Palm-oil Daughter (An African story)
was once a very rich woman who lived in a country-side near a stream.
She had lots of palm oil trees; every week, she and her servant
collected the fruits from the trees, crushed out the oil and put
them in oil jars. When the market price for palm oil was high, she
sold it and made lots of money. But, though she was very wealthy,
the woman was not happy because she had no child. In the evenings,
while the young men and women danced in the moonlight, the woman
sat alone crying, ''Oh! How I wish I had a child!''
One morning, the woman
went to the market with her servant to sell a few pots of oil. As
soon as they had gone, a strange happened: some palm oil began to
flow out of the largest oil jar; the oil went straight up into the
air, and turned into a beautiful golden-brown girl.
She sang this song:
Palm oil flow, palm oil flow,
Mother needs firewood, who will go?
Who will fetch the water, sweep the floor,
Who'll watch the plates, pound the millet?
Come forth, maidens four, there's work for you all!
As she sang, four
other young girls like her gradually came out of four other jars.
''What shall we do
now, Manuba?'' they asked eagerly. Manuba sang her song again and
the four other oil girls immediately set out to work: they swept
and cleaned the floor, watched the dirty cloths and dishes, also
they dusted the chairs and pounded the millet. When they had finished,
all the four girls including Manuba went back into the oil-jars
they came out from.
When the woman and
her servant came back home, they were surprised to see all the housework
already done. At first, the woman asked her neighbours but they
all said they knew nothing about it. The same thing happened the
next day and the next. The woman did not know what to do.
After a few days,
the woman decided on what to do. She hid outside the door. When
she saw the girls and sighted Manuba singing, she quickly ran and
held her by the arm. The other girls quickly disappeared. Manuba
wanted to escape too, but, after much begging and pleading from
the old woman, at last, she decided to stay. But, however, she warned
the woman never to allow her go near the fire. The woman gladly
agreed to this.
For a few weeks, hey
lived happily together. But, the woman was foolish, she did not
allow Manuba do any work. Instead, she made her maid do it all.
This made the maid to be angry and she wasn't pleased.
Several weeks passed,
and the maid grew more and more angry with Manuba. ''Why should
I do all the work while she does nothing?' She continuously asked
herself. One day, the woman went out to her farm. When she saw that
the woman had gone, the maid called Manuba: ''Manuba, come here
and blow on the fire, or the meal won't be ready in time for supper.''
''Oh no!'' exclaimed Manuba. ''If I go near the fire, I shall melt
''Nonsense! You are just being lazy,'' shouted the maid, not believing
her. The servant caught Manuba and dragged her towards the fire.
Suddenly, Manuba began to melt, and she melted away before her very
eyes. Very frightened, the maid ran away.
In a nearby tree hung
a bird who had been watching all these while. It flew down and dipped
its tail in the oil on the floor where Manuba had melted, and flew
away to find Manuba's mother. Manuba's mother was working on the
farm when the bird suddenly flew down and sang this song:
Oil is spreading across
Manuba's mother, Manuba's mother.
Your lovely daughter is no more,
Manuba's mother, Manuba's mother.
To prove to you that my story is true,
I have dipped in my tail and now show it to you!
At first, the woman
refused to believe this, but when she saw the bird's tail, she quickly
dropped her things and ran home. But, it was too late. She found
only a dark wet, red stain across the floor. She never saw her lovely
daughter again !
Contributing Story Teller
Ms. NUO Nwando Obianyor is a teacher by Occupation at Kaduna,