Native Fairy Tales of South Africa | Annotated Tale

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Childless Woman, The

IN THE days when the world was fresh from the Creator's hand, there lived a woman who had no children. Because of this she grieved much and wept in secret, for her husband had ceased to love her, while the other women of the village mocked and pointed their fingers at her as she passed.

                One day when she was seated at the door of her hut, two pigeons flew in and scattered the ashes of the fire over the floor, calling to one another, "Vukutu, Vukutu."

                "They also come to mock me," said the woman, "because I have no child to scatter the ashes."

                And she bent her head and wept anew.

                Then one of the pigeons came to her, saying, "Make a wound in your breast, and let the blood from the wound fall into this pot. Cover it over, and there let it be for nine months; but when the ninth moon is at the full, take off the cover and in the pot you will find a child."

                The woman did as the pigeon had commanded, and for nine long months she guarded the pot which stood in a corner of the hut, wondering and turning over in her heart the words which the pigeon had spoken.

                When the ninth moon hung a great golden ball in the heavens, she knelt before the pot and lifted the cover, and there within lay a beautiful man-child, stronger and fairer than any babe born within the kraal.

                While she knelt, the woman heard a sudden fluttering of wings, and through the door of the hut there flew in a pigeon.

                "Wrap your child in blankets," it said; "wrap him up well, and keep him hidden from sight that the other women may not see him."

                Then the bird flew out into the moonlight, and there came another, saying, "Give your son food enough for a man that he may grow quickly."

                So the woman wrapped the child in blankets and took him to the back of the hut, that none who passed might see him. She gave him food enough for a man, as the pigeon had said; and lo! before the sun set on the next day he had grown from a helpless babe to a youth, tall and lissom as a sapling.

                When darkness fell the woman lit a fire in her hut, and again covered her son with blankets, bidding him lie still lest he should be seen.

                That night her husband returned from a hunting expedition. He was weary, and sat down to rest while she made ready his supper, nor did he perceive the boy who was hidden at the back of the hut.

                When the woman had served her husband she took a portion and set it before her son, saying, "Eat this, my child."

                "Whose child is this?" asked the man. "To whom are you giving meat?"

                "To my son," answered the woman.

                "But you have no son," he exclaimed.

                "Nay, but I have," said she. "The pigeons told me to draw blood from my breast, and let it lie in a pot until it grew to be a child. I listened to their wisdom, and behold, here is my son."

                The man was overjoyed, and the woman rejoiced because her reproach had been taken from her. They lived together in peace and happiness until the end of their days.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Childless Woman, The
Tale Author/Editor: McPherson, Ethel L.
Book Title: Native Fairy Tales of South Africa
Book Author/Editor: McPherson, Ethel L.
Publisher: Harrap
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1919
Country of Origin: South Africa
Classification: unclassified

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