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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

Kasawa and his Forbidden Pumpkins

A man called Kasawa had a beautiful garden in which he grew two types of pumpkins, one called namikasa and another called wanandalo. When famine broke out in the country, Kasawa told his wife and family of ten children, “Even if all food is finished in the country please don't eat the pumpkin called Wanandalo. Eat only namikasa. If by mistake you eat wanandalo, you shall die. I am now going to mumbo to look for more food and you should look after yourselves well.” Thus he left for mumbo.

The family ate all the grain in the barns until it was finished. They ate all the bananas and all the cassava in the field until all were gone. But the famine was still raging. “What shall we do now?” they pondered. “We have exhausted all food in the store and there is only a handful of bukekhe left in the barn.”

“My children,” the mother said, “before we turn to pumpkins let us try to find out what edible roots and leaves we can collect from the riverside.” So every morning the family used to go out to look for wild roots and leaves. Everyone put in an effort to see that the family did not starve. When eventually it looked like everything else was becoming more and more scarce the family began to eat the pumpkins called namikasa. After clearing all namikasa in the garden, the children said, “We are hungry, and there is nothing else we can eat. Let us try that pumpkin called Wanandalo.” But one of the children said, “No. We should not touch wanandalo. Father has forbidden us to eat this kind of pumpkin and we should not ignore his warning.”

Nine of the children went ahead and ate wanandalo and consequently all of them died. The surviving child said to himself, “What shall I do now!” While he was thus thinking aloud he saw a hawk flying past. “Aah,” he said, “I will ask Hawk to go and call my father.” “Hawk, come!” So the hawk came. “If I send you to the farthest west to call my father, what will you tell him when you get there?” Hawk said, “Chululululuuu!” “No, you have not got the message,” he said. “Go away.” Next he called Crow, “Crow, if I send you to the farthest west to call my father, what will you tell him?” Crow said, “Caw, caw, caw, caw!” He dismissed Crow. “You have not got the message.” As soon as Crow flew away Pigeon came and the boy said to him, “Pigeon, if I send you to the farthest west to call my father, what will you tell him?” Pigeon started singing:

Nje, nje, nja mumbo: nje, nje, nja mumbo
Wa Kasawa, nje, nje; ndi khaondo nikho waraka nje, nje,
Khamalile baana nje, nje
Makhumi na kandikho, nje, nje.

(I am going to the farthest west, I am going to the farthest west to tell Kasawa that the pumpkin which he grew in the garden has finished all the children).

The boy was very pleased to hear Pigeon's song. “You have got the message,” he said. He scattered eleusine grains in the courtyard for Pigeon to eat; after eating the grains Pigeon flew away. He flew and flew until he reached the farthest west. On arrival he perched on a tree near the house of a person called Masifwa and started singing:

Nje, nje, nja mumbo; Wa Kasawa, nje, nje, ndi khaondo nikho waraka nje, nje. Khamalile baana, nje nje; Makhumi na kandikho, nje nje.


People in the house were drinking beer. Everyone was startled as Pigeon sang. “Listen, listen,” they all cried out. “A bird is singing. It must be carrying an important message. Someone should find out.” A large number of people came out to listen keenly to the bird.

Pigeon sang again and again and everyone was left wondering. Even Kasawa who was tipsy came back to his senses feeling quite sober. “Oh, my children!” he cried and took off immediately following the directions of the bird as it kept on flying ahead of him. On arrival home, he found everything exactly as Pigeon had informed him. Nine children were dead. Kasawa picked up two sticks of healing herbs, one of lufufu and the other of kumufwora. He arranged the bones of his children together and tapped each skeleton ceremoniously. Suddenly one by one the children rose from the dead. He advised them never again to touch the pumpkin known as wanandalo.



the farthest west


a certain shrub