This is one of the longest stories I heard in Jamaica. The leading Maroon story-teller recited it to me in full audience, and I heard it repeated by another Maroon in much less detail. Numbers 83, 84 and 89 have points of likeness to it.
It has five parts. (1) Two brothers are out penning cattle and one, going for fire, surprises a witch in the act of feeding her family, which she carries about in her own body. (2) The witch, bent on revenge, follows them home and proposes, as a test for a husband, knocking a calabash from her head with a missile; the boy throws a frail missile and succeeds. (3) At night, the witch
sharpens her razor to kill him, but each time she approaches, one of his dogs warns him. (4) The boy departs with his bride, leaving his dogs chained, but he places a pot in the middle of the floor and warns his mother when the liquid in the pot begins to boil to loosen the dogs to his rescue. (5) He climbs a tree to escape the witch. She produces axes and axe-men by tapping her body and proceeds to chop the tree, which he restores magically until his dogs rush in and tear up the witch.
Compare Barker, 123-128; Callaway, 51-54; Chatelain, 103-110; Jacottet, 58; Renel 1:86-93; Theal, 46; Tremearne, 432-441; Zeltner, 61; FLJ (SA) 1:13-17; 21-25; Lenz, 15-17; Edwards, 72; Harris, Friends, 91-100; Parsons, Andros Island, 66-70; Sea Islands, 80-88; JAFL 30:189-190; JAFL 25:259; 32:399-400.
(1) "Possessing the fire" is a sign of magic power, according to Junod, 157, note. In Edwards, "De big worrum" has fire. A father sends two sons it) turn to fetch it, but as they reach after the fire the worm swallows them. The father goes with a lance that glistens, is swallowed, cuts open the worm and rescues all the people the worm has swallowed. In Renel, 88, the pursuing monster swallows people alive. Compare Tremearne, and Parsons, Andros Island, 67, 68.
In Tremearne, a hunter sees a witch knocking herself and feeding monsters all over her body. In Jacottet, an axe chops out of the body of the witch the cows which are the cause of the two brothers' quarrel.
(2) In Barker, the episode of the calabash is attached to the story of the hunter, told in number 84. The elephant whose tail he has cut off turns into a lady and goes to find her mutilator. She proposes a test similar to the test in this story. In Tremearne, the witch proposes the test, as in this story, because the hunter has seen more than he should.
(3) For this episode see note to number 83 and references. In Tremearne, the boy's father insists upon the son's taking a horse, a sword, and gourds. When the witch sharpens her teeth to eat the boy, the horse wakens him. In Parsons, Andros Island, 68, the boy escapes the witch's razor by turning into a bucket of water.
(4) It is not clear how this episode of the life token got attached to the story. I do not find it in African versions. That it is fairly constant is shown in Parsons, 66, 67, 69. In the more common form of the story of the Two Brothers, with which this story has some elements in common, the life-token often takes the form of
a knife stuck in a tree; see number 104. In Tremearne, 298, the treed husband has carried his flute, with which he warns his wife to loosen his dogs very much in the manner of Poland at Roncevalle. In Jekyll, 35, the water in a white saucer set in the sun turns to blood, but this is a Blue-beard story.
(5) Climbing a tree to escape an enemy is one of the commonest episodes in African flight stories. See number 89. Here it occurs combined with the axe-chopping contest and the rescue by dogs, who rush in at the end and tear the pursuer to pieces. In Tremearne, the woman transforms herself in various ways before the dogs succeed in killing her. They then devour every drop of her blood, In number 104, the dogs are restrained from taking part in the fight with the witch by being chained by the witch's hair. This episode is also of frequent occurrence in American Indian lore. See Parsons, Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 54:1-29 (1922).
In some cases, e. g. in Theal, Zeltner, Harris, 85-90, and in FLJ (SA), the tree-cutting episode occurs independently of the rescuing dogs.