Oral Literature. How God created Kamuriu similar to Himself

In the beginning, Nyambe, the creator of the world, lived on Earth with his wife Nasilele. At that time, the world was empty and deserted. There was only land surrounded by water.

After many, many years spent alone, walking alone, singing alone and eating alone, Nasilele became bored with her loneliness and, one day, said to Nyambe: “I feel very sad and always feel like crying. Please make this place a little more cheerful, populating it with living, cheerful and beautiful creatures to see.”

Nyambe loved Nasilele deeply and hastened to create the plants, the animals of the earth, the birds of the sky, the fish of the sea and the reptiles. “What you have made is very beautiful,” Nasilele said to him, looking around. “Are you happy? –  asked Nyambe to her. “I really would be”, she replied “if I had a creature next to me that looked more like us and that I could talk to.”

Nyambe was silent for a few moments. Then he said: “For your happiness, I am ready to do anything. But I must warn you: think twice before forcing my hand with this request of yours because when I have granted it, our days will be full of unhappiness and worry”.

Nasilele burst into tears. Then Nyambe was deeply moved and, though against his will, began to think about what he might give the new creature. “He must be similar to us,” insisted Nasilele. Then God created man and called him Kamuriu.

The man turned out to be a creature as intelligent as God himself. Whatever Nyambe did, he repeated it without ever making a mistake. If, for example, Nyambe cut a spoon out of a piece of wood, Kamuriu would make one the same. If God forged an object out of iron, man hastened to do the same. And when Nyambe built a hut, Kamuriu built one of the same size and shape.

All this made Nasilele immensely happy. Nyambe, on the other hand, was worried. Kamuriu’s ability to imitate him worried him: “Sooner or later”, he said to himself, “he will end up becoming our main adversary.” And he was not wrong.

One day, the man forged an iron bar, pinned one end to it, and threw it at a hare, killing it instantly. Kamuriu picked it up and ate it, finding its meat very tasty. The next day, he killed a gazelle, loaded it on his shoulders, and carried it home. Then he ran to Nyambe and Nasilele and, in a boastful tone, told them of his exploits.

Nasilele was very pleased. Nyambe, on the other hand, flew into a rage: “You have killed and eaten your brothers, your own parents’ children”, he shouted at him. “As punishment, you will be banished from our presence”.

Deeply offended, Kamuriu fled far from the presence of Nyambe and Nasilele and took refuge in a very secluded territory. It only took him a few days, however, to realize how weak he was and how incapable he was of doing things on his own: if he had turned out to be more intelligent than all the other beings, it was only due to his ability to imitate Nyambe. So, he said to himself: “I will return to God and ask his forgiveness.” And he departed.

Nyambe, however, was still very angry with the man and did not want to receive him. Desperate, Kamuriu turned to a messenger of God, who accompanied him to Nasilele. Nasilele, moved with compassion, managed to persuade her husband to take pity on Kamuriu. “I forgive you and allow you to still dwell with us”, Nyambe said to Kamuriu, “but from now on you shall cultivate the land and live off its fruits. You shall no longer kill other animals. Instead, you must take care of your brothers and sisters.” The man agreed and promised never again to kill a child of God.

Kamuriu’s field was very fertile and soon yielded abundant crops. One day, however, when the crops were ready to be harvested and gathered in the granary, an antelope entered the field and ate all the maize. Kamuriu was furious: he grabbed his spear, chased the animal, killed it and ate it.

Nyambe was immediately informed of the incident and summoned Kamuriu. This time, however, the man had a good excuse: “I know I did wrong,” he confessed, “but that animal destroyed my entire year’s work.” It was once again Nasilele who induced her husband to forgive Kamuriu.

A few days later, Kamuriu’s dog died and the man went to God to ask Him for a medicine that could bring his dog back to life. God said to him: “Of course, I can give you this powerful medicine, but on one condition: that you only use it to resurrect any animal you happen to kill.”

The proposal did not please Kamuriu, because he now had many enemies among the animals and he desired to kill them all. He refused the medicine and left, thinking that he could get another dog and train it after all.

When he got home, he was hungry and decided to make himself some porridge. He put the earthenware pot God had given him on the fire but made the mistake of putting too much wood on it and the pot broke. He tried to repair it but failed. He then went to Nyambe and said to him: “I do not know how to repair this pot. Could you show me?” God merely stared into his eyes, without saying a word.

God’s silence weighed on Kamuriu’s heart more than any punishment. “Tell me something”, the man pleaded, beat me if you want, but do not punish me with your silence.” It was all in vain as God said not a word.

Kamuriu returned home sad and went to bed without eating. Two days later, a strong wind destroyed his hut. He ran to Nyambe to tell him about it, but the latter shouted: “Get out of here! I never want to see your face again”.

Hungry and homeless, Kamuriu was back at Nyambe’s house the next morning. Seeing him approaching, God said to himself ‘I must leave this place, otherwise I will have no more peace.’ He entered the waters of a large river that flowed nearby and began to swim until he came to a small island far from the shore. Nasilele followed him.

As soon as he arrived, Nyambe summoned all the creatures who lived on the island and said to them: “Pay attention to what I tell you. Kamuriu is much more intelligent than all of you. Therefore, keep away from him, otherwise he will kill you.” At these words, the smaller and weaker creatures fled, seeking a place where they could not be reached by Kamuriu. The ferocious beasts, on the other hand, decided that they would confront him openly if he dared to kill another animal.

Unable to live far from Nyambe, the man swam to the small island and, taking care not to bother a ferocious beast, approached the two parents and sat silently by their side.

It was Nyambe who broke the silence: “Son, gather some wood and build a fire. I’m hungry and I want to make myself a cereal stew.” Although with some hesitation, Kamuriu obeyed: he lit the fire, filled a pot with water, poured a few handfuls of cereal into it, and sat down in silence.

When the water began to boil, Nyambe said to Kamuriu: “Here is a test for you: if you can remove the pot from the fire without burning yourself, I will appoint you chief of all the creatures of the earth.”

Kamuriu did not hesitate for a moment: he stood up, picked up two handfuls of dry grass, dipped them in the river water and removed the pot without scalding himself. Nyambe kept his promise and appointed Kamuriu chief of all creatures. He was, however, very impressed by the ease with which Kamuriu had passed the test and was afraid of the intelligence and power the man had now acquired.

That night, Nyambe could not sleep. A spider, seeing him awake, asked him: “What is it that troubles you, O my Lord?” God did not answer so the spider resumed, “Perhaps I could help you. It would be a great joy for me, your creature, to be of use to you. I promise that I will do my best.”

“If you really want to help me”, said God, “then you must swear to me that you will do exactly as I command, without question.”

The spider swore.

“Immediately”, God ordered, “weave a web to unite the earth with the sky. The spider immediately set to work. Before sunrise, the web was finished. Then Nyambe and Nasilele climbed it and ascended high above the clouds, where they made their home forever.” (Folktale from Ghana – Photo: Pixabay)

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