How an Unnatural Son Destroyed His Father’s Tribe

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Men tell a story of a wealthy chief who lived beyond the memory of men; his bodyguard was made of wise men and diviners. He had many wives, and all gave birth to children except one, so he summoned his wise men and diviners and commanded them to discover and remove the cause of this woman’s barrenness. They read their sans, made medicine, and in time declared that the woman would conceive and bear a fully grown young man.

Even as they had said, this unnatural thing took place. When the young man was born he appeared before his father, saying:

“I am your son and yet not your natural son, for I came down from the heavens. My name is Kawa. Honor me, and I will serve you well.”

But the Chief and all his subjects feared Kawa, and the Chief devised a plan to rid himself of this super-natural son. He called all his sons and ordered them to fetch certain bundles of thatch and put a new roof on his house, and one of these bundles was reserved for Kawa.

“Take that bundle,” the Chief commanded him, “and carry it to my house.” Kawa agreed to do this, but standing at a distance from the bundle he announced in a bold voice that he would first test his new bow by shooting an arrow through the bundle. As soon as he uttered these words a warrior with a cutlass rushed forth from the bundle and dashed into the forest.

The Chief’s first plan had failed. He then made it known that a feast would be held in Kawa’s honor; a deep pit was dug and covered with mats, and dancers danced about it. Kawa was asked to dance in the centre, but he flung his spear through the central mat, saw that it disappeared in a hole beneath, and danced around the hole as the other dancers had.

The Chief’s second plan had failed. He now grew impatient and caused Kawa to be seized and bound, and tied inside a hamper. Men were appointed to carry him down to the river and throw him in, that he might drown; but on the way they paused to gather mushrooms. While they were at a distance a goat came by and saw that a man was inside the hamper.

“O man,” he asked, “why are you tied inside the hamper?”

“A foolish question,” Kawa said. “Surely you must know that this is the only way one may go to Heaven without dying?”

The goat untied the hamper and begged to be put inside, so that he might go to Heaven without dying. Kawa willingly allowed the foolish goat to take his place; he tied him securely inside the hamper and fled to far country. The men threw Goat in the river, and went back to the town to share the Chief’s rejoicing.

Kawa dwelt in a distant land for some time, and by the strength of his good heart and supernatural powers he gained great wealth. He returned to his own country with many slaves who bore his riches, and stood before the Chief, his father, saying:

“O father, I am your son Kawa who died, and now I have returned. I have lived in the Land of the Spirits, and the wealth there is so great I brought a handful of my goods for you to share. It is a land where hens lay pearls instead of eggs, where trees bear precious stones instead of fruit, and gold grows in the ground like carrots overnight and is harvested at dawn. There is no end to the wealth and happiness in the Land of the Spirits.”

The Chief was amazed to hear these things, and cast envious eyes on the riches his son had brought. Truly, he thought, the Land of Spirits must be a fabulous place indeed. He decided he would visit this place himself, and his people begged that they might go with him. Thus the Chief and all his people asked Kawa and his slaves to tie them inside hampers, and Kawa had them carried to the river bank. Here he confessed that he had played them false in order to have revenge, and a great cry of wailing filled the air: but all the hampers were thrown into the river, and the wicked Chief and his people were drowned.

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