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Njaajaan Njaay Lives in a River


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(Wolof/Senegal)

Njaajaan Njaay was the mythic founder of the Waalo kingdom.

After the great flood, the children of Noah multiplied, and some settled in the area that would become the great empire of Ghana. Among them was Mbaarik Bo, who was converted to Islam by Bubakar Umar. He then followed Bubakar Umar, who moved to the west. Bubakar Umar was the father of Njaajaan Njaay, the first ruler of the Waalo empire. Bubakar, continuing his work of converting people to Islam, now lived among the Serer, and was wounded by Hamar, the leader of the Serer. As he prepared to go back east to die, he told his wife, Fatumata, not to marry a man whose body she might see while he was washing, a man whom she might see when he was relieving himself. And she must sleep with no man unless a mattress first falls on the floor. Mbaarik Bo overheard these instructions. Bubakar Umar died on his way to his eastern home. Mbaarik Bo made certain that he followed the instructions of Bubakar Umar, and Fatumata, who was until then able to marry no man because she had built a high pillar from which she watched the movements of men, married him. Njaajaan Njaay was taunted by other children because his mother was forced to marry her father's assistant. Furious, Njaajaan Njaay took weapons and tools, and threw himself into a river to commit suicide. But he was a good swimmer and could not drown himself. The river became his home, and he acquired a reputation for being a supernatural being. He hid in the reeds, moving from town to town, emerging from the waters, pale and hairy. He spent seven years in the river, then emerged when he saw children fighting over the fish they had caught. He taught them how to string the fish, and divided the fish for them. The children told their parents about this; they hid at the river, then caught Njaajaan Njaay as he came to the children. He refused to speak, until a man named Maramu Gaaya tricked him into speaking, pretending he did not know the correct way to balance a cauldron on three stones, pretending he did not know how to prepare and eat food. Njaajaan Njaay identified himself, and he went to Waalo, where he was made a chief of the army. In the meantime, his mother sent his younger brother to seek him, and the brothers were reunited. Njaajaan helped to develop a model government, and became one of the progenitors of the people.

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