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close this bookBukusu Folktales (Kenya Literature Bureau, 1986, 134 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe Boy Who ate the Elephants' Rumps
View the documentThe Hare and the Leopard
View the documentMwambu and Sella
View the documentThe Story of Apelu
View the documentHare Steals a Hen
View the documentSimbi and Namakanda
View the documentKhole
View the documentWanakhatandi
View the documentA Father and His Son
View the documentAn Old Woman and Her Deformed Son
View the documentThe Dog and the Leopard's Children
View the documentNasio and her Brother
View the documentHare, Hyena and Lizard
View the documentKasawa and his Forbidden Pumpkins
View the documentA Woman and Her Daughter of Clay
View the documentHare leads Leopard to a Hive
View the documentHyena and Baboon
View the documentHare and Elephant Pay a Visit
View the documentLemata and Katamba
View the documentThree Men meet a Strange Old Woman
View the documentA Hyena Ate His Protector
View the documentThe Secret of a Murder
View the documentA Bull Newt Who Refused to heed his wife's advice
View the documentA Dying Old Woman earns Bridewealth for her Sons
View the documentFortuity is like Dew Drops
View the documentA Basket Maker Declares Himself Free from the Burden of Debts
View the documentThe Thirsty Intruder
View the documentBack Cover

An Old Woman and Her Deformed Son

There was an old woman whose children died in infancy and only a deformed boy survived to grow into adulthood. The boy was a hunchback.

Although the old woman loved this hunchback son of hers, she was secretly ashamed of his physical appearance. She was so ashamed that each day she was on the look-out for visitors who might come round just to make fun of him. To keep him away from the public eye, she used to confine him in a drum most of the time. So, right from childhood the boy grew up in the drum. He was taken out only a few times during the day when the old woman was sure that there were likely to be no intruders around. When the boy attained circumcision age he was duly circumcised. After circumcision he said to the old woman, “Mother, I now want a wife, can you please find me a girl to marry?” “Yes, my son,” said the old woman, “I will try. I am indeed very pleased to learn that you are already thinking of a wife.”

By and by, the old woman went out to look for a suitable girl to marry her son. She approached a pretty girl and asked her whether she would be interested in marrying her son and the girl promised to think about it. Without disclosing her son's physical defects to the girl the old woman set about wooing her intensively. She brought all sorts of gifts to her mother, helped the girl to collect firewood and even helped her with the work in the shamba. Reluctantly the girl gave in and thereupon requested the old woman to make the necessary arrangements so that she would meet her future husband. The old woman cunningly suggested that the girl should accompany her to her house where she would be able to meet the boy.

The old woman lived a long way from the girl's village. On the day when the girl decided to visit her prospective bridegroom she walked and walked and walked until the sun set. It was a very long journey indeed. When she eventually arrived, the old woman pretended that the young man was around and he would appear shortly. The girl waited and waited but the boy did not appear at all. At bedtime the girl was told that the boy was already in bed sleeping. She was shown a separate place to sleep, and thus had no opportunity to either see or talk to the boy as would have been expected of people who were planning to live together.

Very early in the morning the girl asked the old woman. “Please, where is the boy you want me to marry?” And the old woman replied, “My son woke up early in the morning and went to work, in a different village yonder so that he can earn something for your bride-price.”

Although the girl was visibly disappointed she tried to conceal her sentiments and appear to be at home with everything around the house. The old woman and the girl went to cultivate in a banana grove. While they were away the boy jumped out of the drum and busied himself about the house with the little chores singing:

Khaneyuye munju mwange, khaneyuye munju mwange
Mikhasi nekikhali misilu, mayi kakuombelesya
Musecha kacha khuchuma, abele khuchuma nacha sina?
Menyile mukhang'oma, kurumba kuli khumukongo.

(Let me busy myself in my house, let me busy myself in my house.
Aren't women foolish? Mother fooled her, “Your husband has gone to work.” How could I go to work?
I just live here in my little drum because I have a hunch in my back.)

The girl heard the boy's singing but it was so faint that she would neither comprehend the meaning of the song nor even make out as to which direction the sound came from. However, out of curiosity she stopped from time to time and listened. This went on for several days until she started to guess the meaning of the words in the song. On getting the message home she was quite disturbed. Her suspicion was strengthened by the fact that each morning they left for the shamba without sweeping or washing utensils but on, their return they found everything tidy about the house. One day she deceived the old woman by telling her that she was going to attend to the call of nature while in fact her intention was to discover exactly what was going on in the house. No sooner had she disappeared behind the bushes than she tiptoed to the house and stood listening keenly at the door. She got really upset with the boy's derogatory song. She pondered within herself, “So this is my husband to be? A hunchback confined to a drum? No wonder the old woman deceived me the way she did. What girl in her proper senses could marry a man like that? Anyway, what can I do now? I must put an end to this continued bluff...”

One morning she said to the old woman, “Mother, today you will go to look for firewood while I go to the plantation alone.” The old woman said, “Yes, my daughter. We can share work that way.” She had grown so used to the cheerful and friendly manner of the girl, thinking that she would not mind staying on as her daughter-in-law even after discovering that her son was deformed. Indeed she was already contemplating making the revelation to her.

And so each went her separate way. But as soon as the old woman vanished from sight the girl dashed back and stood at the door which had now become a familiar ground for her spying on the hunchback. She listened briefly as the boy sang mischievously inside the house. Then she stole a quick glance peeping through a side hole.

To her amazement she saw that he was a real hunchback! Quite oblivious the boy went on sweeping the floor and singing. The girl felt that she could no longer stand it; she broke into the house suddenly with the intention of beating up the mischievous fellow. But before she could get hold of him he dodged nimbly and slipped back into the drum. Nonetheless, the girl, fuming with anger picked up the drum and smashed it on the floor. A pool of blood started oozing from the broken drum. The poor hunchback was dead!


Considering it appropriate revenge on the old woman the girl felt no remorse for the action she had taken. She rolled over the cold body of the hunchback as a lump of anger swelled up in her throat. When the old woman returned home and found the mess that had been done in the house she screamed at the top of her voice, “ooh, oh... uuuwee... uuuuweeee!

But it was all in vain. The deformed boy whom she had been ashamed of showing to the public was dead and gone for ever! Yet instead of feeling relieved of the burden of shame she now felt great anguish for his loss. After killing the hunchback the girl also disappeared never to be seen again. The poor old woman remained there weeping and feeling quite forlorn.