[Notes by LKG]
This story is part of the African Stories (Lang) unit. Story source: The Orange Fairy Book by Andrew Lang and illustrated by H. J. Ford (1906).
(see previous page for audio)Makoma, after placing him in his sack, proceeded upon his journey and, travelling for many days, he at last reached a country so barren and rocky that not a single living thing grew upon it — everywhere reigned grim desolation. And in the midst of this dead region he found a man eating fire.
'What are you doing?' demanded Makoma.
'I am eating fire,' answered the man, laughing, 'and my name is Chi-idea-moto, for I am the flame-spirit, and can waste and destroy what I like.'
'You are wrong,' said Makoma; 'for I am Makoma, who is "Greater" than you--and you cannot destroy me!'
The fire-eater laughed again and blew a flame at Makoma. But the hero sprang behind a rock--just in time, for the ground upon which he had been standing was turned to molten glass, like an overbaked pot, by the heat of the flame-spirit's breath.
Then the hero flung his iron hammer at Chi-idea-moto and, striking him, it knocked him helpless, so Makoma placed him in the sack, Woro-nowu, with the other great men that he had overcome.
And now, truly, Makoma was a very great hero for he had the strength to make hills, the industry to lead rivers over dry wastes, foresight and wisdom in planting trees, and the power of producing fire when he wished.
Wandering on he arrived one day at a great plain, well watered and full of game, and in the very middle of it, close to a large river, was a grassy spot, very pleasant to make a home upon.
Makoma was so delighted with the little meadow that he sat down under a large tree and, removing the sack from his shoulder, took out all the giants and set them before him. 'My friends,' said he, 'I have travelled far and am weary. Is not this such a place as would suit a hero for his home? Let us then go tomorrow to bring in timber to make a kraal.'
So the next day Makoma and the giants set out to get poles to build the kraal, leaving only Chi-eswa-mapiri to look after the place and cook some venison which they had killed. In the evening, when they returned, they found the giant helpless and tied to a tree by one enormous hair!
'How is it,' said Makoma, astonished, 'that we find you thus bound and helpless?'
'O Chief,' answered Chi-eswa-mapiri, 'at mid-day a man came out of the river; he was of immense statue, and his grey moustaches were of such length that I could not see where they ended! He demanded of me, "Who is thy master?" And I answered, "Makoma, the greatest of heroes." Then the man seized me and, pulling a hair from his moustache, tied me to this tree--even as you see me.'
Makoma was very wroth, but he said nothing and, drawing his finger-nail across the hair (which was as thick and strong as palm rope), cut it and set free the mountain-maker.
The three following days, exactly the same thing happened, only each time with a different one of the party, and on the fourth day Makoma stayed in camp when the others went to cut poles, saying that he would see for himself what sort of man this was that lived in the river and whose moustaches were so long that they extended beyond men's sight.
So when the giants had gone, he swept and tidied the camp and put some venison on the fire to roast. At midday, when the sun was right overhead, he heard a rumbling noise from the river and, looking up, he saw the head and shoulders of an enormous man emerging from it. And behold! right down the river-bed and up the river-bed, till they faded into the blue distance, stretched the giant's grey moustaches!
'Who are you?' bellowed the giant, as soon as he was out of the water.
'I am he that is called Makoma,' answered the hero, 'and, before I slay thee, tell me also what is thy name and what thou doest in the river?'
'My name is Chin-debou Mau-giri,' said the giant. 'My home is in the river, for my moustache is the grey fever-mist that hangs above the water and with which I bind all those that come unto me so that they die.'
For a moment Makoma was helpless but, remembering the power of the flame-spirit which had entered into him, he breathed a fiery breath upon the giant's hair and cut himself free.
As Chin-debou Mau-giri leaned forward to seize him, the hero flung his sack Woronowu over the giant's slippery head and, gripping his iron hammer, struck him again; this time the blow alighted upon the dry sack and Chin-debou Mau-giri fell dead.
Next: Makoma (end)