Basutoland: Its Legends and Customs | Annotated Tale

Only the folktales from this book are included here. Several chapters about Basutoland (Lesotho) culture have been omitted. COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in August 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Lelimo and the Magic Cap

ONCE long ago, when giants dwelt upon the earth, there lived in a little village, far up in the mountains, a woman who had the power of making magic caps. When her daughter Siloane grew old enough to please the eyes of men, her mother made her a magic cap. "Keep this cap safely, my child, for it will protect you from the power of Lelimo (the giant). If you lose it, he will surely seize you and carry you away to his dwelling in the mountains, where he and his children will eat you."

               Siloane promised to be very careful, and for a long time always carried the magic cap with her whenever she went beyond the village.

               Now it was the custom each year for the maidens of the village to go to a certain spot, where the "tuani" or long rushes grew, there to gather great bundles with which to make new mats for the floors of the houses. When the time came, Siloane and many more maidens set out for the place. The distance was great, and as they must reach their destination at the rising of the sun, they set off from the village at midnight.

               Just as the sun rose from sleep, the maidens arrived at the graves on which the rushes grew. Soon all were busy cutting rushes and making mats. Siloane laid down her cap on one of the graves by which she was working. All day the maidens worked, and at sunset they started on their homeward journey. Soon the moon arose and lighted the land, and the light-hearted maidens went gaily singing on their way.

               When they had gone some way, Siloane suddenly remembered she had left the magic cap on the grave where she had been sitting. Afraid to face her mother without it, she asked her companions to wait for her while she hurried back to fetch it.

               Long the maidens waited, amusing themselves by telling stories and singing songs in the moonlight, but Siloane returned not. At length two girls set out to look for her, but when they reached the spot, no trace of her was to be found. Great was their dismay. How could they tell the news to her parents? Still there was nothing else to be done, and, with heavy hearts, they all returned to the village.

               When Ma-Batu, the mother of Siloane, heard their story, she immediately set to work to make another magic cap, which she gave to her younger daughter Sieng, telling her to have it always by her, in case Siloane should need her help.

               Meanwhile, Siloane had been taken captive by the giant as she was making her way back to recover her magic cap. When she felt Lelimo's heavy hand on her shoulder, she struggled frantically to get away, but her strength was as water against such a man, and he soon had her securely tied up in his big bag, made out of the skin of an ox.

               Now when Lelimo saw Siloane, he was returning from a feast, and was very drunk, so that he mistook his way, and wandered long and far, until, in the morning, he came to a large hut, where he threw down the sack containing Siloane, and demanded a drink of the woman who stood in the door. She gave him some very strong "juala" (beer), which made him more drunk than before. While he was drinking, Siloane called softly from the sack, for she had recognised her mother's voice talking to the giant, and knew that he had brought her in some wonderful way to her father's house. Again she called, and this time her sister heard her, and hastened to undo the sack. She then hid Siloane, and, by the aid of the magic cap, she filled the sack with bees and wasps and closed it firmly. When the giant came out from the hut, he picked up the sack and started for his own home. On his arrival there he again threw down the sack, and ordered his wife to kill and cook the captive girl he imagined he had brought home. His wife began to feel the sack in order to find out how big the girl was, but the bees became angry and stung her through the sack, which frightened her, and she refused to open it. Thereupon Lelimo called his son, but he also refused. In a great rage, the giant turned them both out of the house, and closed all the openings. He then made a great fire, and prepared to roast the girl.

               When he opened the sack, the bees and wasps, who were by this time thoroughly furious, swarmed upon him, and stung him till he howled with agony, and, mad with pain, he broke down the door of the hut and rushed down to the river, into which he flung himself head first. In this position he was afterwards found by his wife, his feet resting on a rock above the water, his head buried in the mud of the river.

               Such was the end of this wicked giant, who had been the terror of that part of the country for many, many years.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Lelimo and the Magic Cap
Tale Author/Editor: Martin, Minnie
Book Title: Basutoland: Its Legends and Customs
Book Author/Editor: Martin, Minnie
Publisher: Nichols & Co.
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1903
Country of Origin: Lesotho
Classification: unclassified

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