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Owuo: When His Eye Shuts, A Man Dies


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(Krachi/Togo)

Owuo was Death.

Long ago, there was a great famine in the world. A young man, searching for food and straying into a part of the countryside where he had never been before, saw a strange mass lying on the ground. It was the body of a giant, his silky hair stretching from Krachi to Salaga. Awed, the young man wished to withdraw, but the giant asked what he wanted. The young man requested food. The giant, telling him that his name was Owuo, or Death, agreed to give him food on condition that the youth would serve him for a while. He gave him wonderful meat that the boy had never tasted before. Pleased with his covenant, the boy served Owuo a long time, receiving much meat. Then he grew homesick. When he asked Owuo to give him a holiday, the giant agreed, but only if the youth would bring another boy in his place. He returned to his village, persuaded his brother to go with him, and gave him to Owuo. In time, the youth got hungry again and longed for the meat that Owuo had given him, so he left the village and returned to the giant. He told the giant that he wanted more good meat. Owuo told him to enter the house and take as much as he liked, but he would have to work for him again. The youth agreed, entered the house, ate as much as he could, and again worked for the giant. The work continued for a long time, the boy eating his fill every day. But he saw nothing of his brother, and when he asked where his brother was, Owuo told him that he had sent him on an errand. When the youth asked the giant for permission to go home, he was told that he must return with him a girl who would become the giant's bride. At his home, he spoke to his sister, and she agreed to marry Owuo. With a slave as a maid, they journeyed to the home of the giant. The youth left the two girls and went back to the village. Not long after, he again grew hungry, so he made his way once more into the countryside and found the giant. Owuo was not pleased to see the boy, grumbling at being bothered a fourth time. He informed the youth that he could go into the house and get food. The young man entered and gnawed on a bone that he found there. But he soon saw that it was his sister's bone, and now he began to investigate, and he discovered that the meat in the house was that of his sister and her maid. Now he was afraid, and he fled from Owuo, hurrying to his home; when he arrived there, he told the people of his experiences. The people went to see the dread thing, but were afraid when they saw the monster. They returned to the village, then agreed to go to Salaga, where the giant's hair finished and set it on fire. When the hair was burning well, they returned to watch the giant. Beginning to feel the heat, he tossed and sweated. When the fire reached his head, the giant was dead. The young man saw that medicine had been concealed in the roots of the giant's hair. They sprinkled it on the bones and meat in the house, and the girls and the boy returned to life. The youth proposed to pour some of the medicine on the giant, but no one wanted the giant to return to life. The boy showered it into the eye of the dead giant; the eye opened and the people fled in terror. It is from that eye that death comes. Every time Owuo shuts that eye a man dies: he is forever blinking and winking.

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Subjects: Religion.


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