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Country of the First Edition
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Crossover (Young adults and adults)
We are still trying to obtain permission for posting the original cover.
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
Susan Deacy, University of Roehampton, firstname.lastname@example.org
Atangche Munga (Storyteller)
Age of narrator: 72 (in 2018)
Social status: Kingmaker
Language of narration: Ngemba
Bio prepared by Divine Che Neba, University of Yaounde 1, email@example.com
Background: 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 put, the first Bafut people migrated from Lake Chad down to Tikari area Northwest of Foumban, which was a 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.
Occasion: Life performance
Long time ago,
In the olden days,
There lived a man and his wife.
They had two children,
A boy and a girl.
A time came when there was
Famine in the village.
As these children,
Were coming back from their daily activities,
Their parents were quarrelling,
About eating one of them.
The father wanted the girl to be killed;
The mother wanted the boy to be killed.
As the boy and girl heard the argument.
They planned to escape.
Never to go to their house again.
They started on a journey
To an unknown land.
They passed through many forests.
They became tired at the entrance of one of the forests
So they stopped to rest.
In the night,
The boy watched the girl sleep.
The boy saw light approaching from the sky,
He placed his hand on his sister
(Narrator stretches his arm to a woman sitting near him)
The light came down
It came, came.
Finally, it settled on the boy’s feet.
The boy realized it was a bird.
The bird gave the boy a comb and said,
“With this comb,
You people will have plenty,
If your sister combs her hair with it,
A lot of money will come out.
If she holds it and laughs
The sun will shine.
If she weeps, it will rain.
If she wades in the water
Lots of fish will die”.
After handing the comb
To the young man,
The bird disappeared.
It was dawn
The boy woke up his sister,
Gave her the comb,
Asked her to comb her hair with it.
As she combed her hair,
There was sunshine
I mean total sunshine.
Rain started pouring down.
She waded in a nearby stream,
All the fish died.
The girl was afraid
But when the boy revealed
The prophetic encounter with the bird,
She became very happy.
It gave them a mild sunshine
Which permitted them to continue their journey.
They continued their journey.
They travelled for three days;
Reached a land;
This land was strange.
They knew nobody there.
The boy left his sister with an old woman
Went directly to the palace to see the Chief.
He asked the chief whether he could house them.
The chief accepted.
He went back for his sister.
They came into the palace.
They were given food and accommodation.
The people were very welcoming.
The next day,
The boy asked the Chief whether his people
Needed fish, sunshine, money and rain.
The Chief answered,
“Who on earth can refuse these things?”
The boy thought that the girl
With whom he was in the palace
Was his sister.
It was not his sister.
The old lady they met
Had deceived him.
As they were entering the land,
The lady had scooped out the eyes of his sister,
Thrown her into the nearby stream
And used magic to make
The boy think that the girl
With whom he was was his younger sister.
Thinking that he was with his sister
And the magic comb,
The boy told the Chief
To assemble the whole village;
That he was going to provide
Them with all their needs.
The Chief was surprised.
And the boy answered “YES”.
The herald was sent.
The gong went round the village.
The news went through the village within the twinkle of an eye.
People brought bags, tins, baskets;
Everybody was ready to go home
With money that will keep him for the rest of his life.
As everybody assembled,
He called the girl,
Ordered her to comb her hair,
Nothing happened. (members of
He asked her to smile.
He asked her to weep.
(Audience) “Nothing happened.”
There was growing tension in him.
The boy was humiliated,
The Chief felt insulted.
The Chief ordered his people to arrest him,
The people told the boy that,
In this village,
People who lied to the Chief
Were punished by death.
Meanwhile, the sister who was thrown into the river
Was saved by a hunter.
The hunter was from the village
Where his brother was facing trial.
She narrated the whole story of
What the old lady did to her,
She told the hunter that
She was going to give him money
If he could direct him to where the brother was.
The hunter told the girl that there was a certain boy
Who was presently facing trial
And would, obviously be killed
Because he failed to provide
The village with fish, money, sunshine and rain as he had promised.
The girl knew it was her brother
She combed her hair,
Money came out in abundance,
She gave it to the hunter.
She asked the hunter to use some of the money
To buy her eyes from the old lady who removed them.
The hunter approached the old lady,
Told her he needed human eyes to give to his dog
So that with them, it can see well, and see further.
He said: “he was ready to pay anything demanded.”
The old woman brought out the eyes of the girl,
Sold them to the hunter.
The hunter brought the eyes to the girl;
Fitted them into their sockets.
The girl combed her hair once again,
Money came out.
She gave part to the hunter again.
She moved directly to the palace.
When the brother saw her approaching,
He jumped up,
Only to discover that the other girl
Was not his proper sister;
That he had been deceived.
By then, the villagers were preparing
To strangle the boy to death.
With the coming of his sister,
“GIVE ME ANOTHER CHANCE
TO OFFER MY PROMISE
I AM READY FOR IT NOW”.
The people said,
“Go ahead.” (the members of audience
Are now relieved from the tension)
The boy asked his sister to weep,
And there was a heavy down pour of rain.
The boy asked her to smile,
Sunshine came immediately; and dried up the place.
The brother ordered her to wade in the stream;
She placed her leg in a nearby stream
Moved them about for some time;
All the fish came to the surface.
The villagers fell on them.
He ordered his sister to comb her hair,
Money, I mean, money
Started falling like rain.
The whole place was erupting.
People jubilating and sweating.
Kissed the boy and his sister;
The chiefdom became a paradise.
That is why even today
There is always plenty
In the palace.
Why There is Plenty in the Palace touches on an important African cultural element – respect for traditional authority. This myth shows that when the entire village gathers at the Chief’s palace it is for important business and there can be serious consequences for those who undermine it. It also hinges on the image of the lost or damaged child, and an errant parent as well the consequence of such a loss or damage to society and home culture. There is also the refreshing idealism of love between siblings able to keep them together and help them overcome the most difficult challenges of life – in this case blindness, a death sentence, and even death.
The myth includes some motifs known from tales of magic like the motif of a supernatural helper (here represented by the bird made of light), the motif of magical objects (the comb) or the motif of eyes bought back and replaced.
Ce, Chin and Charles Smith, eds., Oral Tradition in African Literature, Handel Books, 2015.
Neba’ane Asombang, Raymond, “Traditional methods of conservation. A case study of Bafut” in Webber Ndoro, Shadreck Chirikure, and Janette Deacon, eds., Managing Heritage in Africa: Who Cares?, New York: Routledge, 2018.
Researcher: Divine Che Neba.
Method of data collection: Tape-recording.
Editors: Daniel A. Nkemleke and Eleanor A. Dasi.