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Miseke Marries the God of Thunder


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(Nyarwanda/Rwanda)

A woman whose husband is fighting in a war is alone and ill, and she cries out that she will die of cold if no one builds a fire for her. She prays to the thunder of heaven to help her. A cloud appears in the sky, grows, until the sky is overcast. She hears thunder in the distance, sees a flash of lightning, then Thunder stands before her in the likeness of a man with an ax in his hand. He splits the wood and lights the fire with the touch of his fingers. Then he asks her what she will give him. He asks if, when her baby is born, she will give her to Thunder for a wife. She agrees, and Thunder vanishes. A baby girl is born, called Miseke. When her husband returns, she tells him about Thunder and the promise, and the father tells the daughter not to leave the house or Thunder will carry her off. When she grows older, she is kept in the house. Now, every time Miseke laughs, beads drop from her mouth, along with brass and copper jewelry. Miseke's father concludes that Thunder must have sent the beads as gifts to his betrothed. And Miseke continues to remain inside. She is fifteen, her parents are in the garden, and her peers are going to get white ocher. She slips out of the house and goes with them to the stream where the ocher is found. As they dig, it grows dark, and suddenly a man appears, asking for Miseke. He makes each girl laugh to see if beads come from her mouth, and finally Miseke laughs and a shower of beads falls to the ground. Thunder takes her into the sky and marries her. He is a kind husband and they are happy, becoming parents of three children, two boys and a girl. Miseke wants to take her baby girl home to show her to her parents. He provides her with food and companions, and sends her down to earth, telling her to keep to the high road. But they stray from the main road, and are confronted by an ogre. They give the ogre the beer that they carry, then he eats the companions, then the livestock, and finally only Miseke and her children remain. The ogre demands a child, Miseke gives him one of the boys. She sends the other boy for help. The ogre is killed, but before he dies he tells Miseke to cut off his big toe and everything that was taken would be returned to her. The companions and cattle emerge from the toe of the beast, and Miseke arrives at her home. After a time clouds gather, and suddenly Miseke and her children and entourage move into the air and disappear.

Subjects: Religion.


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