Cover Image
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

Lemata and Katamba

Long, long ago there lived two friends, one called Lemata and the other called Katamba. These two men had a variety of common interests including hunting game and drinking together and even imitating each other in acquiring more and more wives. Being next-door neighbours their families rubbed shoulders so harmoniously that one would think they belonged to one big family.

One day Katamba's son visited Lemata's house and found one of Lemata's wives stringing beads. He sat down and joined the exercise of stringing beads. This went on and on for a long time. When the work was almost over the boy picked up a bead and swallowed it. Lemata's wife said, “You have swallowed my loveliest bead and you will have to produce the same one for I will not accept any other.” So the boy went home crying and told his parents what had happened. Katamba and his wife, the boy's mother collected other beads. They took to Lemata's wife variety after variety of beads but she refused to accept any other bead saying she must have the one which their child had swallowed. “And I must have it by all means” she said. Katamba got so annoyed that he flogged his son to death. The boy had sown seeds of discord between the two families which had hitherto been enjoying a cordial relationship. After killing his son Katamba operated on his belly and removed the bead which he had swallowed and gave it back to Lemata's wife. Katamba's wife bewailed the death of her son for a long time, vehemently deploring her neighbour's attitude which largely contributed to the misfortune.

Long after the incident, Lemata and Katamba went out hunting together. They were on their way returning home from a day's hunting expedition when Lemata lunged at the ogre with his spear. The ogre pulled out the spear and fled with it. Lemata said to Katamba, “Brother give me your spear, I must kill this ogre; I will not let him escape.” So Katamba lent him his spear and Lemata pursued the ogre. When he caught up with him he threw the second spear, but the ogre deftly grabbed it and continued running. Katamba said to Lemata: “Brother, you have lost my ancestral spear and I shall not accept any other in the way of compensation I just want the same one back.” This greatly disturbed Lemata. It was clear his friend was intent on paying off old scores. “All right brother,” said Lemata, “I will rise early tomorrow and follow the trails of the ogre. Come what may I will pursue him and recover your spear.”

So the following morning Lemata set out to look for the wounded ogre. He walked and walked and walked, but the journey seemed to be endless. Finally, however, after travelling for many days and nights he arrived in the land of the ogres. Through exhaustive inquiries he was able to locate a house in which the ogre of parallel description was said to be living. He gathered all his courage and entered that house. To his surprise he found in there a girl who at one time had been kidnapped by the ogres from his own village. This was the last person he would have expected to see; for back home, they had given her up for dead after days of searching had proved fruitless. Her parents and relatives had duly organised funeral rites for her as everyone believed the ogres had eaten her. She was as surprised as he was to see him.

“What on earth are you doing here in ogre-land?” she asked him. “Do you know you are in the house of the ogre king? He lives here with many others and I am here to cook human meat which they bring home after their hunting trips. No human ever escapes when found in this land.”

“But how come you are here?” inquired Lemata, “We all took you for dead.”

“Mine is a long story,” replied the girl, “But more of that later. Our main concern is how to conceal your presence here. The ogres will soon be returning from their hunting. Should they find you you are a dead man.” So she quickly prepared a meal for Lemata and then concealed him in the firewood rack. In the evening the ogres came in carrying their meat. The girl cooked for them and after they had eaten they slept.

Very late in the night when the ogres were sound asleep Lemata collected all the spears from the rack and went out to hide them. Shortly afterwards he returned with a razor-sharp sword. The ogres were still sleeping soundly. He got hold of the tail of the king ogre and cut it off. He then collected the spears and embarked on his journey home.

In the morning each ogre found that he was wet. They looked around and saw that a pool of something like water had streamed into them from king ogre's side. So they burst out laughing and one of them jokingly said, “Hmm, hmm, it seems the king has wet his bed; hmm, hmm, the king is a bed-wetter.” King ogre was very upset about the cutting remarks. On examining himself he found that his tail was missing. He immediately summoned a contingent of guards to go and intercept the culprit who may have played the dirty trick. The guards ran about in all directions combing the whole area methodically but their mission proved hopeless. So they came back and reported to king ogre that their errand had borne no fruit.

King ogre was confined to bed for many days. When his wound healed up he vowed that he would not rest until he had gotten revenge on the assailant who had mutilated his tail. Thus, on one fateful day he set out determined to achieve his goal whatever the sacrifices. He walked many miles wandering from place to place like a hermit. He came to an extensive meadowland where herdsboys often gathered to graze their cattle. On approaching the herdsboys, king ogre changed into a pretty girl.

He asked each boy this question: “What achievement does your father boast of when he is drinking?” And one boy after another jumped up and said what great deeds his father boasted of. One said, “My father killed an elephant,” another said, “My father killed a lion,” another said, “My father killed a wolf,” and yet another said, “My father killed a leopard.” King ogre brushed aside all these claims saying “Ahaah, that is nothing.” Finally came a boy who jumped up and said “My father killed an elephant and then went to the far west where he cut an ogre's tail.”

King ogre ululated: “Ayii.yii.yii! Aii-ayi-ayiii!” and danced about and carresed the boy saying “Surely, your father is the greatest of them all. I must marry him. Can you please take me to your father?” The boy was very delighted, and so he proudly led the ogre to his father's house. He was all the time thinking, “What a beautiful woman my father will marry!”

When they arrived home the ogre to his jolly surprise, saw his own tail being dried at the sacrificial hut called namwima. On seeing the disguised ogre Lemata was very impressed casting lustful eyes at “her.” He persuaded her to stay for the night and she willingly agreed to do so. After the evening meal had been served Lemata prepared a bed in the visitors' hut, where he went to sleep with the prospective bride. At night when everybody was sleeping the beautiful girl changed into an ogre and tried to eat Lemata. As he was sound asleep he did not know what was going on. But the guard dogs sleeping by the doorside were alarmed by the red glow which flickered on and off as the ogre opened his mouth from time to time. They barked and growled and barked and growled until the commotion awakened Lemata from sleep. When he jumped up instinctively the ogre changed back into a girl and laughed derisively, “Eheehee! Your dogs are really fierce. I wanted to go out for a call but they just wouldn't let me.”

After making two more unsuccessful attempts the ogre gave up. In the morning she said to Lemata. “I saw a tree that has dried up and I would like us to cut firewood from it. Can we go and cut it down?” Lemata replied: “Oh sure, why not!” And the ogre said, “But I have no liking for your fierce dogs. We'd better leave them behind when we go out, because they can easily set on me and bite me. Please chain them until we come back.” Lemata chained the two fiercest dogs, Kutubi and Mwikho, and coaxed the rest not to follow him by giving them some meat. He took an axe and accompanied the ogre to go and look for firewood. When they had gone far into the bush the ogre said, “Hare is the tree. Now you climb up and when you have gone a little higher, I will hand over the axe to you, so that you can chop off those twigs to begin with.” Lemata climbed the tree, and when he was high up the ogre stripped himself naked suddenly changing from a girl to an ogre. Then he shouted to Lemata, “You fool, can you see how you have mutilated me?” As he said this, he showed Lemata his mutilated tail. Lemata got really scared. The ogre started striking at the tree with the axe saying, “I am the very one ogre whose tail you mutilated, and I am going to eat you today.” While the ogre went on cutting the tree, Lemata shouted for his fierce dogs to come, singing:

Asa asa mbwa chase, Kutubi na Mwikho
Asa asa mbwa chase, Kutubi na Mwikho
Nanu olimua mwalia, Kutubi na Mwikho

(Come, come my dogs, Kutubi and Mwikho;
Come, come my dogs Kutubi and Mwikho
Who will give you food, Kutubi na Mwikho?)

Meanwhile, whenever the ogre cut a deep dent into the tree a pigeon came and flapped its wings on the dent so that the tree would not fall. In this way the tree filled up, and so the ogre had to start cutting afresh again. In the meantime the dogs heard Lemata calling and struggled to free themselves. As soon as they broke loose they came straightaway. When the ogre saw them approaching he changed back into a girl and said to Lemata, “You are a coward, I only meant to tease you. Please, stop the dogs, they will bite me! I am not an ogre, I am your wife!” But Lemata urged the dogs to bite him. So they bit, and bit, until they killed him. Lemata climbed down and hacked his carcass into pieces, letting the dogs devour it greedily.