Cunnie Rabbit, Mr. Spider and the Other Beef: West African Folk Tales | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in October 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Purro Initiation, A

A SHORT time after Sobah's return from his trading trip, occurred the initiatory mysteries of the Purro secret society. Nearly all the male population of the village had gone to the "devil-bush," or lodge of the society, to take part in the mystic ceremonies. A place had been hewn out of the dense forest, and across the front next to the village, was a barricade of bamboo fifteen feet high, with a single small opening covered by matting. Cabalistic symbols marked the presence of the Purro devil; and a long yellow snake, the guardian of the Purro society, was coiled up on the limb of a tree just inside the entrance. None but the initiated and the candidates dared to go within. Down in the village the women and children spoke with bated breath, and seldom ventured outside their huts. From the devil-bush came the dread rumble of the specially constructed drum, and the still more horrible call of the Purro devil. The air was full of dread, and awe, and mystery. Konah nestled close to her mother, not venturing even to ask questions. All at once the loud blare of some terrible instrument, heard from the edge of the village, and followed by the most hideous cry that ever came from human throats, told that the Purro devil was marching abroad, seeking new subjects for initiation. Konah and her mother, with some women and children who happened to be visiting them at the time, ran to the small inner room of their hut, and hid their faces against the dark wall. The uninitiated men who happened to be in the way, turned aside and buried their faces in their hands, that they might not look upon the dread Purro devil and his followers. On they came, the devil blowing his awful-sounding instrument, and the Purro boys uttering their terror-inspiring cry. The procession wound through the crooked streets, and passed on to the neighboring village. After the hideous noises died away, the women and children crept timidly out of hiding. The sun had gone behind the western forest, and Mamenah, Konah, and their visitors, came out to the front piazza, Mamenah seating herself in the hammock and the others upon the low mud wall.

               Konah's mind was full of Purro mysteries, but here was something which she dared not investigate personally. Her questions brought no satisfactory response, so she sat and pondered. Mammy Mamenah, wishing to entertain her friends, and at the same time to shake off her own uncanny feeling, finally asked:

               "Yo' know dah trick wey Cunnie Rabbit pull (played), fo' blow all dem horn?"

               They had not heard the story, but were at once ready to listen to it. At the first question, Konah was all eagerness and animation. Any story was delightful to her quick imagination, but the name of "Cunnie Rabbit" was a seductive charm beyond her power to resist.

               "Oh Mammy, tell 'bout um," she ventured to request, and her voice was full of pleased anticipation.

               Leisurely swinging in the hammock, Mamenah crooned her story in a tone more than usually subdued, for the echo of the Purro call was still fresh in her memory.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Purro Initiation, A
Tale Author/Editor: Cronise, Florence M. & Ward, Henry W.
Book Title: Cunnie Rabbit, Mr. Spider and the Other Beef: West African Folk Tales
Book Author/Editor: Cronise, Florence M. & Ward, Henry W.
Publisher: E. P. Dutton & Co.
Publication City: New York
Year of Publication: 1903
Country of Origin: Sierra Leone
Classification: unclassified

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