Folk-Lore/Volume 20/The Leopard in the Maize-farm

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Folk-Lore. Volume 20
Number 2 (June). Collectanea: The Leopard in the Maize-farm: a Lower Congo Folk-Tale

The Leopard in the Maize-farm: a Lower Congo Folk-Tale.

Once upon a time the Leopard and the Gazelle made new maize-farms for themselves. When the ground was ready for planting, the Gazelle put some maize into a saucepan to boil, and hid the rest of his maize in another place. While the pot was on the fire, the Leopard arrived and asked,—"Friend Gazelle, what are you boiling?" "Some maize," said the Gazelle, "and when it is cooked I am going to plant it in my farm." The Leopard said,—"Indeed! Do you plant boiled maize?" "Yes," answered the Gazelle, "I boil all my maize, and then it grows better." The Leopard returned home at once, rubbed all his maize off the cobs, and boiled it. The next morning they both went and planted their maize, each in his own farm. During the following night the Gazelle went and planted some unboiled maize in the Leopard's farm.

After a few days they went to look at their farms, and in the Gazelle's the whole of the maize was sprouting well, but in the Leopard's only the raw maize which the Gazelle had planted was growing. The Leopard could not understand it, for he had boiled his maize well.

By and by the maize was ripe for plucking, and the Gazelle and Leopard went and pulled what they wanted and returned home. For several nights after that the Leopard went stealing maize in the Gazelle's farm, and one day the Gazelle said to him,—"Friend Leopard, who is stealing maize from my farm?" "I don't know," replied the Leopard.

The Gazelle went and carved a wooden fetish, called Nkondi, and put it in his farm. The next night the Leopard went and stole some more maize, and, as he was leaving the farm, the Nkondi said,—"Oh! you are the thief, are you?" "If you talk like that," growled the Leopard, "I will hit you." "Hit me," said the Nkondi. The Leopard hit him, and his paw stuck to the image. "Let go!" exclaimed the Leopard, "or I will hit you with my other hand." "Hit me," said the Nkondi. The Leopard hit him with the other hand, and that also stuck to the image. "Let go!" angrily cried the Leopard, "or I will kick and bite you." "Hit me," repeated the Nkondi. The Leopard did so, and his feet and mouth stuck to the fetish image, and then both the Leopard and the Nkondi fell to the ground together.

By and by the Gazelle arrived, and, when he saw the Leopard sticking to the Nkondi, he said,—"Oh! you are the thief, are you?" and, having punished him, he cut some leaves and made a charm to set the Leopard free. After that the Leopard never went stealing again in the Gazelle's maize-farm.

Note.—Some months ago I asked one of our old school teachers to write out for me any stories he knew. The result was twenty-two stories, amongst which was that given above. The part taken by Brer Rabbit in the Uncle Remus stories, and by Anancy the spider and Cunnie Rabbit the water deerlet in Sierra Leone stories, is played in Lower Congo stories by a gazelle, and the tar and wax which hold in the Uncle Remus and Sierra Leone stories of the Tar-baby and the Wax Girl[1] are replaced by the fetish power of the Nkondi. As a native told me,—"When the image is used, the thief cannot run away, and, if the thief enters the house where the Nkondi is, he cannot get out." The charms put in the fetish are expected to paralyse the thief. In a story which I obtained from another source, the gazelle plays some tricks, as usual, on the leopard, and then himself sticks to the Nkondi.

Wathen, Congo Beige.

  1. Cronise and Ward, Cunnie Rabbit, Mr. Spider and the other Beef (Spider Discovers the Wax Girl).