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Author of the Entry:
Divine Che Neba, University of Yaounde 1, email@example.com
Peer-reviewer of the Entry:
Daniel A. Nkemleke, University of Yaounde 1, firstname.lastname@example.org
Eleanor A. Dasi, University of Yaounde 1, email@example.com
Lisa Maurice, Bar-Ilan University, firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Numfor Ambe (Storyteller)
Age of narrator: 65 (in 2016)
Social status: Quarter head
Language of narration: Bafut
Bio prepared by Divine Che Neba, University of Yaounde 1, email@example.com
Bafut is located in the North West Region of Cameroon, with an estimated population of about 140.000 inhabitants, spread over a surface area of 340 square kilometers. As Shu Abenego Che and Tanda Insidore in “The History of Bafut”* rightly explain, the Bafut people migrated from Lake Chad down to Tikari area Northwest of Foumban, which was under dynastic rule. In constant search for fertile land and a more peaceful settlement, they migrated again to Ndobo,(present day Ndop) and then down to Bafut where they finally settled. They negotiated leadership with the aborigines, who were the Mbebili people, under the leadership of Niba Chi. The Mbebili people later accepted to be subservient to those who came in from Ndobo for peace to reign. Mbebili today is one of the villages that make up the Bafut Kingdom.
* See: bafutmanjongcalgary.cat (accessed: April 10, 2018).
AN ORPHAN CHILD AND HER UNCLE’S WIFE:
Long long time ago
There lived a man
Who got married and had
Just one child.
The gift that was given him during
His wedding was his late sister’s daughter -
A child who had been moving
From one family member to another.
The wife detested the gift but
Later on accepted it.
She accepted it because
Their only daughter
Was feeling very lonely.
She was still very young,
And so needed company.
The acceptance of this child
Into the new home took place after a lot of controversy.
Anyway the child found herself in the new home
And was very hard working - an ant is not as busy.
She did everything in the house
So as to please her new parents, but she was always being beaten.
Her cousin was very lazy.
Always moving at snail pace
But she was the favourite at home.
She was honoured like a queen.
Her needs were always met.
All she demanded, she had.
But her orphaned cousin
Was never appreciated despite her efforts;
She could dig places like a pig and nobody was ready
To appreciate her efforts.
All faults committed by their child
Were transferred to the adopted child.
At certain moments,
She was obliged to carry out
Many tasks at the same time.
While all this was going on,
The proper child was constantly honoured.
The washing of dishes was done by this orphan child.
Their dishes were being washed at Takwe.*
In the ancient times, these small
Streams that you find today were very scarce.
You could only find the takwes.
This child was often sent to wash dishes there.
As this child was sent to the stream,
To go and carry out her regular chore; washing of dishes,
One of the dishes disappeared.
She started crying but had no option
Than to returnto the house.
(by the time the narrator
Pronounces the tragedy of this child,
Many members of the audience are
(Majority of the audience were already
Supporting their jaws with theirhands)
Sorrowfully, the child reported herself,
“father, as ..as, ..as...as I was washing the
(interruption from the father) WHAT?
(child shedding tears,continues)…as I
The dishes, that your,
That your dish…
(says faster) got missing.”
They immediately fell,
On the child like rain,
Bim, bim, bim
Tuktuk, pap, bim***
The child could no more walk.
She was only crying.
(the narrator wrinkles his face
And wipes his mouth)
The aunt’s husband said:
GO AND BRING THAT DISH”
I do not mean a duplicate,
WHAT I NEED IS THE DISH
MY DISH AND NOTHING ELSE”
The wife of this child’s uncle has been looking for means of
Sending away this child or killing her.
She once more insisted,
“GO AND BRING MY DISH”.
The child left.
The woman knew that,
As this child would go down,
To look for the dish,
She would obviously drown
Since the Takwe was too big.
This would bring her some joy.
The child started searching along
The banks of the river.
As she was searching and searching
And searching, eee (a long breathe)
She arrived at a certain place where
She saw an old woman,
This woman was completely covered with scabies.
Narrator: have you seen how
Grains of corn are packed on the stalk?
The scabies on the crone could only
Be compared to the
Grains of corn on the stalk.
As the crone saw the child coming
Down she asked,
“Where are you heading to?”
She replied, “I am looking for
My father’s dish,
I do not know whether you have seen
It as you are sitting here”
The old woman told her:
“Come near, come nearer my child,
Come and scrape-off my scabies.”
The child without hesitating,
Went and helped the woman.
The crone once more told her that
“As you are scraping these scabies,
Eat those that make the sound
And give me those that
Sound jeri, jeri”****
The child was scraping her scabies,
Eating the wet ones,
Which produced the num, num sound
And giving the dry ones
That were making jeri, jeri to the crone.
After working with her for a while,
The old crone thanked her.
She told her that
“I will reward your kindness;
I will tell you where you can
Get your father’s dish.
Continue to move down,
You will see a house on your left,
Enter there and ask,
They will give you,
Your father’s dish.”
The child continued to break through the evil forest.
She followed the river course,
And despite the meandering and
The danger of slipping into the river,
She arrived at a place where there was a house,
As she reached there,
Towards the evening period,
Though very tired,
She was still ready,
To continue her journey.
She pitifully entered the house.
The owner of the house was a water Nymph.
She did not know.
The Nymph asked this child,
“Where are you going so late in the night?”
The child replied, “I am looking for my father’s dish.”
The water Nymph said,
“My daughter, it is too late for you to continue this search.
Come, come and sleep with me,
I will direct you to where your father’s dish is.
But there are mosquitoes in this place.
These mosquitoes are my children.
Do well not to kill any in the night.
(Aside from performer and members of audience)
“Can one sleep with mosquitoes in the same house and not kill them”
“ Of course, one can. Have you ever paid a visit to Douala?
You will see a lake of mosquitoes.”
“You want to tell us that you have been to the coast”
“I hope the bridge going there is not broken”
(Narrator comes back) THAT IS NOT
WHY WE ARE HERE
IF YOU ALREADY KNOW THE STORY,
WALK OUT CAREFULLY.
(He continues his story)
I ended where?
(Audience) “where the water Nymph is
Declaring her love for mosquitoes”
Aha!! So, this child went to sleep,
The whole night, the mosquitoes were
Singing nyeee nyeee
Despite the noise produced,
The child was very calm.
Very early in the morning
Her body was like the back of a toad.
She was looking extremely ugly,
With layers of rashes on her body.
The water Nymph ask:
“CAN YOU SEE THAT MOUNTAIN?”
(The narrator is pointing also)
At the summit of that mountain,
Are two eggs,
One will be running towards you, welcoming you,
And saying, “TAKE ME,
TAKE ME, TAKE ME!!”.
Do not attempt to touch that one.”
“TAKE THE DUMB EGG.
DO YOU HEAR WHAT I AM SAYING?”
(The narrator holds his ears)
“Break it and you will find your
The child answered, “YES MOTHER”
Though very tired,
She was ready to continue her search,
Even to the point of death.
She carefully moved out of the valley,
Started climbing the mountain.
It took her some days before she could reach the summit,
Almost stooping, one of the eggs started welcoming her,
“MOTHER, MOTHER, TAKE ME
MOTHER, MOTHER, TAKE ME”
The child pushed that one aside
Proceeded toward the quiet egg,
To her greatest delight, many nice things came out,
Lorries, money, new dishes,
Her father’s dish,
Bags of rice, everything that men desire were there.
She settled near the mountain.
A new house emerged there for her.
She went home happy.
Though poorly received by the aunt and her husband,
The news went round the village
Like wild fire.
With much envy,
Her aunt and the husband,
Asked their own daughter
To go and wash dishes.
They told her that
If she goes there,
She should throw one of the dishes into river.
She did so.
Upon her return,
The mother asked her to go and look
For the dish.
She also went out for the search.
At this time both the father,
And mother were praying
That their daughter should not drown as she was looking for the dish.
She moved down
The banks of Takwe,
Reached a certain area where
The same old woman sat
Scraping her scabies.
The girl came down,
Asked the old woman, (rudely)
“AS YOU ARE SITTING HERE
HAVE YOU SEEN,
MY FATHER’S DISH PASS BY?”
The crone replied,
“COME AND SCRAPE MY SCABIES
BEFORE I WILL ANSWER YOU”
The girl said,
“I CANNOT TOUCH A DIRTY SKIN
LIKE THAT ONE
I AM NOT USED TO SUCH
THINGS IN OUR HOUSE”
(The narrator twists his face as he pronounces the words of the rude child)
“Anyway, continue your journey.”
“As you are moving down,
You will see a house on your left,
Enter there and ask for your father’s dish.”
The stubborn child continued her journey.
As she reached down,
She saw the house there on the left.
Without greeting the occupant
Of the house she rudely asked:
(The narrator changes his voice,
And is virtually talking through his nostrils)
“HAVE YOU SEEN MY FATHER’S DISH PASS BY?”
The water Nymph said it is late to answer her;
The only thing to do is to sleep and
Very early in the morning
She will show her where to
Get her father’s dish.
The water Nymph also told
The stubborn child that
There are many mosquitoes in the house,
And that she loves them very much.
That she should not kill any in the night
The stubborn child replied,
How can mosquitoes be biting me
And I sleep like a log?”
The water Nymph did not reply.
She slept and in the night,
The mosquitoes started singing.
She was killing them one after the other.
The whole night was pap, pap, pap
(audience interrupts) “Why was she
Refusing that people should not kill the mosquitoes?”
“You will have thinning hairs like me.”
(The audience laughs)
Anyway, the mosquitoes
Were the children of the water Nymph.
Early in the morning, the water Nymph
Was too angry
She asked the girl to move up to the mountain,
“You will see two eggs at the summit.
One will be welcoming you
The other will be lying quietly
DO NOT TOUCH
THAT WHICH IS WELCOMING YOU
ARE YOU GETTING WHAT I AM SAYING?”
How can an egg be welcoming me,
And I choose just a dumb egg?”
She carefully climbed up the mountain
Reached the summit,
As she arrived the summit,
One of the eggs came shouting,
“MOTHER, MOTHER, TAKE ME,
TAKE ME, TAKE ME!
She bent down and collected it,
She was warmly received by her parents.
It was announced all over the village
That she was back.
The whole village was invited
For the “egg breaking” ceremony,
The day came and she broke the egg.
All wild animals - snakes, lions,
Tigers came out and killed everybody
Who was present, even the girl.
That is the end of my story.
(everybody was satisfied)
* Takwe refers to a big river.
** “Weh” denotes sympathy.
*** Sound produced from an indiscriminate beating, kicking and slapping.
**** The numnum scabies are watery while the jeri jeri types are dry.
This myth highlights the trials and tribulations of an orphan heroine who is severely mistreated by her foster parents. However, by sheer dint of obedience, hard work and perseverance, she is later on rewarded with wealth and prosperity. This myth could help to give hope to orphans as well as teach children and young adolescents the values of obedience and perseverance. It also sensitises foster parents to the need to treat orphans well. This implies that those who treat orphans will be rewarded while those who ill-treat them will be punished.
The myth shares some motifs with the myth entitled How Jealousy Originated in Polygamous Homes, such as the motif of an old woman with scabies or the motif of two eggs - one with wealth as a prize, the other with snakes bringing death as a punishment.
Myth How Jealousy Originated in Polygamous Homes (accessed: January 21, 2021).
Researcher: Divine Che Neba
Method of data collection: Note-taking
Editors: Daniel A. Nkemleke and Eleanor Dasi