Kudu and the Tree of Life

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(Benga/Equatorial Guinea, Gabon)

The beasts all lived in one place. Only the python lived alone, thirty miles from the others. There was a tree called Bojabi, but the animals did not know its name. Therefore, when there was a famine, they did not know if the fruit of the tree could be eaten. They sent the rat to the python to learn about the tree. The python told him the name of the tree, that the fruit was Njabi. But on the way home, the rat forgot the name. The other animals beat him, then sent the porcupine to the python. He also forgot the name of the tree, and was beaten. Then the antelope forgot, and all the animals sent forgot, even the ox and the elephant. Finally, Kudu the tortoise remained, and everyone laughed when he said he would go. His mother told him to drink no water while at sea, to eat no food on the way but only in the town. Nor should he obey the call of nature at sea, only on shore. The others did these things, she said, and that is why they forgot. Kudu went to the python, and obeyed his mother's injunctions, and on the way home he sang a song that incorporated the names of the tree and its fruit. Even when the canoe was upset, he kept repeating the name Bojabi. When he finally got home, he told the animals the name of the tree, and it is then that the animals were able to gather the life-giving fruits from the tree. The animals now declared that they had two kings, Kudu and the python, the one with wisdom and the other with skill.

Subjects: Religion.

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