CHAPTER 7 ~~
The chief finally lays hands on her
The shepherd was a friend of the sorcerer who made that chief’s daughter run into the river. One day when the two men were telling stories, the sorcerer told the shepherd that anyone who could make the woman fall to the ground would be the one to marry her.
The chief then set out to travel to the west to see the shepherd. When he arrived, he did not lead off with boastful behavior as he had done before when he traveled to the east; rather, he humbled himself and begged the shephered to tell him what he should do to catch the woman so she could not slip away from him. The shepherd questioned him, saying, “How am I going to tell you what you should do, since I do not know who you are or where you are going or where you came from?” The chief answered, “I am a big chief who can do many things. I have two houses, one in Bingo and the other in the sky. It is I who make the dry seasons and the rainy seasons come.
“No one knows the way to Bingo except my slaves and myself. That land is very fertile and yields the fruits of many different kinds of crops. I have a river there where my household people and I bathe. One time I saw footprints which resembled human footprints. I kept wondering what the person had come to do. Now I have discovered that she is a woman of incomparable beauty. My mind stayed on her because I wanted to make her my wife. I have seen her but I am unable to catch her because her body is slippery like okra. One of my slaves had a dream in which a spirit told him that only you, a shepherd, could tell me what I should do to catch her.”
The shepherd nodded and said, “I myself do not know what you should do to catch her. What I do know is that I am a friend of the sorcerer who caused the woman go and live in the Bingo River. One day he and I were telling stories and he told me that anyone who could make the chief’s daughter fall to the ground would be the one to marry her. Therefore, my advice is this: first gather everything slippery that slides underfoot, so that when she runs back to the river she’ll fall to the ground.” The chief thanked him and left.
When he reached his home in the sky, he called together his slaves and ordered them again to bring one basket of groundnuts each, and also to bring one basket of slippery things such as: achihaa [coated seeds from a tree], okra, gummy vegetables, kola leaves, mud or heaps of wet clay. He had hardly finished speaking before they had gathered great quantities of these things. His slaves carried everything, he accompanied them, and they started off for Bingo. He then scattered groundnuts in a place far from the edge of the river. When the chief’s daughter came to eat the groundnuts that had been scattered, he and his slaves came through the bushes and spread okra and all those slippery things they had brought into the path that the woman would follow to run back to the river. When they had put everything in place, they started to pursue her. She then fell to the ground while she was trying to run back to the river. The chief and his slaves came and captured her, because the charm that was causing her body to be slippery had been neutralized and was no longer effective.
It is impossible to describe how happy the chief was, because he had won his prize. Immediately he regained all the body weight he had lost. He then brought out many kegs of gunpowder, brought out the guns, and called his people. The guns were booming out “yim yim.” Chickens, goats and cows were slaughtered. Food was everywhere. Everyone, especially women and children, ate to the full until they could hardly breathe.
The chief distributed food and drink in this way for about three weeks. They continued to dance and shoot off guns until there was no food or drink left. During the fourth week, the chief called together all of his people and went to the woman’s home village, because he wanted to marry her. They brought various kinds of drums and did all kinds of dances until they reached the village of the father-in-law in the east, and fulfilled everything that tradition demanded and even more. Then the chief and the woman were married.
Not long afterward, his wife became pregnant and bore him a son. He named him Fight. Then the woman became pregnant again and gave birth to another son. He named him Wrestling. hese two children grew very tall and handsome. The chief was growing old. One thing was constantly bothering him, and that was the question of who would take his place after his death.
Among his slaves was one called Teach Me And I Learn. At the time his master first bought him he asked him about the origin of that name of his. His slave told him that his father, who had known someone called Teach Me And I learn, said that when the father of Teach Me And I Learn was a child, there were two people in their village. One answered to the name of Teach Me And I Learn while the other answered to I Know Everything. A certain person killed a goat, took a leg and thigh and gave it to Teach Me And I Learn. He took another leg and thigh and gave them to I Know Everything, telling them, “Eight days from today, return these pieces of meat to me. When you return them, let them be bleeding the same as they are now.”
I Know Everythingtook his share, went home and dried it over the fire. Teach Me And I Learn took his share, went to his friend and asked him how he could accomplish this task because he did not know how meat killed today could be still bleeding eight days from now. His friend said, “If you have a goat the same size as this one that has been killed, cook these pieces of meat and eat them. Eight days from now, kill the goat that is the same size as the one that has been killed, cut off a leg and thigh and take it to him.” Teach Me And I Learn did as he was told.\
On the eighth day I Know Everything gathered up his dried pieces and returned with them. Teach Me And I Learn gathered up his, which he had just cut off and which were still bleeding, and returned with them. The person who had given them the pieces of meat praised Teach Me And I Learn, saying that he had common sense. He gave back to him the goat meat that he had come with, as well as leading out another he-goat which he gave to him. But as for I Know Everything, the man took his [meat], said that he was a fool, publicly shamed him, and sent him away. Because of this, when the wife of the father of Teach Me And I Learn [refers to the slave who is telling this anecdote] became pregnant and bore a male child, his father named him Teach Me And I Learn. On that day when he told the chief how his father had given him that name, the chief learned something from it, and that was that any time something was troubling him, he should not fail to tell his slaves about it. That’s why, when he was faced with the problem of who should succeed him after his death, he called his slaves together and told them that they should help him decide what to do.
While these things were happening, Fight was going about everywhere, fighting everything he saw and killing them, both man and animal. One of his feats was to kill a lion barehanded. The lion was the animal that many people believed to be the strongest of all. It killed leopards. In one land called the Land of the Blacks, lions were killing great numbers of people. The people of that land had no way to kill them. It was not like today when white people have discovered various kinds of guns, like single-barreled and double-barreled, and rifles. The trap that the people of that land had was only a trap like the box used to kill animals like the cane rat, the large squirrel, the rabbit and various other small animals. It was snot strong like the two-headed iron trap or the wire trap used to kill large, strong animals like the leopard, the bushcow, the “uturu,” and the bushpig in towns like Ozuakoli and Ozuitem, and Item in Bende division.
Because of this, lions were very numerous in that land. When the people of that land heard that Fight was roaming all over the forest fighting and killing animals of all kinds, they were very happy, because they knew that one day he would reach their territory and kill these lions that were troubling them.
Fight was a heavy and strong person. He had six fingers and six toes. He did not eat regularly but he ate once a year. The marvelous thing about his body was that when he did eat, he ate more than 400 people could eat. He did not use a cup or an animal horn to drink water, but a thing resembling what white people use to store water, which is called a tank. Any time food was cooked for him, what he would do was lie down and twelve strong-armed young men would take European-style hoes called spades, shovel up the food and throw it into his mouth. If he wanted to drink water, they all pitched in and carried potfuls of water and poured it into his mouth until they had finished pouring about twenty pots of water. One hundred women ground the snuff that he took. He inhaled one cask of snuff at one sitting.
When he reached the land where lions were killing many people, the residents were very happy, because they thought they would only have to ask him and he would kill all those lions. So they came and spoke to him, saying, “Master, we humbly kneel on the ground begging you to help us. There is a certain wild animal which no one is able to kill, and its name is lion. All the hunters in our land have exhausted their strength but have not been able to kill these lions. The small guns they use to shoot at them, like ‘okwuru,’ ‘adaka’ [short gun with sawed-off barrel], and ‘cham’ [locally made musket], do not even draw blood. You see, there is no other bush animal left in our land except the lion. They kill all the domestic animals we have and they kill us as well. Please help us, because we have heard that you are the only one who can kill them all.”
Fight nodded and said, “The only thing you must give me is food, because I am very hungry.” They agreed, but when they looked at his size, they shrugged their shoulders. They were afraid they would not be able to give him enough food to fill his stomach.
They politely asked him how much food he required, and about how many baskets of yams he needed. He broke out laughing, ha ha ha, and said, “You people cannot count the number of baskets of yams I eat. What you must do is require everyone, both men and women, to prepare a good-sized headpad and bring one basket of yams each. Then you must fill many water pots and also have the women of your land grind one cask of snuff. Then you must have your strong young men bring twelve spades [white men’s hoes] so they can shovel all those yams into my mouth.” You could see all the people gesturing to each other in amazement and snapping their fingers. This meant that this person was beyond compare in every way that he ate things or did things.
Because there were not many people in that land, everyone brought two baskets of yams each, both men and women. After he had finished eating the food he lay down and slept for seven days. On the eighth day he woke up and inhaled all the snuff, then called together the people of the land to come and show him where these lions lived. They led him into the forest that surrounded their land. The lions were roaming around like chickens in that forest. When the lions spotted him, they charged straight at him. Fight’s guides all climbed into trees and stayed there watching the extraordinary event that was taking place. Fight stood in one place. When a lion threw itself at him, he used the huge palms of his two hands, seized it by the neck and swung it around the way one of our people would kill a chicken. When that one’s neck was broken, he dropped it and grasped another one. Staying in that one place, he killed about forty of them. The others stayed back out of fear. Fight and the people of the land chased after them, the villagers chasing and Fight ambushing them, catching and killing them. When night fell they all went home.
The next day they went back into that forest location. The few lions that had escaped the day before had run away. No one saw their trails or any signs of them. From that day on, the lions left that land and disappeared. The people of that land could not find words to thank Fight. Everything they contributed to give him he refused to take when he departed.
While Fight was going around fighting everything, Wrestling was also going around wrestling with all strong animals and men. The first thing that made people fear him was this: there was a certain person in a village called Abosi Teghete. His nickname was Back Does Not Touch The Ground, but his real name was Uchi. The people of that place still talk about him to this day. A person who is proud of his wrestling ability is asked if he is Uchi. He was a stout, strong man. There was no wrestling trick that he did not know: [various wrestling holds are listed here which I have been unable to translate], and many others. When any expert wrestler wanted to wrestle with him, what Uchi would do was draw a circle and tell the person that if he did not down him within that circle, it meant that the person did not down him.
On the day that Wrestling reached Abosi Teghete, the wrestling gong sounded in Amaogbu, a certain area in Abosi Teghete. As soon as he arrived, he downed five strong young men without allowing his buttocks to touch the ground. News reached Uchi at his house that something had happened that had never happened before. When Uchi came, the two of them faced each other. Uchi tried everything possible to down him, but he was unable to do it. Wrestling tried everything he could to throw Uchi to the ground, but he could not do it. The two of them applauded each other and shook hands. However, what Wrestling had the upper hand in was that he had downed a certain wild animal that had been too much for Uchi to down. Throughout the land of the black people, if a person was a great wrestler people would ask him, “Are you a chimpanzee?” A chimpanzee is a wild animal that is a stronger wrestler than any animal or human being; the only one who could down it in wrestling was the chief’s son, Wrestling.
Why the firstborn son succeeds his father
When these children returned from their journeys, the chief and his slaves called them and asked about the various things they had done in the places where they had gone. Fight told them the story of how he had killed the lions in the Land of the Blacks. Wrestling told them how he himself had downed a chimpanzee, which was the best wrestler of all the animals, and which Uchi (Back Does Not Touch The Ground) had not been able to throw to the ground. The two things these children did amazed everyone. What the chief and his slaves decided was that the one who would do the most amazing deed would succeed their father when he died.
Since they were both equally strong, the next thing to find out was which of them was wiser than his brother, because anybody who was going to take the chief’s place would have to have common sense to help him govern those beneath him. The chief then said that he wanted his children to do three things, and that the one who would accomplish those three things or two of them well, was the one who would be the chief.
The first thing was this, that he wanted someone who was very strong to enter the river and drag out a hippopotamus alive. The second was to answer this question: “Why does the face of the sun look like a broom, and why is it that when the moon comes out it comes out on one side, and when it goes in it is the other side that people see?” The third thing was to answer another question: “Why is it that if a man in his own home gossips about another person, it does not cause trouble for him?”
Doing these three things was a difficult task to give the chief’s two children. Nevertheless the two of them started going to various places, asking questions about the three things that their father wanted them to do. Fight went to the Land of the Blacks to find out if those people for whom he had already done a good deed could help him. When he arrived he told all these things to the people of the land, and they were very happy because there were many wise people in their land.
A certain person who had the power to change into water animals and animals that lived on dry land came out and said that he was able to drag a hippopotamus out onto dry land. What the man would do would be to change himself into a water animal, go to the hippopotamus and tell it that he wanted the two of them to take a long rope and pull on it, so they could find out which of them was the stronger. If the hippopotamus pulled him into the water, that would mean that the strength of the hippopotamus was greater than his own. But if he pulled the hippopotamus out onto the land, that would mean that he was stronger than the hippopotamus.
So they set the day when they would hold this contest. The man changed himself into a land animal and went to see an elephant that lived in the forest. The two of them made a bet like this. On the appointed day the man went and told the elephant who lived in the forest to prepare himself. He then jumped into the river and told the hippopotamus also to get ready. The elephant on land took his end of the rope and tied it around himself, then took the remaining part and tied it to a tree behind him. When they began to pull, the elephant pulled the hippopotamus out onto the land. Fight carried the hippopotamus on his shoulder, went and showed it to his father, and took off again.
~~ *TO CHAPTER 10* ~~