Fetichism in West Africa | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in August 2018 with all known ATU Classifications. Only the Introduction and Folktales from this book have been included.

Banga of the Five Faces

RA-MBORAKINDA lived in his town with his sons and daughters and his glory. One son was Nkombe, and another Ogula, whose full name was Ogula-keva-anlingo-n'-ogěndâ (Ogula-who-goes-faster-than-water); but they were not of the same mother.

               Ogula grew up without taking any wife. He became a great man, with knowledge of sorcery. One day his father said to him, "Ogula, as you are a big man now, I think it is time for you to have a wife. I think you had better choose from one of my young wives." Ogula replied, "No, I will get a wife in my own way." So one day he went to another osěngě (clearing) of a town which belonged to a man of the awiri (spirits; plural of "ombwiri"), i. e., one who possessed magic power, and obtained one of his daughters. Her name was Ikâgu-ny'-awiri.

               He brought the girl home to his father's house, where she was very much admired as "a fine woman! a fine woman!" She was indeed very pretty. Then Ogula said to her, "As you are now my wife, you must be orunda (set apart from) to other men, and I will be orunda to other women, even if I go to work at another place." And she replied, "It is well."

               At another time Ogula said, "I think it better for us to move away from my father's town, and put my house just a little way off." After the new house was finished they moved to it, and lived by themselves. Ogula had business elsewhere that compelled him to be often absent, returning at times in the afternoons. Whenever Nkombe knew that Ogula was out, he would come and annoy Ikâgu with solicitation to leave her husband and marry him. Ogula knew of this, for he had a ngalo (a special fetich) that enabled him to know what was going on elsewhere. The wife would say, "Ah, Nkombe! No, I know that you are my husband's brother; but I do not want you!" Then, when it was time for Ogula to return, Nkombe would go off. That went on for many days; Nkombe visiting Ikâgu whenever he had opportunity, and the wife refusing him every time. It went on so long that at last Ogula thought that he would speak to his wife about it.

               So he began to ask her, "Is everything all right? Has any one been troubling you?" She answered, "No." He asked her again, and again she said, "No." Thus it went on,--Nkombe coming; Ogula asking questions; and the wife, unwilling to make trouble between the two brothers, denying. But one day the trouble that Nkombe made the wife was so great that Ogula, with the aid of his ngalo, thought surely she would acknowledge. But she did not; for that day, when he came and called his wife into their bedroom, and asked her, she only asserted weakly, "No trouble." Then he said, "Do you think I do not know? You are a good wife to me. I know all that has passed between you and Nkombe." And he added, "As Nkombe is making you all this trouble, I will have to remove again far from my father's town, and go elsewhere." So he went far away, and built a small village for himself and wife. They put it in good order, and made the pathway wide and clean.

               But in his going far from his father's town he had unknowingly come near to another town that belonged to another Ra-Mborakinda, who also had great power and many sons and daughters. One of the sons also was named Ogula, just as old and as large as this first Ogula. One day this Ogula went out hunting with his gun. He went far, leaving his town far away, going on and on till he saw it was late in the day and that it was time to go back.

               Just as he was about returning he came to a nice clean pathway, and he wondered, "So here are people? This fine path! who cleans it? and where does it lead to?" So he thought he would go and see for himself; and he started on the path. He had not gone far before he came to the house of Ogula. There he stood, admiring the house and grounds. "A fine house! a fine house!"

               When Ogula saw Ogula 2d standing in the street, he invited him up into the house. They asked each other a few questions, became acquainted, and made friendship; and Ogula kept Ogula 2d for two days as his guest. Then Ogula 2d said, "They may think me lost, in town, after these two days. Thanks for your kindness, but I had better go." And he added, "Some day I will send for you, and you will come to visit me, that I may show you hospitality."

               Ogula 2d went back to his place. He had a sister who was a very troublesome woman, assuming authority and giving orders like a man. Her name was Banga-yi-baganlo-tani (Banga-of-five-faces). Though her father, the king, and her brother were still living, she insisted on governing the town. When any one displeased her, or she was vexed with any one, she would order that person to lie down before a cannon and be shot to pieces. The father was wearied of her annoyances, but did not know what to do with her.

               As Ogula 2d had left word with Ogula that he would invite him on another day, he did so. Ogula accepted; but as the invitation was only to himself, he did not take his wife, but went by himself, and was welcomed and entertained.

               When it was late afternoon, he was about to go back, but Ogula 2d said, "You were so kind to me; do not go back to-day. Stay with me." And Ogula consented.

               In asking Ogula to stay, Ogula 2d thought, "As his wife is not here, perhaps he will want another woman. I have my sister here; but if I first offer her, it will be a shame, for he has not asked for any one" [an actual native African custom, to give a guest a temporary wife, as one of the usual hospitalities. The custom is not resented by the women].

               All this while Ogula had not seen the sister. When they were ready for the evening meal, Ogula 2d thought it time to call his sister to see the guest. She fixed herself up finely, clean, and with ornaments. She came and sat in the house, and there were the usual salutations of "Mbolo!" "Ai, mbolo!" and some conversation.

               While they were talking, Banga had her face cast down with eyes to the ground. And when she lifted her eyes to look at Ogula, her face changed. From the time she came in till meal-time, she made a succession of these changes of her face, thinking that Ogula would be surprised, and would admire the changes, and expecting that he would ask her brother for her.

               She waited and waited; Ogula saw all these five changes of her face, but was not attracted. They went to their food, and ate and finished. And they talked on till bedtime; but Ogula had said nothing of love. Banga was annoyed and disappointed; she went to her bed piqued and with resentful thoughts.

               The next morning Ogula said it was time to go back to his wife. When he was getting ready to go, Banga said to him, "Have you a wife?"

               He answered, "Yes." She said, "I want her to come and visit me some day." And Ogula agreed. He went, and returning to his house, told his wife that Banga wanted to see her.

               After Ogula was gone, Banga asked her brother about Ogula's wife. "Is she pretty?" And he told her how finely the wife had looked. Banga was not pleased at that, was jealous, and waited till Ikâgu should come that she might see for herself. "I will see if she is more beautiful than I with my five countenances." Subsequently Banga chose a day, and sent for Ikâgu. She dressed for the journey, and Ogula, not being invited, took her only half-way.

               When Ogula's wife arrived, Banga saw that it was true that she was pretty, and of graceful carriage in her walking, and she did not wonder that her husband was charmed with her. But she hid her jealousy, and pretended to be pleased with her visitor. Ogula's wife did not spend the night there; when she thought it time to go, she said good-bye, and turned to leave.

               When she had gone, Banga was planning for a contest with her. She said to herself, "Now I see why that man made me feel ashamed at his not asking for my love,--because his wife is so beautiful. She shall see that I will have her killed, and I shall have her husband."

               So after a few days she sent word to Ogula's wife, "Prepare yourself for a fight, and come and meet me at my father's house."

               But the wife said to Ogula, "I have done nothing. What is the fight for?" Nevertheless, she began to prepare a fighting-dress, and before it was finished another messenger came with word, "You are waited for."

               So she said, "As it is not a call for peace, I had better put on a dress that befits blood." So she dressed in red. After she was dressed she started, and Ogula went with her, to hear what was the ground of the challenge.

               As soon as they got to the town, they found Banga striding up and down the street. Her cannon was already loaded, waiting to be fired. When Ogula wanted to know what the "palaver" was, Banga said, "I do not want to talk with you; I only want you to obey my orders."

               But Ikâgu wanted to know what the trouble was, and began to ask, "What have I done?" Banga only repeated, "I don't want any words from you; only, you come and lie down in front of this cannon." Ikâgu obeyed, and lay down, and Banga ordered her men to fire the cannon.

               By this time Ogula, by the power of his ngalo, had changed the places of the two women. When the cannon was fired, and the smoke had cleared away, the people who stood by saw Ikâgu standing safe by her husband, and Banga lying dead. All the assembled people began to wonder, "What is this? What is this?"

               So Banga's father called Ogula, and said, "Do not think I am displeased with you at the death of my daughter; I too was wearied at her doings. So, as you are justified, and Banga was wrong, it is no matter to be quarrelled about."

               And Ogula 2d said to Ogula, "I am not vexed at you. You had done nothing. She wanted to bring trouble on you, and it has come on herself. I have no fight with you. We will still be friends. But do not live off in your forest village by yourself; come you and your wife to live in this town."

               So Ogula and his wife consented, and agreed to remove, and live with Ogula 2d. And they did so without further trouble.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Banga of the Five Faces
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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