Kalala, Who Devoted Himself to War

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(Holoholo/DRCongo, Tanzania)

In ancient times, people did not know war, sickness, death. Then Mwamba, a woman, arrived from the southwest with her fifteen children. Kalala, the eldest, had spears, and when he saw a column of black ants he announced that he would devote himself to war. His mother laughed and Kalala, grown evil, buried her alive. He came to five men who sat at the foot of a gigantic tree that joined heaven and earth. Kalala killed three of them; the other two fled. When he caught them, they offered to renounce war. They organized a dance, bringing together many people in the village of Chief Ilunga Nsungu, who lived on the other side of the Lualaba River. While Kalala was asleep, the followers of Ilunga Nsungu dug a great ditch, covering it with a mat. Kalala woke up, and the dancing resumed. His hosts invited him to rest on the mat, but Kalala stretched out beside the concealed trap. Then one of the two men he had spared climbed up the great tree to the sky. Five months later, as that man had not returned, his companion decided to join him. The second man met the first coming back to earth. He told his companion that, in the sky, he had met a great black goat with a fiery tail (Nkuba Lightning); it had ordered him to make war. The two companions seized Kalala and threw him into the ditch, which they filled in. Kalala's fourteen brothers searched for him. They discovered the grave of their mother. Arriving in the country of Ilunga Nsungu, they killed women working in the fields. Ilunga Nsungu, defending himself, hurled at his enemies three pots, which contained smallpox and some bees. Many slaves were killed, but the fourteen brothers continued the war. In the end, Ilunga Nsungu asked for peace. Then he asked them to cut his hair, as friends do. But his great head of hair was very tough and only the youngest brother succeeded, by licking it. Furious at the youth's cleverness, the others killed him and cut up his body. Ilunga Nsungu collected the pieces and put the body together again by magic: the youth came back to life. Ilunga Nsungu kept him hidden in a house, so that his brothers would not find him. After drinking heavily, Kalala's brothers began the war again. The youngest brother, saved by Ilunga Nsungu, gave his benefactor a great magical calabash. Ilunga poured out the water it contained from the top of a high mountain and the sons of Mwamba were drowned. The youngest brother remained with his protector who sent him to collect bird traps along the river. The captured birds asked him to spare their lives; in return, they gave him supernatural aid in case of sickness. The youth let them go, returning empty-handed. Ilunga Nsungu, spying on him, discovered that he talked to the birds and set them free. He attacked the boy and cut him into pieces. But the birds came in great numbers and put him together again, carrying him through the air, depositing him before the house of his maternal aunt. The people of Mwamba took up arms and a terrible war ensued with Ilunga Nsungu. He blew in vain on the magic calabash: no water appeared. He finally sued for peace and paid tribute to the people of Mwamba.


Subjects: Religion.

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