The Orphan Boy and the Magic Stone: An Efik Folktale

Cross River State Nigeria - Folkli
General Location: Cross River State / Map data ©2018 Google

This Efik folktale tells the tale of Ayong Kita and his struggle to reclaim his rightful inheritance.  

A chief of Inde named Inkita had a son named Ayong Kita, whose mother had died at his birth. The old chief was a hunter, and used to take his son out with him when he went into the bush. He used to do most of his hunting in the long grass which grows over nearly all the Inde country, and used to kill plenty of bushbuck in the dry season.

In those days the people had no guns, so the chief had to shoot everything he got with his bow and arrows, which required a lot of skill.

When his little son was old enough, he gave him a small bow and some small arrows, and taught him how to shoot. The little boy was a quick learner, and by continually practising at lizards and small birds soon became expert in the use of his little bow, and could hit them almost every time he shot at them.

When the boy was ten years old his father died, and as he thus became the head of his father’s house. He had full authority over all the slaves, who soon became very discontented, and made plans to kill him. So he ran away into the bush.

Having nothing to eat, he lived for several days on the nuts which fell from the palm trees. He was too young to kill any large animals, and only had his small bow and arrows, with which he killed a few squirrels, bush rats, and small birds. And so he managed to live.

Once at night, while sleeping in the hollow of a tree, he had a dream in which his father appeared and told him about a treasure buried in the earth. But, being a small boy, he was frightened and did not seek the place.

One day, sometime after the dream, having walked far and being very thirsty, he went to a lake, and was just going to drink, when he heard a hissing sound, and heard a voice tell him not to drink. Not seeing anyone, he was afraid, and ran away without drinking.

The next morning, when he was out with his bow trying to shoot some small animal, he met an old woman with quite long hair. She was so ugly that he thought she must be a witch. He tried to run, but she told him not to fear, as she wanted to help him rule over his late father’s house. She also told him that it was she who had called out to him at the lake not to drink, as there was a bad Ju Ju in the water which would have killed him.

The old woman took Ayong to a stream some little distance from the lake, and bending down, took out a small shining stone from the water, which she gave to him, telling him to go to the place which his father had shown him in his dream.

She then said, “When you get there you must dig, and you will find plenty of money. Take it and buy two strong slaves to build you a house with several rooms somewhere in the forest, away from the town, Place the stone in one of the rooms, and whenever you want anything, tell the stone. Your wishes will at once be gratified.”

Ayong did as the old woman told him, and after much difficulty and danger bought the two slaves and built a house in the forest, taking great care of the precious stone, which he placed in an inside room. For some time, whenever he wanted anything, he used to go into the room and ask for a sufficient number of rods to buy what he wanted, and they were always brought at once.

This went on for many years, and Ayong grew up to be a very rich man who bought many slaves, having made friends with the Aro men [editor’s note: big local slave traders].

After ten years Ayong had quite a large town and many slaves, and one night the old woman appeared to him in a dream. She told him that he was sufficiently wealthy and that it was time for him to return the magic stone to the small stream from whence it came.

But Ayong, although he was rich, wanted to rule his father’s house and be a head chief for all the Inde country, so he sent for all the Ju Ju men in the country and two witch-men, and marched with all his slaves to his father’s town. He held a big palaver and told them to point out any slave who might kill him when he came to rule the country.

Then the Ju Ju men consulted together, and pointed out fifty of the slaves who, they said, were witches, and would try to kill Ayong. He at once had them captured, and tried them by the ordeal of Esere bean1)The Esere or Calabar bean is a strong poison. These beans are ground up in a stone mortar, and are then swallowed by the accused person. If the man dies he is considered guilty, but if he lives, he is supposed to have proved his innocence. Death generally ensues about two hours after the poison is administered. If the accused takes a sufficient amount of the ground-up beans to make him vomit it will probably save his life, otherwise he will die in great pain. to see whether they were witches or not. As none of them could vomit the beans they all died, and were declared to be witches. He then had them buried at once.

When the remainder of his slaves saw what had happened, they all came to him and begged his pardon, and promised to serve him faithfully.

Although the fifty men were buried they could not rest, and troubled Ayong very much. After a time he became very sick, so he sent again for the Ju Ju men. They told him that it was the witch-men who, although they were dead and buried, had the power to come out at night and suck Ayong’s blood, which was the cause of his sickness.

They then said, “We are only three Ju Ju men; you must get seven more of us, making the magic number of ten.”  He did so, and they came and dug up the bodies of the fifty witches, which they found were quite fresh. Ayong then burned them one after the other. He soon recovered and took possession of his father’s property; ruling over all the country.

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Notes   [ + ]

1. The Esere or Calabar bean is a strong poison. These beans are ground up in a stone mortar, and are then swallowed by the accused person. If the man dies he is considered guilty, but if he lives, he is supposed to have proved his innocence. Death generally ensues about two hours after the poison is administered. If the accused takes a sufficient amount of the ground-up beans to make him vomit it will probably save his life, otherwise he will die in great pain.

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