Motu, the Cloud-people, and the Origin of Fire

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Motu made a large garden, and planted it with many bananas and plantains. The fruit ripened quickly, but when he arrived one day at his garden, he found that the ripe bunches of bananas and plantain had been cut off and carried away. This theft continued, and at last he lay in ambush for the thief. Motu had not been in hiding very long before he saw a number of Cloud-people descending. They cut down his bananas, and what they could not eat they tied into bundles to carry away. Motu rushed out and, chasing them, caught one woman whom he took to his house, and after a short time he married her. She was very intelligent, and went about her housework and farming just like an ordinary woman of the earth. Up to that time, neither Motu nor the people of his village had ever seen a fire. They had always eaten their meat raw, and on cold, windy, rainy days had sat shivering in their houses because they did not know anything about fire and warmth. Motu's wife, however, told some of the Cloud-people to bring some fire with them next time they came to visit her. She taught the people how to cook food and how to sit around a fire on cold days. Motu was very happy with his wife, and the villagers were very glad to have her among them. She persuaded many of the Cloud-people to settle in her husband's village. One day she received a covered basket, and, putting it on a shelf in the house, she told her husband never to open it; if he did the Cloud-people would all leave him. Motu agreed; he was very happy, for he had plenty of people, a clever wife, and the villagers treated him as a great man. But he wondered about the basket. Foolishly, he decided to open it. When his wife had gone as usual to the farm, he opened the basket, and—there was nothing in it. He laughingly shut it up and put it in its place. When his wife returned, she asked him why he had opened the basket. Then, while Motu was away hunting, she gathered her people and ascended with them to Cloud-land, never again to return to earth. That is how the earth-people received their fire and a knowledge of cooking. See also: Libanza, Njambe.

Subjects: Religion.

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