then changed her into a mad woman. Because of her madness, she ran out and fell into the river and is there to this day. I don’t know what you can do to see her. There is one thing that she loved the most when she lived at home; that was groundnuts [peanuts]. Perhaps if you scatter peanuts iin that place she will come and eat them.”

The beauty of the woman’s body gives the chief gooseflesh

    The chief of the sky thanked him very much and started off to return to the sky. When he reached his house, he summoned his slaves and told them the outcome of his travels, then gave them an order to bring one basket of groundnuts each. They all fulfilled the task. When the time arrived for him to return to Bingo, he carried all of those groundnuts with him. The first thing he did was to go and scatter one basket of them in the place where he knew that the daughter of that chief who lived in the river would come and eat the scattered groundnuts. The next day when he went to look, the place resembled a compound that had been swept clean. The chief considered this a good sign because his journey had not been wasted. He then scattered two more basketfuls, and the next day there was nothing left there. But since the woman liked groundnuts so much, she did not hide herself at all. She was coming any time she desired to eat groundnuts.

    One day the chief came upon her suddenly while she was eating what had been scattered for her. In the whole world there was no one as beautiful as that woman. Her face shone like the moon. Her hair was like the wool of European sheep. Her skin was like wood that a sculptor had planed smooth. Her teeth gleamed like gold. Her smile was like the morning sunrise in the dry season. Her whole being was filled with beauty. Her beauty drove the chief mad and gave him a fever. He could talk of nothing but the chief’s daughter. All of his dreams and thoughts centered on the person of that young woman. He had no desire to eat. Just looking at her satisfied him like food. He was not living in his house in Bingo but spent all his time at the Bingo River. After a few days, because his love for that young woman was so great, he was unable to stop himself from going to take hold of her. But every time he tried to catch her the young woman would run back into the water. He kept thinking about what he could do to catch her.

    The thought occurred to him that what he could do was to dig a hole in the ground, bury himself in it and scatter groundnuts on top of it, so that when she came to eat the groundnuts he would grab her. He thought this seemed like a good idea. He then dug a hole, buried himself and did as he had planned. When the woman came to eat groundnuts he caught her by the arm, but her body was as slippery as okra. He was unable to hold her.

    The chief left Bingo and went back again to the sky. When he arrived, his health was very bad on account of thinking about what he could do to catch that prize. The people of his household met together to ask him what was causing him to look like a shadow. He then told the whole story before his slaves, and they all swore that they would help catch that young woman. At the crack of dawn, he called all of them and returned to the land of Bingo. When he reached that place he dug a hole and buried himself and scattered groundnuts over it as he had done at first. Then he made all his slaves hide themselves in the bush, so that when the woman ran back into the water they could catch her.

    The chief’s daughter was very hungry for groundnuts, because since the wealthy man had gone to the sky she had eaten nothing. When the groundnuts were scattered, she quickly came out and started to eat them. Her personality and her figure stunned the chief’s slaves. It made them forget to come and help the chief when he tried to catch her or keep her from returning to the river. Finally the young woman ran back into the water. The chief was furious with his people because he really thought that his slaves were mocking him. They all started to plead with him, saying that it was the woman’s personality and figure that had caused them to forget why they had come, and that her beauty had stunned them.

    The next day they came and repeated what they had planned to do, but this time some of those who were captivated by her beauty did not help when she was pursued, so she escaped them and ran into the water. On the third day they all blamed themselves, saying that if it was because of a charm, let it not be effective, and that in any event they would try hard to catch her. The chief then dug a hole again as he had done before, scattering groundnuts again. When the chief’s daughter came to eat as she did before, the chief grabbed her. But since her body was as slippery as okra, she slipped away from him again. All of his slaves tried mightily with all their strength, but their efforts were in vain.

    The chief kept on staring at her when she plunged into the water and continued to stare until he was tired. He did not feel like leaving, nor did he feel like staying. He felt worse now than he had felt before he had seen her. He said that if he had known that it would be like this, he would not have troubled himself to look for the owner of the footprints, and would have let well enough alone. But now that he had tried to see this woman, he did not know how he could live without marrying her. While they were going back home, he did not utter a word all the way to his house. He was no longer himself, but his ghost. What frightened his slaves the most was how in the mornings one of them would greet him, “Good morning, master,” and he would keep silent, staring like a startled person, then saying, “Indeed, my son, the chief’s daughter lives in the Bingo River.” His slaves would all glance meaningfully at one another. 

The chief tries a second time

    One day the chief remembered a promise he had made but had not fulfilled, that he would greatly enhance the position of anyone who showed him what to do to see that woman. He then gave to his slave who had seen the vision some good medicine, called “killer of four hundred diseases.” That made his body strong. He also gave him much wealth of various kinds, which made the slave become a rich person in his house. Then the chief said to his other people: “Now you have seen what I did for the one who showed me what to do to see that person. If anyone shows me what to do to catch this chief’s daughter and make her my wife, I will give that person seven times what I gave the first one.”

    This promise made them all dash out and search high and low to find  something their master could do to catch the young woman. They went to all the wise men in all the inhabited places of the world, but no one could give the chief what he wanted. Finally, one slave whom he had banished a long time ago sent him a message to come and see him in the forest where he lived. This slave was not in good health. His illness was very serious, because his body was covered with sores. He had the sickness called leprosy. Nobody was helping him. Because he was a slave, he had no brothers or sisters, no father or mother, no friends or relatives. His body sores gave off a bad smell, which is why the chief had proclaimed that he should be banished. This slave had a dream in which someone told him to tell the chief that the one who would tell him what he should do was a certain shepherd who lived in the west. It was that dream that he wanted to relate to the chief.

    The chief snapped his fingers and said, “Just because I want to marry this woman am I supposed to answer all the calls I get from all sorts of people? I will not answer this call.” It is true that he said he would not answer that call, but at the same time his mind was never on anything else except seeing that woman. If he stubbed his toe on a root, he attributed it to that woman. Every time he remembered the chief’s daughter who lived in the Bingo River, he felt unhappy. Nothing that people did pleased him. He had no appetite. When the people in his household saw how emaciated he was becoming on account of that woman, they went to that slave who was in the forest so he could tell them what he wanted to tell the master. The slave’s reply was, “I will say nothing unless the master comes here in person.” The chief did not want to come personally, because he had said that he would not answer that call. The slaves continued to urge him, saying, “Since you are dying on account of this woman, you ought to go and find out what he wants to tell you; perhaps it will be the way you can catch the woman.” Now they made him feel less ashamed, so he got ready and went. When he arrived, the slave said to him, “Your slave was lying on his sickbed and saw a certain person who told me that the only thing you can do to catch the person you want to catch is to go and consult a shepherd who lives in the west, and he is the only one who can tell you what to do.”

~~ *TO CHAPTER 7* ~~


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