A FREE EXCERPT
40 West African Folklore, Tales and Myths
Once Upon a Time two women quarrelled, and one of them went out secretly at night and dug a deep pit in the middle of the path leading from her enemy’s house to the village well.
Early next morning, when all were going to the well for water with jars balanced on their heads, this woman fell into the pit and cried loudly for help.
Her friends ran to her and, seizing her by the hair, began to pull her out of the pit. To their surprise, her hair stretched as they pulled, and by the time she was safely on the path, her hair was as long as a man’s arm.
This made her very much ashamed, and she ran away and hid herself.
But after a while she realized that her long hair was beautiful, and then she felt very proud and scorned all the short-haired women, jeering at them. When they saw this, they were consumed with jealousy, and began to be ashamed of their short hair. We have men’s hair, they said to one another. How beautiful it would be to have long hair!
So one by one they jumped into the pit, and their friends pulled them out by the hair.And in this way they, and all women after them, had long hair.
A FAMOUS hunter and wrestler named Akiti boasted that he was stronger than any other man or animal. He had easily overcome a giant, a leopard, a lion, a wolf, and a boa-constrictor, and as nobody else opposed his claim, he called himself “the King of the forest.”
Wherever he went, he sang his triumphant wrestling-song, and everyone feared and respected him. But he had forgotten the Elephant, who is a very wise animal and knows many charms. One day the Elephant challenged him and declared that he had no right to call himself “King,” as the Elephant himself was the monarch of the forest and could not be defeated.
Akiti thereupon flung his spear at his enemy, but because of the Elephant’s charm, the weapon glanced off his hide and did him no harm. Akiti next tried his bow and poisoned arrows, and his hunting-knife, but still without effect.
However, the hunter also possessed a charm, and by using it, he changed himself into a lion and flew at the Elephant, but the Elephant flung him off. Next he became a serpent, and wrapped himself around the Elephant, but he could not succeed in crushing the Elephant to death.
At last he changed himself into a fly, and flew into the Elephant’s large flapping ear. He went right down inside until he came to the heart, and then he changed himself into a man again and cut up the heart with his hunting-knife. At last the Elephant fell dead, and Akiti stepped out of his body in triumph, for he was now without question “the King of the forest.”
Title: YORUBA LEGENDS