AN INTERESTING AFRICAN FOLKTALE: “THE WOMAN, THE APE, AND THE CHILD”

OKUN ARCHIBONG was one
of King Archibong’s slaves, and lived on a farm near Calabar. He was a hunter,
and used to kill bush buck and other kinds of antelopes and many monkeys. The
skins he used to dry in the sun , and when they were properly cured, he used to
sell them in the market; the monkey skins were used for making drums, and the
antelope skins were used for sitting mats. The flesh, after it had been well
smoked over a wood fire, he also sold, but he did not make much money.
Okun Archibong married a
slave woman of Duke’s house named Nkoyo. He paid a small dowry to the Dukes,
took his wife home to his farm, and in the dry season time she had a son. About
four months after the birth of the child Nkoyo took him to the farm while her
husband was absent hunting. She placed the little boy under a shady tree and
went about her work, which was clearing the ground for the yams which would be
planted about two months before the rains. Every day while the mother was working
a big ape used to come from the forest and play with the little boy; he used to
hold him in his arms and carry him up a tree, and when Nkoyo had finished her
work, he used to bring the baby back to her. There was a hunter named Edem
Effiong who had for a long time been in love with Nkoyo, and had made advances
to her, but she would have nothing to do with him, as she was very fond of her
husband. When she had her little child Effiong Edem was very jealous, and
meeting her one day on the farm without her baby, he said: “Where is your
baby?” And she replied that a big ape had taken it up a tree and was
looking after it for her. When Effiong Edem saw that the ape was a big one, he
made up his mind to tell Nkoyo’s husband. The very next day he told Okun Archibong
that he had seen his wife in the forest with a big ape. At first Okun would not
believe this, but the hunter told him to come with him and he could see it with
his own eyes. Okun Archibong therefore made up his mind to kill the ape. The
next day he went with the other hunter to the farm and saw the ape up a tree
playing with his son, so he took very careful aim and shot the ape, but it was
not quite killed. It was so angry, and its strength was so great, that it tore
the child limb from limb and threw it to the ground.
This so enraged Okun
Archibong that seeing his wife standing near he shot her also. He then ran home
and told King Archibong what had taken place. This king was very brave and fond
of fighting, so as he knew that King Duke would be certain to make war upon
him, he immediately called in all his fighting men. When he was quite prepared
he sent a messenger to tell King Duke what had happened. Duke was very angry,
and sent the messenger back to King Archibong to say that he must send the hunter
to him, so that he could kill him in any way he pleased. This Archibong refused
to do, and said he would rather fight. Duke then got his men together, and both
sides met and fought in the market square. Thirty men were killed of Duke’s
men, and twenty were killed on Archibong’s side; there were also many wounded.
On the whole King Archibong had the best of the fighting, and drove King Duke
back. When the fighting was at its hottest the other chiefs sent out all the
Egbo men with drums and stopped the fight, and the next day the palaver was
tried in Egbo house. King Archibong was found guilty, and was ordered to pay
six thousand rods to King Duke. He refused to pay this amount to Duke , and
said he would rather go on fighting, but he did not mind paying the six
thousand rods to the town, as the Egbos had decided the case. They were about
to commence fighting again when the whole country rose up and said they would
not have any more fighting, as Archibong said to Duke that the woman’s death
was not really the fault of his slave Okun Archibong, but of Effiong Edem, who
made the false report. When Duke heard this he agreed to leave the whole matter
to the chiefs to decide, and Effiong Edem was called to take his place on the
stone. He was tried and found guilty, and two Egbos came out armed with cutting
whips and gave him two hundred lashes on his bare back, and then cut off his
head and sent it to Duke, who placed it before his Ju Ju. From that time to the
present all apes and monkeys have been frightened of human beings; and even of
little children. The Egbos also passed a law that a chief should not allow one
of his men slaves to marry a woman slave of another house, as it would probably
lead to fighting.

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