CHAPTER 10 ~~~
The story that Wrestllng told (Part One)
As Fight was leaving, Wrestling, who had traveled to Uchi’s land, came in. He had hurried home to tell their father something that Uchi’s father had related, about why a person in his own home could gossip about another person and it would not cause trouble for him, like the Igbo proverb that a person who stays in his own house does not suffer broken testicles. What he told his father and others of the household was this:
“Once upon a time, a white ant and his wife and their children had finished eating, and the white ant told them that he had been amazed by what he had seen at his mother’s house, from which he had just returned: that their yams had grown so large that there were no words to describe them; that they were as big as his arm and his leg.
“While he was saying these things, a hen that was pecking around his wife’s fireplace started to listen and heard everything the ant said. At first she was not amused, but when she thought about the size of the white ant’s arm and leg which he was using as an example of the size of the yams at his mother’s place, she fell down laughing, and was so convulsed with laughter that she poked her mouth into some hot embers that were in the fireplace. The fire burned her mouth. She ran around looking for a place to extinguish it but could not find one, so she ran outside and pushed her beak into a stem of cocoyam in the place where they trod mud for the house the white ant was building.
“A mosquito was perched on that stem of cocoyam, sleeping. The fire on the hen’s beak almost burned its wing off. The mosquito shot up like an arrow and flew into the great forest behind the white ant’s house. Without realizing it, it flew right into the nose of an elephant. The elephant sneezed to see if he could get rid of it, but it squeezed through the intestines and flew out of the elephant’s bottom. The elephant looked around for something to do about it but could not see anything, so he picked up his knife from the ground and swung it. While he was swinging, the mosquito had already gone a long way, so what he cut was a snake that was spread out on a tree branch basking in the sun.
“A piece of the snake ran off, poking its head here and there, not knowing where it could escape capture by the elephant who had cut it with his knife, and it ran straight into a rabbit burrow. The poor rabbit in its distress took off, shouting that the animals were doomed. A monkey who was in the bushes eating fruit heard what the rabbit was shouting, and thought he had better jump up and head out. When he jumped he stepped on the limb of an uru tree [tree with very light wood and large leaves] that was very dry. The limb came down right on the waist of a pregnant deer that was foraging for food. The deer cried out and tried to run, but did not have the strength because she was about to give birth. She dragged herself into some low bushes and stepped on some bushfowl’s eggs. The bushfowl flew up, crying:
nchoghiri choghiri [the cry of a bushfowl]
“Clouds closed in from above and below.”
The story that Wrestling told (Part Two)
“Both men and animals kept on sleeping until they were unable to sleep any more. They lay down on the ground until their backs were killing them. Everyone was asking the meaning of this.
“Everywhere you went you would hear children constantly crying of from hunger because there was no way to find food for them. Darkness closed in everywhere.
felt his way out to the animals’ gathering-place and struck his gong in
such a way as to let it be known that the earth had been offended.
leopards and some others ran around their land in the darkness.
“Bushfowl: My brothers, I sat on my eggs in the low bushes where I laid them in order to escape the hunters and their dogs. A pregnant deer, a woman who gives birth just as I do, came and smashed my eggs together. That was why I cried,
nchoghiri choghiri [the cry of a bushfowl]
“The animals moved on, saying that they would go to the deer and ask her why she trampled on the bushfowl’s eggs.
“Deer: Masters, you know how a pregnant woman feels, especially one who is ready to give birth any day. I was so hungry that I gathered my strength to creep into the woods to pull off a few tree leaves. What I heard was a crash on my waist, which almost broke it. It was because a monkey had jumped on a dried uru tree branch that fell on my waist, so that I thought that it had knocked out my child. When I was creeping into the bushes so that if anything bad happened I would give birth in the grass, I did not know that the bushfowl was sitting on her eggs there. I did not look carefully.
“The animals said that they did not see anything that looked like a lie in what the deer had told them, so they went to the house of the monkey.
“Monkey: Comrades, I was in the bushes eating fruit. What I saw was a rabbit running out in distress, crying that the animals were doomed. His shouting gave me such a start that I jumped up and landed on the dry branch of an uru tree. It snapped and fell on the deer’s waist. It is true that men do not bear children, but we know how a pregnant woman feels. Do you think that I purposely made the branch fall on her waist?
“The animals looked round at each other and said that was all right, and they should go and ask the rabbit why he shouted that the animals were doomed.
“Rabbit: My brothers, I had just left a place where I had gone to munch on palm nuts and had gone home to rest. A snake with blood flowing out of it broke into the burrow where I live. It is said that the toad does not run in daylight for nothing. That caused me to give a loud cry, because when a snake runs like that it means that something terrible has happened.
“The animals left him, talking noisily, and went to the home of the snake.
“Snake: Ladies and gentlemen, long may you live. It usually happens that on a very cold day, such as it was yesterday and lasting into today, we snakes crawl onto a bush or on a tree branch to bask in the sun. There was no quarrel between me and the old elephant that I can say caused him to take a knife and cut me in two. When I tried hard to think of something I did to him but could think of nothing, I took off and ran into the rabbit’s burrow. Who knows whether, if I had not run, he might have cut off my head?
“The animals snapped their fingers and said that they would go to the elephant’s house.
“Elephant: Friends, welcome. This mission of yours overwhelms me because I don’t know how I can find words to describe to you what happened. Please, I was foraging for food when suddenly, completely without warning, I felt something push its way into my nose. It was a mosquito. I was just blowing my nose to see if I could expel it when I felt it buzzing around in my intestines. I was just thinking about what I was going to do with it when it came out of my bottom and flew away. I don’t know how I felt. I picked up a knife at the time that I felt the fluttering in my bottom, thinking that I would cut it in half; I did not know that it had already flown away. The one who suffered from all of this was the snake, someone with whom I had no quarrel.
“The animals said that they would go and talk to the mosquito, that ‘he who knew who ate the fruit’ [proverbial reference] might be responsible for all this distress they were suffering.
“Mosquito: Masters, look, I will not make a long story of this. We mosquitoes use the afternoon as our night, because at night we come out to look for food. That is why I was perched on the stem of a cocoyam, which was in a pit where the white ant trod the mud he was using to build his house. I was resting there and I fell asleep. There is never a time when a chicken’s mouth is closed. I don’t know where she went and got fire and came and poked me with it; the fire almost burned my wing off. When I woke up and started to fly away, I did not know that I was flying into the nostril of the elephant. I was looking for a way to get out through his stomach and then I realized that I was in his bottom; masters, I thanked God and flew out. While he was cutting with his knife, there was someone who suffered from the crushing and swatting meant for me. I did not fly into his nose on purpose.
“The animals said that no matter how many there were who brought on this misfortune, they would go to all of their homes and as they went on they would find out who started it all. So they went to the house of the chicken whose mouth looked as though he were blowing a flute.
“Chicken: Greetings to you all. My god created me to be pecking around every place where bits of things can be picked up that have fallen to the ground while others are eating. In this way I had entered the hearth of the white ant’s wife and saw some crumbs that had fallen to the floor there, and started to peck at them. The white ant was on the other side of the room, telling his wife and children how the yams had grown huge at his mother’s place this year; that they were as big as his arm and his leg. When I thought about the size of his arm and his leg, which he was comparing with the yams that were growing at his mother’s place, laughter took hold of me. I was rolling around laughing so hard that I put my mouth into some burning embers. Since I did not have hands to extinguish it, I ran to the stem of a cocoyam to poke my mouth into it. You all have seen the type of leg a mosquito has; I did not know that he was perched there. The fire almost burned him. That is all I have to say.
“While he was relating this, all the animals who had come were laughing to themselves on account of the arm and leg of the white ant that he used to compare with the yams that had grown so enormous. Since the chicken had finished his story, they all brushed the sand from their bottoms and went to the white ant’s house. While they were on their way they knew that everything was getting close to the end.
“White ant: Those who have laughter and tears, greetings. I did indeed go to my mother’s place and returned. It is true that the yams grew in that town bigger than in any other place this year. When I came back and we had finished eating, I was telling my family what I had seen and I said something about yams. Every Tom, Dick and Harry can come around my house while my wife and my children and I are talking. We were not talking in public.
“When the animals came out to meet, they called the tortoise to advise them about the meaning of all these stories. Tortoise considered everything that had been said and done and said that in his opinion the one who set everything in motion at the start was the white ant, but that a person does not stay in his house and bring trouble on himself on account of what he said in his house. Therefore, they should go and ask the bushfowl to take back what it cried out and ask its forgiveness. They all agreed. The bushfowl took back what it had cried out. Dawn came, and the animals struck out in all directions.”
The two stories that Fight told settled the matter
After Wrestling had finished relating why a person could talk in his own home without bringing trouble on himself, his father and all the people to whom he had told this story were falling down laughing when Fight came in. They all wiped their tears of laughter and told him he would have to have something really substantial to show them. He then related what another wise man had told him about why the face of the sun was like a broom and why when the moon comes out it comes out on one side and when it goes in it is the other side that people see. His story was this:
“Once upon a time the sun married a woman whose name was moon. One day they had a quarrel. The sun became very angry, and in his fury he picked up a knife and cut moon into two pieces. The wound would not heal. When it was almost healed it began to form another sore. This is why we see only the side of the moon when it first comes out or when it has not completely gone away. One day the sun came to visit her, and moon took a broom and pushed it into his face. This is why the face of the sun looks like a broom.”
father, One Who Goes To Work In One Year And Returns The Next Year, and
his slaves praised Fight and Wrestling for their strength and their wisdom.
But since Fight had told about two of the three things their father had
requested and Wrestling had told about one, it was decided that Fight would
be the one to take their father’s place when he was looked for and not
seen [wonderful euphemism for death]. Because of this, anyone who is the
firstborn son is the one who takes his father’s place after his father
dies. Everywhere that people live, whether in the land of the blacks or
the land of the whites, it is done in this way.