Khodumodumo

Variations: Kholomodumo, Modumo o Moholo, Khamapa, Kammapa, Khanyapa

Khodumodumo

The swallowing monster of the Basuto people of South Africa and Lesotho is called Khodumodumo. The name of Khodumodumo is an archaic Sesotho term, most likely meaning “great noise”, although Hichens refers to the “gaping-mouthed bush monster”. Modern Sesotho often makes it into kholomodumo. Its synonym and possible ancestor is Kammapa, a giant river python. Khodumodumo’s amorphous appearance is undefined, and it is vast in size. It has multiple sharp tongues which it uses as weapons.

Once Khodumodumo went about swallowing every living thing in its path, man and beast alike, lumbering through towns and villages and engulfing their inhabitants. Only one pregnant woman survived, as she had been hiding on a manure heap, and the ashes masked her appearance and scent. Eventually the bloated Khodumodumo dragged itself off and wedged its massive body in a mountain pass.

Eventually the woman gave birth to a baby boy, and went off to fetch some manure powder to lie on, as tradition dictates. She returned to find her son fully grown, dressed in skins, with divining beads around his neck, and armed with assagais. “Where is my son?” she asked, marveling at the heroic figure in front of her. “I am your son, Senkatana”, he said. “Mother, where is the rest of the village?” “Alas, Khodumodumo ate them all”, she lamented. “And the cattle?” “The cattle too”. “And the dogs?” “The dogs too”. “And the poultry?” “The poultry too”.

Senkatana demanded that his mother show him where the beast had gone to. “See the big hill in the pass?” she said. “That is Khodumodumo”. Despite his mother’s warnings, Senkatana went to face Khodumodumo alone. When it saw him, it opened its mouth wide and tried to spear him with its tongues, but Senkatana chopped them off one by one. He circled around the beast, which was too fat to turn around and face him, and stabbed it with his assagais until it was dead.

He then started to cut open Khodumodumo, but had to avoid cutting the people imprisoned inside. His first cut accidentally injured a man, and then he had to avoid stabbing a cow, a goat, a dog, and a hen before he could finally release Khodumodumo’s victims. Senkatana then went on to become a great chief, but the man he had inadvertently stabbed continued to bear a grudge. The resentful man and others jealous of the hero attempted to assassinate him multiple times, until Senkatana, weary of the hatred of mankind, allowed himself to be killed.

References

Hichens, W. (1937) African Mystery Beasts. Discovery (Dec): 369-373.

Jacottet, E. (1888) Légendes et contes Bassoutos. Revue des Traditions Populaires, v. 3, Maisonneuve et Ch. Leclerc, Paris.

Werner, A. (1968) Myths and legends of the Bantu. Frank Cass and Co. Ltd., London.

Isiququmadevu

Variations: Usiququmadevu (flattering); Isikqukqumadevu, Usikqukqumadevu; Unomabunge; O’gaul’-iminga; O-nsiba-zimakqembe

Isiququmadevu

When Untombinde, the king’s daughter, set out for the mythical Ilulange River, she took with her two hundred maidens to be her escorts. She was determined to bathe in one of its pools despite her parents’ warnings of dire consequences. Once there, she and her handmaidens undressed and played in the water, but when they came back out their clothes, their beautiful bracelets and jewels and finery were all gone. Isiququmadevu had taken them.

Isiququmadevu, “Smelly Whiskers”, is a mountainous “swallowing monster” from Bantu and Zulu folklore. She is bearded, bloated, hairless, and squatting, with an enormous mouth capable of engulfing entire villages. Other clues as to her appearance are given in her many epithets, which include Unomabunge (“Mother of Beetles”), O’gaul’-iminga (“Feller of Lofty Thorn-trees”), and O-nsiba-zimakqembe (“She Whose Feathers are Long and Broad”).

Naturally the royal cortège was mortified, and entreated the isiququmadevu to return their belongings. “Untombinde, the king’s daughter, brought us here, she is to blame”. One by one they recuperated their effects, until Untombinde was left. “Beseech Usiququmadevu”, they told her, using a more personal and flattering name for the monster. But Untombinde – perhaps miffed by her companions’ accusations – refused. “I am the king’s daughter”, she said haughtily, “and I will never entreat the isiququmadevu”. Whereupon the monster seized her and took her into the pool.

King Usikulumi despaired for his daughter, fearing she was lost forever, and ordered his troops to slay the isiququmadevu. But the monster hauled herself onto the bank, and swallowed the entire army in one gulp. She then followed their trail back to the village, and swallowed the men, the women, the children, the dogs, the cattle, every living thing she found there.

Among her victims were two adorable twin children whose father was the only villager who escaped the isiququmadevu’s attack. He resolved to kill the creature, arming himself with his assagai and following her back into the woods. First he met a herd of buffaloes. “Where has Usiququmadevu gone? She has taken my children”. Acknowledging his plight, the buffaloes told him he was on the right track with a “forward, forward!” Next he met some leopards and an elephant, who advised him to keep on going. Finally he found the isiququmadevu herself, replete and squatting. “I seek Usiququmadevu, who has taken my children!” he announced. “Forward, forward!” said the isiququmadevu, but the man was not as dimwitted as she had hoped, and he stabbed her with his spear until she died. Then all her victims climbed out, none the worse for wear, with Untombinde, defiant and proud, coming out last.

In another isiququmadevu story, it is Usitungusobenthle, a young woman who had been abducted by pigeons to be their queen, who brings about the creature’s demise. She returns to her village after escaping her captors only to find it empty, with the isiququmadevu sleeping nearby. She cut it open with a knife, and released all its victims.

Another princess, Uluthlazase, actually stood up to an isiququmadevu and tried to wrest her clothes from the monster. She held on so firmly that the isiququmadevu could not remove her, and the two fought each other to a stalemate. When it left to get assistance from other isiququmadevu, Uluthlazase collected her effects and wisely escaped.

References

Callaway, C. (1868) Nursery Tales, Traditions, and Histories of the Zulus. Trübner and Co., London.

Koopman, A. (2002) Zulu Names. University of Natal.

Werner, A. (1968) Myths and legends of the Bantu. Frank Cass and Co. Ltd., London.

Devouring Gourd

Variations: Devouring Pumpkin; Sala Fruit (possibly)

Swallowing Gourd final

Not all swallowing monsters are animals. In Bantu folklore, gourds and pumpkins have the potential to grow into vast, devouring creatures. Such plants usually grow where evil sorcerers or ogres were slain.

The devouring gourd of Usambara was discovered by a group of little boys at play. “Look at how big that gourd is getting!” said one of the boys. To their surprise, the gourd responded. “If you pluck me, I’ll pluck you!” it said. The boys ran home and told their mother, who refused to believe them. But their sisters insisted on seeing the large gourd, and when they were taken to it, they said as their brothers had, “Look at how big that gourd is getting!” This time the gourd did not respond, and the girls went home to complain about their brothers being liars.

As the gourd was not plucked, it continued to grow. Eventually it became the size of a house, uprooted itself, and went about swallowing everyone in the village. After consuming everyone within reach, it rolled into a lake.

Only one woman had survived the gourd’s rampage, and she was pregnant. When her son was born, they lived together in the ruins of the village. When the son got around to asking where his father was, his mother told him “He was swallowed by a gourd, which is now in the lake”. The son decided to avenge his father, and went out to the lake where he could see the gourd’s ears sticking out of the water, and he proceeded to taunt the vegetable. “Gourd, come out!” he yelled. “Gourd, come out!” Annoyed and enraged, the gourd hauled itself out of the lake, but the boy was ready for it, and fired a volley of arrows into it. The tenth arrow killed it, and it died with a roar that could be heard all the way to Vuga. The boy cut it open with a knife, released the villagers unharmed, and went on to become a great leader of his people.

Gourds are not the only plants that devour and kill people. Another carnivorous plant, a pumpkin, grew over the burial location of an evil shapeshifting porcupine. It repeated everything that was said to it, and when an axe was brought to destroy it, it proceeded to swallow everyone. The poisonous Sala fruits of the Ronga have arms and legs, and wield spears ands shields.

References

Knappert, J. (1977) Bantu myths and other tales. E. J. Brill, Leiden.

Werner, A. (1968) Myths and legends of the Bantu. Frank Cass and Co. Ltd., London.

Nunda

Variations: Nundá, Eater of People

Nunda

The cat of Sultan Majnún was unusually fierce. One day it killed a calf, but the Sultan dismissed the event, stating that “the cat is mine, and the calf is also mine”. Then the cat proceeded to kill and eat a goat, then a cow, a donkey, a horse, and a camel, with the good Sultan shrugging each time. “I will not kill it, let it even eat a man”. Sure enough, the cat killed a human child next, and followed up with a man.

By this time the creature had grown large and monstrous on its diet of flesh, and it left the town on its own. It hid in the undergrowth outside city, and feasted on anyone who passed by, human or animal. At night, it would sneak into the dark roads and abduct hapless wanderers. Sultan Majnún still refused to see the danger. “You all want me to kill this cat. It’s my cat and everything it eats is mine”. He refused to address any more complaints, and the population of the town slowly dwindled. Anyone and anything not locked up indoors was at risk.

Eventually, it would come to pass that Sultan Majnún went out to look at the countryside with six of his sons, whereupon the cat pounced on them and killed three of the sons. It was then that Sultan Majnún finally came to his senses. “That is no longer my cat”, he said firmly. “That is a Nunda, and it will eat even me if I give it the chance”. He sent his soldiers to kill the nunda, but it killed some of them and scattered the rest.

Sultan Majnún’s seventh son, having heard of the carnage, swore a solemn oath that he would slay the nunda. “I shall find the nunda who killed my brothers”, he told his mother as he set out alone with a spear and a knife.

The young prince was nothing if not zealous. The first vaguely intimidating creature he ran into was a large dog, which he promptly killed and dragged home. “Mamá, wee, niulága nundá mla wátu“, he sang triumphantly. “O mother, I have killed the nunda, eater of people”. But his mother shook her head sadly and said “My son, this is not he, the nunda, eater of people. The nunda is much larger”.

So the son set out again, and successively killed a civet, a larger civet, a zebra, a giraffe, a rhinoceros, and an elephant, bringing each one back in turn only to be corrected by his mother. In time, he gathered a small group of followers, and managed to piece together a description of the nunda: it was elephant-sized or larger, had small ears, was broad and not long, had two blotches like a civet, and had a thick tail.

Finally, the youth’s efforts paid off, and the nunda was found asleep in the shade of a grove of trees. That was clearly the nunda, as it fit his mother’s description of it perfectly, and did not resemble anything else he had killed so far. He and his slaves fired their guns into the nunda at close range, but did not hang around for fear that it was still alive. Instead they slept through the night, and checked on it in the morning. The huge cat was undeniably dead.

The beast was dragged back to the city in triumph, and the prince sang of his victory, to which his mother chanted back “Mwanangu, ndiyeye nundá mla watu. My son, this is he, the nunda, eater of people”. The nunda’s carcass was buried, a house was built on top of it, and a guard was placed at the house.

This is but one tale of the insatiable nunda. It is another “swallowing monster”, and sometimes it swallows up the entire populace except for one hero. The hero kills the nunda and cuts it open, releasing the victims unharmed.

References

Steere, E. (1870) Swahili Tales. Bell & Daldy, London.

Dodo

Variations: Kadindi, Kaddodi, Kadda, Swallower-of-Men

Dodo

The Dodo is a monstrous humanoid creature from the folklore of the Hausa people. He can be found lurking in the deep forests and swamps of sub-Saharan West Africa, with a range including Sudan, Ghana, Nigeria, and the Côte d’Ivoire. The dodo has nothing in common with the extinct flightless bird of the same name, and probably was derived from tales of giant snakes.

Not much is known about a dodo’s appearance. He – for the dodo is always male – is the King of Beasts, and can just as easily be the lion, the python, the elephant, or the rhinoceros. A dodo is humanoid in appearance and large in size, as he has to stoop to get through doors. He has long, shaggy black hair. He has a keen sense of smell, and can detect meat from far away. He has some degree of magic powers, but cannot cross running water (paradoxically, dodos also live in ponds and streams). Most importantly, the dodo has a vast mouth glowing red from the inside, a seemingly infinite stomach capacity, and a taste for human flesh. As one of the African “swallowing monsters”, a dodo can easily engulf an entire village.

A dodo is often a self-invited guest, eating more and more until there is nothing left. This is not always a bad thing. Once a miser and his son were preparing to butcher a freshly-slaughtered ox in the forest, far from prying eyes. They decided to cook it in a nearby fire – a fire which turned out to be a dodo’s glowing, cavernous mouth.

“Well well”, said the dodo. “Who has invited me?” The miser, hoping to placate him, said “I did!” and gave him a leg of beef, which the dodo put away in his bag. “Does a man invite a friend to a feast for such a small morsel?” said the dodo. In response, the miser gave him another leg. “Does a man invite a friend to a feast for such a small morsel?” The next two legs followed, then half the bull, then the remainder of the bull. “Does a man invite a friend to a feast for such a small morsel?” “But there is nothing left!” protested the man. “You are also meat”, came the response. Terrified, the miser shoved his son forward, and the dodo tossed him into his bag. Finally, he grabbed the miser himself. “What about you?” he said, throwing him into his bag as well. The dodo went to collect firewood, but in the meantime the father and son managed to cut their way out of the bag and made their escape. The dodo returned, shrugged, and got a meal of roast beef. The miser vowed he would never be greedy again, and devoted the rest of his life to sharing his food and wealth with others.

While dodos readily eat meat, they are also fond of taking human women as their wives, sometimes fathering repulsive half-dodo children with them. Dodos like to strike bargains with prospective spouses, promising to help them for the price of marriage; sometimes those “bargains” are more straightforward, consisting of “Would you like me to eat you or marry you?” Such unions are never happy, and the wife will always try to escape her captor.

One dodo story tells of a young woman, pregnant with her first child, drawing water from a stream. Another woman, jealous of her companion and looking to get her scolded, threw dirt in her pot before leaving. But as the pregnant woman tried to carry her water pot, a dodo came out of the water and helped her with her load. Before she could protest, he stated “If you give birth to a boy, he will be my friend. If your child is a girl, she will be my wife”. And with that, he disappeared back into the water.

The mother soon gave birth, and her jealous rival was prompt to report the news to the dodo. “She gave birth to a girl”, she announced, and the dodo was immensely pleased. He was content to wait over the years, until the girl had become a woman as beautiful as her mother. On the day of the girl’s wedding, the jealous woman once more reported the news to the dodo, and he decided to show up uninvited.

“Kadindi has arrived”, he boomed, as everyone stared at him. “I have come to collect the payment I am due”. The daughter was obviously unhappy about marrying the monster, so instead her father gave the dodo a horse, part of the bride’s dowry. “Here is the payment for your debt”, he said, and the dodo swallowed the horse. But that was not enough. Next he ate all of the cattle, all of the wedding feast, all of the guests, and finally the father and mother. There was only the daughter left, and in desperation she prayed to the heavens. “Dodo has come to demand payment”, she implored. In response to her prayer, a knife fell out of the sky, and it was promptly swallowed as well – killing the dodo, cutting open his belly, and causing all the livestock, food, guests, and parents to come out unharmed. The wedding went on as planned.

References

Tremearne, A. J. N. (1913) Hausa Superstitions and Customs. J. Bale and Sons and Danielsson, Ltd., London.

Mbielu-mbielu-mbielu

Mbielu3

The Mbielu-mbielu-mbielu, or “animal with planks growing out of its back”, is a little-known creature restricted to the Likouala-aux-Herbes in the Congo.

It has only ever been seen in the water with only its back protruding, exposing large “planks” with algal growth between them. What it looks like underwater remains unknown. The mbielu-mbielu-mbielu does not show any aggressive behavior and is presumably herbivorous.

Mbielu3 sketch

The suggestion that it is a late-surviving stegosaur is dubious at best, considering that stegosaurs went extinct long before the end of the Cretaceous (with the possible exception of the disputable Dravidosaurus).

References

Mackal, R. (1987) A living dinosaur? E. J. Brill, New York.

Weishampel, D. B.; Dodson, P.; and Osmolska, H. (2004) The Dinosauria, 2nd Edition. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Umutwa

Variations: Abatwa (pl., often used as singular), Chitowe, Katsumbakazi, Maithoachiana, Mkonyingo, Mumbonelekwapi, Wabilikimo

Umutwa

First contact between different people is never easy. Sometimes one group ends up exaggerated, romanticized, altered until they are virtually unrecognizable. It was this process that turned Saracens into malevolent mountain goblins, and which caused the San bushmen to shrink to near-microscopic size in Zulu folklore, resulting in the Abatwa. The term is still used in Zulu to refer to bushmen, and some identify as Abatwa, but the Abatwa of folklore are supernatural and unmistakeable.

The Abatwa, Umutwa in the singular, are the smallest of all fairies. They live in the rugged uplands, where they use blades of grass as shelters and sleep in anthills. Abatwa have no fixed village apart from their bivouacs in the anthills. The only times they are sedentary are when they kill game; even then they stay around the carcass only as long as it takes to fully consume it. Sometimes the Abatwa ride horses in search of game. In such cases, dozens of the tiny warriors sit atop one horse, in a line from head to tail. If their hunt is unsuccessful, they do the next best thing and eat the horse.

Despite their size, they are deadly hunters, armed with poisoned arrows that can kill even elephants. Being stalked and killed by Abatwa is a nightmare, as you face foes too small to see; they are like driver ants, or puff adders, virtually invisible, yet disproportionately deadly. However, they are also self-conscious about being tiny, to the point of being very touchy about it. This insecurity is outweighed by an enormous ego. Abatwa are vulnerable to flattery.

When one meets an Umutwa and hails him with the traditional Sa-ku-bona (“I have seen you”), the Umutwa is immediately suspicious. “Where did you see me?” If you answer “I haven’t seen you before”, “Just now”, or words to that effect, the Umutwa, furious about this slight on his size, will immediately draw his bow and shoot you dead.

Clearly a more diplomatic approach is in order. Creativity is vital here, as is exaggeration and, above all, sincere delivery. “I last saw you on my way here. See that mountain on the horizon? I was on top of it when I saw you, I couldn’t mistake you for anyone else”. Then the Umutwa smiles with pride, secure in the knowledge that despite being tiny, he is still a towering and respected figure.

The motif of tiny warriors with height insecurity is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa. All of these creatures, associated with different cultures, can be dealt with in the same way as the Abatwa, and respond negatively (and lethally) to going unnoticed.

If you flatter the Katsumbakazi of the Giryama, something lucky will happen to you.

The Maithoachiana of the Akikyu in Dagoreti are a cannibal race that are rich and skilled in metalworking.

The Wabilikimo of the Swahili live four days’ journey from Chaga, and are only twice the length from the middle finger to the elbow.

The Itowe (singular Chitowe) of the Machinga Yao rob gardens, rot pumpkins, turn fruits bitter, and leave footprints everywhere. Putting some of your crops at cross-roads will help placate them. They are like men but run on all fours. The related Mumbonelekwapi have long beards.

The Wakonyingo (singular Mkonyingo) of the Wachaga have enormous, misshapen heads and hide on Mount Kilimanjaro; none are bigger than a little boy. They have ladders that reach into the sky. They never lie down but lean against a wall, as getting up is hard with their top-heavy build. Wakonyingo take pity on people in trouble and will help them if they are lost. They leave bits of meat when sacrificing to their ancestors; the meat rolls down the mountain and turns into white-necked ravens. They are somewhat less touchy than the others mentioned, but can still exact terrible vengeance.

References

Ananikian, M. H. and Werner, A. (1964) The Mythology of All Races v. VII: Armenian and African. Cooper Square Publishers, New York.

Callaway, C. (1868) Nursery Tales, Traditions, and Histories of the Zulus. Trübner and Co., London.