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Njambi and the King of the Birds


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(Mpongwe/Gabon)

Njambi is the supreme being.

All the birds lived together in the country of Njambi. One day they wondered who was the king of the birds. Each named himself, and to settle the issue they decided to go to Njambi. They told him that some birds could fly well, others speak well, others were strong. Which of these traits was the most important? Njambi asked the eagle to speak, then his wife; he asked the parrot to speak, then his wife; and all the birds in succession were asked to speak, along with their wives. Finally, he called the cock and told him to speak. But when Njambi asked the wife to speak, she observed that her husband said she could talk only if she bore children. So it is that when she lays an egg she speaks. So, asked Njambi, you do not speak like your husband? She said no. The cock said that he jeered at the other birds, husband and wife speaking alike. I do not allow this, he said. A husband should be at the head, it is not becoming that his wife talk as well as he does. Njambi then decreed that the cock would be the king of the birds. All the other birds, husband and wife, speak alike, he said. But the cock knows how to be the head of his family. But he also told the cock that he could not go back to the land of the birds—the other birds, jealous, might kill him. The cock must stay in Njambi's town. The other birds scattered then and lived in the forest with no king.

Subjects: Religion.


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