Tindana, Murdered by a One-Eyed Giant

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(Dagomba, Mamprusi, Moshi/Ghana)

Tindana was a mythic leader.

Early in the Christian era, there lived in a cave among the hills around Mali, which tradition places far to the east, a man most loathsome to behold. He dwelled alone, but had acquired the reputation of being a fearless hunter. One day, when the people were hardpressed by their enemies and disaster seemed in sight, they sent for this hunter to help them. He came, and his frightful appearance so terrified the foe that victory came to the people of Mali. The hunter returned to his cave, refusing all gifts and thanks. When his services were called for once more, he again triumphed. This time, the Mali people insisted on rewarding him, and he received as a wife their chief's daughter. By this marriage a son was born, a one-eyed giant even more revolting than his father. Inheriting his father's skill in warfare and the chase, the young man soon made himself a leader over his fellows, and shortly after reaching manhood he led a band of them westward to found a new country, as their own had been devastated by famine. This group eventually came to a town not far from the White Volta. The young man sat down at the watering place. Toward evening, women who lived there came to him and informed him that the city was the abode of the great Tindana (literally, “owner of the country”). He accompanied the women to the city, accepting the hospitality of the only daughter of the Tindana, a woman whose beauty attracted him. When he arrived at her house, he was hospitably received by the father and remained a time in the house as an honored guest. Then the day of the annual sacrifice arrived. For this event, people from all over the countryside gathered, as it was an event of national importance. The Tindana was to perform the sacrifice, and retired early to his bed. That night the young man murdered his host, and when morning came presented himself to the people dressed in the sacred robes of his victim. They were awed at the loathsome spectacle of the oneeyed giant and feared to touch the sacred emblems of the office he had usurped. At the same time, the youth's followers loudly acclaimed their chief and threatened to massacre any dissidents. His triumph was complete. He married the daughter of the unfortunate Tindana, and so founded the royal family of the Dagomba, and, with the aid of his own followers and the subdued townsfolk, he raided and conquered the neighboring country, and began an empire that is one of the greatest ever founded in Africa, the tridominion of Dagomba, Mamprusi, and Moshi.

Subjects: Religion.

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