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Author of the Entry:
Divine Che Neba, University of Yaounde 1, email@example.com
Peer-reviewer of the Entry:
Eleanor A. Dasi, University of Yaounde 1, firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan Deacy, University of Roehampton, email@example.com
Julienne Ngah (Storyteller)
Age of narrator: 68 (in 2018)
Social status: commoner
Language of narration: Bulu
Bio prepared by Divine Che Neba, University of Yaounde 1, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ma’an people constitute part of the Betis of South Cameroon. A mythic legend among the Beti reports that the Beti came from the other side of the River Sanaga. They finally crossed the river at the end of the eighteenth century on the back of a snake called Ngan-Medza. They fled from Ousman dan Fodio, a Muslim leader from the region of Adamawa in the north of the country, who decided to Islamize all Animist peoples in Cameroon at the time. The Beti are descendants of the Bantu. They attach a lot of evil to women because they believed that evil (Evu) entered their community through the woman. The Beti society, like most African societies, is patriarchal.
In the beginning, in a village called təgə ndᴐŋ (meaning useless), lived a monster called Emomodo. It used to swallow people be they young, old, men, or women. Due to the wanton deaths and untold sufferings it made people go through, the elders of the village held a meeting to discuss how to stop this monster’s terrible terrific actions in the village. They decided to empower the bravest warrior in the village with magical charms and equipped him with a blade, a knife and some pepper so that he could defend himself in case the monster was to swallow him. The young initiate accepted the call and embarked on the journey of liberating his people from the monster.
He left for a long and tedious journey into the heart of a sacred forest where the monster lived. On his way, he encountered the hungry monster looking for prey. As soon as the monster saw the young man, it opened its mouth, swallowed him and went back to its closet. While in the stomach of the monster, this brave young man discovered that the stomach of the monster was larger than anybody could imagine. In fact, it was a big wide world on its own and he discovered that all the generations of people that the monster had been swallowing over the years were still alive and living under very miserable conditions. The young initiate, after discovering his clan’s men asked them one after the other: “Do you trust and believe I can save you from this monster’s stomach, or have you already resigned to fate?” Some said they trusted the young man. Others castigated him and told him that people braver than him have never been able to save them from this captivity. Yet, others showed no interest in his question, as they had already resigned to fate. The young initiate used his blade and cut the monster’s intestines, then carefully rubbed them with pepper. The monster, after struggling for some time, died. The young initiate took his knife and tore open the monster’s stomach for his people to come out. All those who said they trusted him came out safe and others who undermined him perished. After this victory, life became normal in the village. The young initiate became a celebrated hero in the village.
The exploits of the young initiate can be compared to heroes from many African mythologies who were fighting with swallowing monsters and defeated them with no harm for swallowed people*. These heroes oscillate between death and life as they carry out their quest, geared towards liberating their individual societies from negative and opposing forces. The young initiate, as this myth purports, could no longer bear the pain inflicted on his people by Emomodo, the monster. Like enumerated epic heroes, the young initiate sets out for his perilous journey to eliminate a common enemy, which takes him into a new world - the stomach of the monster.
* See: Werner, Alice, “The Swallowing Monster” in Myths and Legends of the Bantu, London: George G.Harrap & Co., Ltd., 1933, 206–221 (accessed: April 30, 2021).
Cotterell, Arthur, A Dictionary of World Mythology, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Werner Alice, “The Swallowing Monster” in Myths and Legends of the Bantu, London: George G.Harrap & Co., Ltd., 1933, 208–209.
Researcher: Divine Che Neba
Assistant researcher: Menounga Astarie Manuela
Method of data collection: Tape recording and note taking