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EFFIONG Edem was a
native of Cobham Town. He had a very fine daughter, whose name was Afiong. All
the young men in the country wanted to marry her on account of her beauty; but
she refused all offers of marriage in spite of repeated entreaties from her
parents, as she was very vain, and said she would only marry the best-looking
man in the country, who would have to be young and strong, and capable of
loving her properly. Most of the men her parents wanted her to marry, although
they were rich, were old men and ugly, so the girl continued to disobey her
parents, at which they were very much grieved. The skull who lived in the
spirit land heard of the beauty of this Calabar virgin, and thought he would
like to possess her; so he went about amongst his friends and borrowed
different parts of the body from them, all of the best. From one he got a good
head, another lent him a body, a third gave him strong arms, and a fourth lent
him a fine pair of legs. At last he was complete, and was a very perfect
specimen of manhood.
He then left the spirit
land and went to Cobham market, where he saw Afiong, and admired her very much.
About this time Afiong
heard that a very fine man had been seen in the market, who was better-looking
than any of the natives. She therefore went to the market at once, and directly
she saw the Skull in his borrowed beauty, she fell in love with him, and
invited him to her house. The Skull was delighted, and went home with her, and
on his arrival was introduced by the girl to her parents, and immediately asked
their consent to marry their daughter. At first they refused, as they did not
wish her to marry a stranger, but at last they agreed.
He lived with Afiong for
two days in her parents’ house, and then said he wished to take his wife back
to his country, which was far off. To this the girl readily agreed, as he was
such a fine man, but her parents tried to persuade her not to go. However,
being very headstrong, she made up her mind to go, and they started off
together. After they had been gone a few days the father consulted his Ju Ju
man, who by casting lots very soon discovered that his daughter’s husband
belonged to the spirit land, and that she would surely be killed. They
therefore all mourned her as dead.
After walking for
several days, Afiong and the Skull crossed the border between the spirit land
and the human country. Directly they set foot in the spirit land, first of all
one man came to the Skull and demanded his legs, then another his head, and the
next his body, and so on, until in a few minutes the skull was left by itself
in all its natural ugliness. At this the girl was very frightened, and wanted
to return home, but the skull would not allow this, and ordered her to go with
him. When they arrived at the skull’s house they found his mother, who was a
very old woman quite incapable of doing any work, who could only creep about.
Afiong tried her best to help her, and cooked her food, and brought water and
firewood for the old woman. The old creature was very grateful for these
attentions, and soon became quite fond of Afiong.
One day the old woman
told Afiong that she was very sorry for her, but all the people in the spirit
land were cannibals, and when they heard there was a human being in their
country, they would come down and kill her and eat her. The skull’s mother then
hid Afiong, and as she had looked after her so well, she promised she would
send her back to her country as soon as possible, providing that she promised
for the future to obey her parents. This Afiong readily consented to do. Then
the old woman sent for the spider, who was a very clever hairdresser, and made
him dress Afiong’s hair in the latest fashion. She also presented her with
anklets and other things on account of her kindness. She then made a Ju Ju and
called the winds to come and convey Afiong to her home. At first a violent
tornado came, with thunder, lightning and rain, but the skull’s mother sent him
away as unsuitable. The next wind to come was a gentle breeze, so she told the
breeze to carry Afiong to her mother’s house, and said good-bye to her. Very
soon afterwards the breeze deposited Afiong outside her home, and left her
When the parents saw
their daughter they were very glad, as they had for some months given her up as
lost. The father spread soft animals’ skins on the ground from where his
daughter was standing all the way to the house, so that her feet should not be
soiled. Afiong then walked to the house and her father called all the young
girls who belonged to Afiong’s company to come and dance, and the feasting and
dancing was kept up for eight days and nights. When the rejoicing was over, the
father reported what had happened to the head chief of the town. The chief then
passed a law that parents should never allow their daughters to marry strangers
who came from a far country. Then the father told his daughter to marry a friend
of his, and she willingly consented, and lived with him for many years, and had
many children.

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