Usilosimapundu

Variations: Ugungqu-kubantwana, Ugunqu-kubantwana

Usilosimapundu

Usilosimapundu, “the rugose beast” or “the nodulated beast”, is a creature of superlatives. There are hills and mountains on his vast body, with rivers on one side, highlands on another, forests on the next, highlands and cliffs on other sides; he is so large that it is winter on one side of him and summer on the other. Two enormous trees, the Imidoni, serve as Usilosimapundu’s officers and servants. Usilosimapundu’s head is a huge rock, with eyes and a broad red mouth. He is a swallower, like many oversized African creatures, but also a force of nature, a personification of landslides and earthquakes.

The sorceress-princess Umkxakaza-wakogingqwayo (“Rattler of weapons of the place of the rolling of the slain”) was promised a great many cattle by her father the king, and the land was scoured for the finest livestock available. Unfortunately the very best cattle proved to be the property of Usilosimapundu. “Take them now”, he warned the soldiers, “but do not expect to get away with it”.

Umkxakaza was greatly pleased by her gift, and Usilosimapundu’s threat was forgotten as the years went by. That is, until the day the earth shook, and Usilosimapundu came to Umkxakaza’s doorstep. Two leaves detached from the Imidoni and took human form before heading for Umkxakaza and ordering her to do their bidding. They forced her to help prepare food for Usilosimapundu to eat – and eat he did, swallowing up everything in town. Finally Usilosimapundu had Umkxakaza climb onto his back, and he lumbered away with his trophy.

Of course, Umkxakaza’s father sent his armies to retrieve his daughter, but what good were the weapons of man against a living continent? Their spears landed in rocks, grass, ponds, trees – none of them had any effect on Usilosimapundu. Umkxakaza’s mother was the only one who continued to follow Usilosimapundu, and the beast obligingly gave her maize and sugarcane to eat while she hurried behind him, but eventually even the queen had to give up. She kissed Umkxakaza, weeping, bidding her to go in peace.

Usilosimapundu dropped Umkxakaza off in a fully furnished cave. “Your father spoiled me by taking my cattle”, he said, “so now I have spoiled him. He will never see you again”. With that Usilosimapundu left and was not seen again.

That was far from the end of Umkxakaza’s adventures, as she was abducted by the Amadhlungundhlebe half-men who fattened her up for eating. She escaped those new captors by summoning a storm, and made her way back to her father’s town, where she was greeted with joy and celebration.

Usilosimapundu has a female counterpart in Ugungqu-kubantwana, the mother of animals. Her name refers to the sound she makes when moving – gungqu, gungqu – rather like that made by a heavy wagon on a bumpy road.

References

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

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.