King of the Snakes, The: And Other Folk-Lore Stories from Uganda | Annotated Tale

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Story of Mpobe the Hunter, The

ONCE upon a time there lived a man called Mpobe; he was a hunter, and he had a dog which went hunting with him. The jungle is very thick in the Uganda forests, so Mpobe tied a little bell to his dog for fear he should lose it. When they had been hunting for some time, a little animal called a musu ran out of the jungle grass, and the dog gave chase, and Mpobe ran after the dog.

                On they went through the jungle, and it seemed as if the musu would never be caught. At last it ran into a hole and the dog followed it, and when Mpobe came up he found the hole looked like the entrance to a tunnel, and, as he heard the dog's bell tinkling far away, he ran into the hole and followed it. On and on they went in the dark, down into the Earth, and Mpobe ran on because he still heard the bell, and he wanted to catch the musu. All hunters in every country are like this; they do not like to go home and say they have killed nothing.

                Suddenly the tunnel came to an end, and Mpobe found himself in a country right down in the centre of the Earth. It was a beautiful country, with lovely gardens and trees and flowers and rivers, and flocks of sheep and goats and herds of cattle were grazing in the green fields. Still the musu ran on and the dog ran after it, and Mpobe followed them, looking from side to side as he ran, and wondering at all he saw. At last they came to a courtyard, and Mpobe followed them into it; the dog had not caught the musu. They were just resting quietly together in front of a very old man who sat all alone in the middle of the courtyard. Mpobe knelt down and greeted the old man, who said to him: "What are you doing here, and why have you come?"

                "Sir," said Mpobe, "I do not know where I am. This is my dog, and we were hunting this musu above in the jungle, and the musu ran into a hole and my dog followed it, and I followed the dog, and we arrived here."

                Then the old man said: "Do you know who I am? I am Walumbe, and when I go to the Earth and carry away people and cows and sheep and goats, I bring them all down here to my beautiful country of Death, but no one can go back again, and you and the musu and your dog must stay here for ever."

                Then Mpobe cried bitterly and implored Walumbe to allow him to return. "I will not stay long," he said. "I will come back soon, just let me go and say good-bye to my friends."

                Walumbe said: "I will let you go on one condition. You must tell nobody what you have seen or where you have been. If you will promise me to keep this secret, you may go back, but as sure as you tell it to anyone I will come for you, and then you must return here."

                Mpobe promised gladly, and the old man showed him the way back. When he got home his mother and his wife and his relations rejoiced very much, because he had been away three days and they thought he was lost in the jungle, and they asked him where he had been and what he had seen, and to all he answered the same. "I was hunting a musu and I lost my way." This went on for many days, and he would tell them nothing, so they got tired of asking him; but one day he was alone in the house with his old mother and she asked him again: "Mpobe, my child, tell me what you saw in the jungle"; and he said: "I cannot tell you, I promised I would keep it quite secret "; and his mother said: "Whom did you promise, my child? Cannot you tell your old mother a little about it?"

                Then Mpobe said: "Will you promise to tell no one if I tell you where I went and what I saw those three days in the jungle?" And the old woman said: "Whom should I tell, my child? Is not my heart yours?"

                Then Mpobe told her all about his hunting and the musu and the tunnel, and the wonderful country in the middle of the Earth, and the very old man who was Walumbe.

                That night, when everything was quiet and still, Mpobe heard a voice calling, "Mpobe! Mpobe!" And then he answered, and the voice said: "I am Walumbe; you have broken your promise, you must come with me, and this time there is no return." So they went away together into the jungle.

                In the morning when his friends found that Mpobe was gone they wondered if he was hunting again, but his old mother told them the story, and they all went into the jungle and looked for the tunnel which leads to Walumbe's country, but though they searched for it and many other people have searched for it since then, no one has ever found it, and no one has ever seen Walumbe when he visits the Earth.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Story of Mpobe the Hunter, The
Tale Author/Editor: Baskerville, Mrs. George (Rosetta)
Book Title: King of the Snakes, The: And Other Folk-Lore Stories from Uganda
Book Author/Editor: Baskerville, Mrs. George (Rosetta)
Publisher: The Macmillan Co.
Publication City: New York
Year of Publication: 1922
Country of Origin: Uganda
Classification: unclassified

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