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Notes on the Folklore of the Fjort, by Richard Edward Dennett, [1898], at


FOUR little maidens one day started to go out fishing. One of them was suffering sadly from sores, which covered her from head to foot. Her name was Ngomba. The other three, after a little consultation, agreed that Ngomba should not accompany them.; and so they told her to go back.

"Nay," said Ngoniba, "I will do no such thing. I mean to catch fish for mother as well as you."

Then the three maidens beat Ngomba until she was glad to run away. But she determined to catch fish also, so she walked she hardly knew whither, until at last she came and walked, upon a large lake. Here she commenced fishing and singing:

If my mother
    [She catches a fish and puts it in her basket.]
Had taken care of me,
    [She catches another fish and puts it in her basket.]
I should have been with them,
    [She catches another fish and puts it in her basket.]
And not here alone."
    [She catches another fish and puts it in her basket.]

But a Mpunia (murderer) had been watching her for some time, and now he came up to her and accosted her:

"What are you doing here?"

"Fishing. Please, don't kill me! See! I am full of sores, but I can catch plenty of fish."

The Mpunia watched her as she fished and sang:

Oh, I shall surely die!
    [She catches a fish and puts it in her basket.]
Mother, you will never see me!
    [She catches another fish and puts it in her basket.]
But I don't care,
    [She catches another fish and puts it in her basket.]
For no one cares for me."
    [She catches another fish and puts it in her basket.]

"Come with me," said the Mpunia.

"Nay, this fish is for mother, and I must take it to her."

"If you do not come with me, I will kill you."

"Oh! Am I to die
    [She catches a fish and puts it in her basket.]
On the top of my fish?
    [She catches another fish and puts it in her basket.]
If mother had loved me,
    [She catches another fish and puts it in her basket.]
To live I should wish.
    [She catches another fish and puts it in her basket.]

Take me and cure me, dear Mpunia, and I will serve you."

The Mpunia took her to his home in the woods, and cured her. Then he placed her in the paint-house and married her.

Now the Mpunia was very fond of dancing, and Ngomba danced beautifully, so that he loved her very much, and made her mistress over all his prisoners and goods.

"When I go out for a walk," he said to her, "I will tie this string round my waist; and that you may know when I am still going away from you, or returning, the string will be stretched tight as I depart, and will bang loose as I return."

Ngomba pined for her mother, and therefore entered into a conspiracy with her people to escape. She sent them every day to cut the leaves of the mateva-palm, and ordered them to put them in the sun to dry. Then she set them to work to make a huge ntenda, or basket. And when the 31punia returned, he remarked to her that the air was heavy with the smell of mateva.

Now she had made all her people put on clean clothes, and when they knew that he was returning, she ordered them to come to him and flatter him. So now they approached him, and some called him "father" and others "uncle" - and others told him how he was a father and a mother to them. And he was very pleased, and danced with them.

The next day when he returned he said he smelt mateva.

Then Ngomba cried, and told him that he was both father and mother to her, and that if he accused her of smelling of mateva, she would kill herself.

He could not stand this sadness, so he kissed her and danced with her until all was forgotten.

The next day Ngomba determined to try her ntenda, to see if it would float in the air. Thus four women lifted it on high, and gave it a start upwards, and it floated beautifully. Now the Mpunia happened to be up a tree, and he espied this great ntenda floating in the air; and he danced and sang for joy, and wished to call Ngomba, that she might dance with him.

That night he smelt mateva again, and his suspicions were aroused; and when he thought how easily his wife might escape him, he determined to kill her. Accordingly, he gave her to drink some palm-wine that he had drugged. She drank it, and slept as he put his somino (the iron that the natives make red hot, and with which they burn the hole through the stem of their pipes) into the fire. He meant to kill her by pushing this red hot wire up her nose.

But as he was almost ready, Ngomba's little sister, who had changed herself into a cricket and hidden herself under her bed, began to sing. The Mpunia heard her and felt forced to join in and dance, and thus he forgot to kill his wife. But after a time she ceased singing, and then he began to heat the wire again. The cricket then sang again, and again he danced and danced, and in his excitement tried to wake Ngomba to dance also. But she refused to awake, telling him that the medicine he had given her made her feel sleepy. Then he went out and got some palm-wine, and as he went she drowsily asked him if he had made the string fast. He called all his people, dressed himself, and made them all dance.

The cock crew.

The iron wire was still in the fire. The Mpunia made his wife get up and fetch more palm-wine.

Then the cock crew again, and it was daylight.

When the Mpunia had left her for the day, Ngomba determined to escape that very day. So she called her people and made them try the ntenda again; and when she was certain that it would float, she put all her people, and all the Mpunia's ornaments, into it. Then she got in and the ntenda began to float away over the tree-tops in the direction of her mother's town.

When the Mpunia, who was up a tree, saw it coming towards him, he danced and sang for joy, and only wished that his wife had been there to see this huge ntenda flying through the air. It passed just over his bead, and then he knew that the people in it were his. So that he ran after it in the tops of the trees, until he saw it drop in Ngomba's town. And he determined to go there also and claim his wife.

The ntenda floated round the house of Ngomba's mother, and astonished all the people there, and finally settled down in front of it. Ngomba cried to the people to come and let them out. But they were afraid and did not dare, so that she came out herself and presented herself to her mother.

Her relations at first did not recognise her; but after a little while they fell upon her and welcomed her as their long-lost Ngomba.

Then the Mpunia entered the town and claimed Ngomba as his wife.

"Yes," her relations said, "she is your wife, and you must be thanked for curing her of her sickness."

And while some of her relations were entertaining the Mpunia, others were preparing a place for him and his wife to be seated. They made a large fire, and boiled a great quantity of water, and dug a deep hole in the ground. This hole they covered over with sticks and a mat, and when all was ready they led the Mpunia and his wife to it, and requested them to be seated. Ngomba sat near her husband, who, as he sat down, fell into the hole. The relations then brought boiling water and fire, and threw it over him until he died.

Next: IX. The Wicked Husband.