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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

The Secret of a Murder

Once upon a time, a man killed his neighbour and secretly disposed of his body in the bush. After the murderer had done his dastardly act hyenas came and ate up the body leaving only the skull lying on the pathside near an anthill that was overgrown with shrubs and twiners.

In the days that followed, the murderer used to stop by the anthill when taking his cattle to the pastures and then look this way and that way, and on making sure that nobody was watching him, he tapped the skull of his victim with a stick mockingly saying.

“You skull, what will ever let out my secret?”

And the skull used to reply to him, saying, “What shall reveal your secret will come from your own mouth.”

The murderer continued to behave in this manner whenever he passed by the skull, until his antics developed into an irresistible ritual. One day, a neighbour who had come to cut sticks for making drinking pipes overheard what the murderer was saying and became curious. The next day the neighbour concealed himself behind the undergrowth and waited keenly to see whether the murderer would pass there again and repeat his antics. After waiting for a little while, the murderer came and tapped the skull, muttering the same ritual words; and the skull replied routinely as before. On confirming the murderer's habitual recitations the neighbour decided that he must do something about it.

He went home and asked the sons of the deceased man to give him two cows so that he could disclose to them information leading to the capture of their father's murderer. The sons complied with this request, and thereupon the neighbour told them that they should arrange to hide themselves in the thicket beside which the murderer had formed the habit of stopping while taking his cattle to the pastures and mockingly tampared with their deceased father's skull. They would thereby be able to witness for themselves the weird behaviour of the sadistic murderer and decide on what course to take against him.


The following day the young men did as pre-arranged with the neighbour, and hence concealed themselves in the undergrowth behind the anthill. It did not take long before the murderer came round and started tapping the skull and asking it what power would ever reveal his secret, and as usual the skull replied that his own mouth would betray him.

No sooner had the sons, who were keenly peering behind the bush, confirmed the incident than they dashed out and speared the murderer to death, thereby avenging the death of their father.