Sacred-Texts African Index Previous Next
A CERTAIN King had engaged in a series of wars, during which he employed three magicians or medicine-men to make charms for him, so that he might destroy his enemies.
At the end of the war these three magicians came to the King and humbly asked to be allowed to return home. The King foolishly refused, and at this the magicians said:
“We asked your permission out of courtesy, O King, but we can very easily depart without it.”
Thereupon the first magician fell down on the ground and disappeared. The second threw a ball of twine into the air, climbed up the thread and disappeared p. 29 likewise. The third magician, Elenre, remained standing.
“It is your turn to disappear,” said the King, trembling with anger, “or I will slay you.”
“You cannot harm me,” replied the magician.
At this the King ordered him to be beheaded, but the sword broke in two, and the executioner’s arm withered away. The King then ordered him to be speared, but the spear crumpled up and was useless. An attempt was made to crush the magician with a rock, but it rolled over his body as lightly as a child’s ball.
The King then sent for the magician’s wife and asked her to reveal his secret charm. At last the woman confessed that if they took one blade of grass from the thatched roof of a house, they could easily cut off his head with it.
This was done, and the magician’s head rolled off and stuck to the King’s hand. It could not by any means be removed. When food and drink was brought to the p. 30 King, the head consumed it all, so that the King seemed likely to die.
Magicians were hastily summoned from all over the kingdom, but the head laughed at all their charms and remained fast.
Finally came one who prostrated himself before the head and cried out:
“Who am I to oppose you, great Elenre? I come only because the King commands me.”
To this Elenre replied:
“You are wiser than all the rest!” and the head fell at once to the ground, where it became a flowing river, which to this day is called Odo Elenre, or Elenre’s river.
The magician’s wife was likewise changed into a river, but because she had betrayed him, Elenre commanded the river not to flow, and it became instead a stagnant pool.