Dodo's Wife and the Boy Who Changed into a Lion

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(Hausa/Niger, Nigeria)

Dodo is an evil spirit, a being who inspires fear, an ancient deity, father of the cardinal directions. He is masculine power, situated spatially between east and south, representing the dry season, dried vegetation, and thunder. Opposite him is his wife, Damina, the bountiful green and moist source of the rainy season when she unites with Dodo's thunder. Dodo is the embodiment of the dead, and principally of the founder of the community. He is social mentor and guardian spirit, and he appears in the pantheon of spirits in the Hausa system of possession trance as well. The concept of the dodo is dramatized in images in myths of origin, in images involved in the Bori cult, in images found in stories of serpents, dangerous water spirits, powerful forces all the more menacing because of their unpredictability. Dodo is not human, but he can speak human languages, and often marries human wives. He is greedy and ruthless, yet these characteristics are sometimes the means of his undoing, as he is often duped by his victims. Dodo is an ogre with creative potential, and is a social symbol.

The hero, Bayajida, comes to Daura from the east and slays a creature that inhabits a well and refuses to allow water to be drawn except at certain times: this creature is often a serpent, but in some versions of the story Dodo is the spirit of the well.

There was once a woman who was the wife of Dodo—for Dodo had emerged from the forest and had become a husband. She wanted a human victim, so she came to a town bringing a small basket with a lid on it, and she placed it on the brink of a dye pit, where the people were dyeing, saying that the one who could knock over the basket could marry her. Seeing her great beauty, the men all began to throw—they did not know that she was already married to Dodo. The great men threw first, but they were unable to knock it over and open it. All threw until at last only a certain small boy was left to throw. He took a small piece of gravel and threw it, and the basket opened. They were married. Three weeks went by, then the woman went to visit her people. The boy's father was a hunter who knew the country; he could transform himself into an elephant, into a lion, anything. He knew that the woman was Dodo's wife, as did the boy. Next day, the boy and his wife went into the forest, and when they had come into the middle of the forest she became a dodo, and rushed up to eat the boy. But he changed himself into a lion. She made as if to spring upon him, but he became a snake, and then she let him alone. The boy became a bird and flew off. See also: Bayajida, Jangare.

Subjects: Religion.

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