Congo: The Wicked Husband

This is another gruesome story, which begins with a simple quarrel between a husband and a wife about preparing the family's good. You will see a reference here to mandioka, another name for the cassava root. Dried cassava in its pearly form is what we call tapioca. You can read more about cassava and its importance as a tropical food at Wikipedia.

The image below shows women in the Congo making fufu bread from cassava root:

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Congo unit. Story source: Notes on the Folklore of the Fjort by Richard Edward Dennett (1898).

The Wicked Husband

"Cut you more palm-nuts? Why, I am for ever cutting palm-nuts! What on earth do you do with them? I cut enough in one day to keep you for a week," said the husband to his wife.

"Nay," said the wife, "what am I to do? First, one of your relations comes to me and asks me for a few, then another, and another, and so on, until they are all gone. Can I refuse to give them?"

"Well, as you know, it's a long way to where the palm-trees grow. If you want palm-nuts, you can come with me and carry them back with you."

"Nay, I cannot go so far, for I have just put the mandioca in the water."

"But you must go!

"Nay, I will not."

"Yes, you shall!" And the husband dragged her after him.

When he got her well into the woods, he placed her upon a rough table he had constructed and cut off her arms and legs. Then the wife wriggled her body about and sang: "Oh, if I had never married, I could never have come to this."

The husband left her and returned to his town, telling the people that his wife had gone to visit her relations.

Now a hunter happened to hear the wife's song and was greatly shocked to find her in such a terrible condition. He returned to town and told his wife all about it, but cautioned her to tell no one.

But the prince got to hear about it, and knocked his chingongo (or bell), and thus summoned all his people together. When they were all assembled, he bade them go and fetch the wife. And they went and brought her, but she died just as she arrived in town.

Then they tied up the husband and accused him of the crime. And while they placed the wife upon a grill to smoke and dry the body, they placed the husband beneath, in the fire, and so burnt him.

(400 words)

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