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Husband Who Came from an Animal, The

RA-NYAMBIE in his great town had his wives and sons and daughters, and lived in glory.

               He had a best-beloved daughter, by name Ilâmbe. There is a certain fetich charm called "ngalo," by means of which its possessor can have gratified any wish he may express. Ngalo is not obtainable by purchase or art; only certain persons are born with it. This Ilâmbe was born with a ngalo. While she was growing up, her father made a great deal of her and gave her very many things,--servants and houses, according to her wishes. When Ilâmbe had grown up to womanhood, she said, "Father, I will not like a man who has other wives. I shall want my husband all for myself." And the father said, "Be it so."

               As years went on, Ilâmbe thought it was time she should be married, but she saw no one who pleased her fancy. So she took counsel with her ngalo, thinking, "What shall I do to get a husband for myself?"

               She decided on a plan. Her father's people often went out hunting. One day, when they were going out, she said to them, "If you find some small animal, do not kill it, but bring it to me alive."

               So they went out hunting, and they found a small animal resembling a goat, called "mbinde" (wild goat). They brought it to her, asking pardon for its smallness, and said, "We did not find anything, only this mbinde." She took it, saying, "It is good." Then turning to one of the men, she bade him, "Just skin this very carefully for me"; and to another of the servants, "Bring me plenty of water, and put it in my bathroom for a bath." Each of these servants did as he was bidden,--this one flaying the animal, that one bringing the water. When the one had finished flaying, and brought the entire flesh to her, she said, "Just put it into this water for a bath." She left it there two days, soaking in the water. The skin she put in a fire, burned it to black ashes, and carefully saved all the ash. This she did not do herself, but told a servant to do it, cautioning him to lose none of it. When it was brought to her, she wrapped it up with care, and put it safely away so that none of it should be lost.

               On the third day she spoke to her ngalo, "Ngalo mine, ngalo mine, I tell you, turn this mbinde to a very handsome-looking man!" Instantly the mbinde was changed to a finely formed man, who jumped out of the bath-tub, dressed very richly.

               Then Ilâmbe called one of her servants, and bade, "Go to my father, and tell him I wish the town to be cleaned as thoroughly and quickly as possible, because I have a husband, and I want to come and show him to you; so my father must be ready to greet us."

               The father summoned his servant Ompunga (Wind), who came, and at once swept up the place clean.

               Ilâmbe went out from her house with her husband, he and she walking side by side through the street on the way to her father's house. All along their route the people were wondering at the man's fine appearance, and shouting, "Where did Ilâmbe get this man?" When she reached her father's house, he ordered a salute of cannon for her. He was much pleased to see the man with the crowd of people, and received him with respect.

               Having thus visited her father, Ilâmbe returned to her own house with her husband, the people still shouting in admiration of him. The news spread everywhere about Ilâmbe's fine-looking husband, and there was great praise of them. They lived happily in their marriage for a while, but trouble came.

               Ilâmbe had a younger sister living still at her father's house. One day Ilâmbe changed her mind about having a husband all to herself, and thought, "I better share him with my younger sister." So she went out to her father to tell him about it, saying, "Father, I've changed my mind. I want my younger sister to live with me, and marry the same man with me."

               Her father, though himself having many wives, said, "You now change your mind, and are willing to share your husband with another woman. Will there be no trouble in the future?" She answered "No!" He repeated his question; but she assured him it would be agreeable. So she took her sister (without consulting the husband, as he was under her control, by power of her ngalo), led her to her house, and presented her as a new wife to her husband.

               They remained on these terms for some time without any trouble. But as time went on, the report about that handsome man went far, and finally reached Ra-Mborakinda's town. Another woman lived there, also named Ilâmbe, of the same age as the other, and she was unmarried. This Ilâmbe said to herself, "I am tired of hearing the report about this handsome man. I will go, though uninvited I be, and see for myself." So she tells her brother and some of his men, "Take me over there to that town, and I will return to-day." She told her father the same words: "I am going to see that man, and will return." When this Ilâmbe got to the other Ilâmbe's house, the husband was out, but the wife received her with great hospitality; and the two sisters and their visitor all ate together. Soon the husband came, and the wife introduced the visitor. "Here is my friend Ilâmbe come to see you." "Good," he said. Then it was late in the day, and the visiting Ilâmbe's attendants said to her, "The day is past; let us be going." But she refused to go, and told them to return, saying that she would stay awhile with her friend Ilâmbe.

               But really, in her coming she was not simply a visitor and sightseer; she intended to stay and share in the husband. As her brother was leaving, he asked, "But when will you return? and shall we come for you?" She said, "No; I myself will come back when I please." When the evening came, the hostess began to fix a sleeping-place for her visitor, showing her much kindness in the care of her arrangements.

               The second day the hostess observed something suspicious in the manner with which her husband regarded the visitor; he said to his wife, "Here is your friend. Speak to her for me. Are you willing to do that?" She looked at him steadily, and slowly said, "Yes." So at evening she spoke of the matter to her visitor, who at once assented.

               When Ilâmbe parted with her husband before retiring, she said to him, "Go with this new woman, but do not forget your and my morning custom." [That was their habit of rising very early for a morning bath.] He only said, "Yes." They all retired for the night.

               The next morning the hostess was up early as usual, and had her bath, and was out of her room, waiting. But the man was not up yet, nor were there any sounds of preparation in his room. So Ilâmbe, after waiting awhile, had to call to waken him. He woke, saying, "Oh, yes, yes, I'm coming!"

               The next day it was the same, he staying with the new Ilâmbe and rising late in the morning. The fourth day his wife said to him, "You have work to do, and you do not get up to do it till late." He was displeased at her fault-finding. When she saw that, she also was displeased.

               So when he went to the bathroom she followed him there. On the way she had secretly taken with her the roll of black powder she had kept from the day of his creation.

               While he was bathing, she turned aside, without his noticing it, and opening the roll of the powder, took out of it a little, and held it between her finger and thumb.

               While he was dressing, she came near, stooped down, and rubbed the powder on his feet. They suddenly turned to hoofs. He began stamping his hoofs on the floor, surprised, and saying, "Wife, what is this?" She said, "It is nothing. You have finished dressing. Go out." He began to plead; she relented, and by her ngalo's power changed the hoofs back to feet. They both went out of the room and had their breakfast, and that day passed. But at night he again abandoned his wife for the new Ilâmbe, and next morning he was up later even than on the previous days. He had to be called several times before he would awake. He began to grumble and scold, "Can't a person be left to sleep as long as he desires?" And when he and the new Ilâmbe came from that bedroom, she joined in the man's displeasure at his having been disturbed. He went for his bath. The wife followed, and used the powder as she had done the day before, turning his feet to hoofs. He begged and pleaded. She again forgave him, and fixed the feet again. And they two came out of the bathroom and had their breakfast as usual. He went to his work, and the day wore on. At night he again deserted his wife. The next morning there was the same confusion in arousing him as on the other days.

               His wife accompanied him to the bathroom as usual. While he was in the bath, and before he was done bathing, she left the room, and told the new Ilâmbe, "You sit down near the bathroom door. You will see him come out." The visitor replied, "It is well"; and she sat down. And Ilâmbe went into the bathroom again.

               When the man got out of his bath, as soon as he attempted to dress himself, Ilâmbe, without saying anything or making any complaint, went behind him, and having the whole roll of powder with her, she opened the bundle, flung it on his back, and said, "You go back to where you came from!" Instantly he was changed to a mbinde, and he began to leap about as a goat. Then Ilâmbe cried out to the other Ilâmbe at the door, "Are you ready to receive him? He's coming!" and she opened the door. Out ran the mbinde, leaped from the house, dashed through the town and off to the forest, the people shouting in derision, "Hâ! hâ! hâ! So, indeed, that handsome man was the mbinde that was taken to Ilâmbe's house!"

               Then the wife said to the other Ilâmbe, "Did you see your man? Call him! That's he running off there!" The next day Ilâmbe said to the visitor, "Send word for your people that they may come for you."

               The following day they were sent for, and they came to Ilâmbe's house. After they had arrived, Ilâmbe sent word to her father, "Have your place cleaned, I am coming to enter a complaint." The father replied, "Very well!" Ompunga came and swept the place. Seats were prepared in the street. Ilâmbe summoned the visitor and her people, saying, "Let us all go to my father's house."

               So they went there, and Ilâmbe made her complaint, telling all from the beginning: how she obtained a husband; how the other Ilâmbe had come; how she received her kindly; how she even had been willing to share her husband with her, but how the new Ilâmbe had monopolized instead of simply sharing; and how things had become so bad that she had to send the man back to his beast origin. Turning to the visiting people, she said, "I have nothing more to say except that your sister Ilâmbe is not going back to your town, but has to be my slave all the days of my life."

               So the king's council justified her, and pronounced the judgment just. The people scattered to their homes. And the two sisters went to their house, with the other Ilâmbe as their slave.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Husband Who Came from an Animal, The
Tale Author/Editor: Nassau, Robert Hamill
Book Title: Fetichism in West Africa
Book Author/Editor: Nassau, Robert Hamill
Publisher: Charles Scribner's Sons
Publication City: New York
Year of Publication: 1904
Country of Origin: West Africa
Classification: unclassified

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