THE LOCUSTS

STANDING all alone in the middle of a great plain is Mount Elgon. Long ago Mount Elgon was a volcano, and there is a crater on the top which is eight miles across.

Once upon a time a mischievous young wizard lived on Mount Elgon, and he stirred up the fire in the crater until the flames blazed up to the sky, and when the people who lived in the plains below were frightened and ran away the wizard threw great rocks after them; some of the rocks were as big as houses. You can see them lying about on the plains to this day.

But as the wizard grew older he grew kinder, and left off throwing stones and let the fire die down in the crater till there was just a little left which puffed like a steam engine sometimes, but did no harm; and the people returned to the mountain and climbed up its beautiful green slopes and built houses and planted gardens and were quite happy, and the wizard sat on the top and was happy too.

One day the people in Uganda heard a queer sound like a storm in the distance, and a great black cloud was moving swiftly along, but it did not seem like the usual storms.

They ran out of their houses to look, and the old men said: “This is no storm; it is a flight of locusts.”

Then the locusts settled down on the land and ate up everything. From province to province they went till there was nothing green left in the country.

When the wizard on Mount Elgon looked out over the land and saw how the locusts had spoiled it he was very angry, and he sent a hornet with a message to the wizard of the Sesse Islands telling him about it and said:

“If you will persuade the locusts to fly over the Great Lake I will raise a hurricane and blow them into the water.”

When the wizard of the Sesse Islands heard about the locusts he was very angry, too, and he sent the hornet back with a message telling the wizard to get his hurricane ready for the next morning.

Then he called all the fireflies together and said: “Go over to the mainland and sing to the locusts all night while they are resting on the ground and persuade them to cross the Lake.”

So the fireflies flew over at sunset, and all night they sang this song as they danced in and out of the shadows:

Over the water of sparkling blue,
Dancing in golden light,
Lie beautiful islands of every hue,
The Country of Heart’s Delight.

Deep, cool forests and crystal streams,
Fruit trees and fields of gold,
These are the islands of boyhood’s dreams,
Where no one ever grows old.

The locusts have no King to teach them wisdom, and they did not know how big the Lake was (for you could put Scotland into it), and they thought because they saw islands near the shore there would be more beautiful oneslying far out, so when they heard the fireflies’ song they decided to go to the Country of Heart’s Delight, and in the morning they rose up from the ground in bands and began to fly over the Lake.

Then the wizard from Mount Elgon hurled his hurricane upon them, and they were swept into the water and drowned, and millions and millions and millions of dead locusts were floating on the waters for days afterwards.

That is why the old people in Uganda still call the Lake the Locust-Killer, but the children learn to call it Lake Victoria, for that is its name on the map..

Hadithi? Hadithi? Hadithi njoo, Uongo njoo, Utamu kolea…

[there’s another story I know (reposted from http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/baskerville/king/king.html), that’s been collected from elders en fire circles in de country side of East Afrika, calling to be shared not only all ova our continent but maybe even more so in de diaspora. Fafanua….]

Hadithi ya WALUKAGA THE BLACKSMITH

Hapo zamani za kale there was a King in Uganda who was very cruel to his people, and they feared him very much. Every day he thought of new things to do which would distress and trouble them, until no man’s life was safe, and no one was happy, and all through the beautiful country, although the Sun shone every day and the birds sang, sorrow and misery were in every village.

One day, the King sent for Walukaga, the chief of the blacksmiths, and said to him: “I want you to do a piece of work for me as you are such a clever man. I want you to make a man at your forge, not an iron man, but a real one with flesh and blood, one that can walk and talk and do everything that a real man does.”
Walukaga bowed himself to the ground and went away very sad, for he saw that the King meant to kill him, for who but God can make a real man, and what blacksmith can make one at a forge? As he was going home, thinking sadly of these things, he met a madman, who greeted him with great joy.
Now this man had been a very great friend of Walukaga’s before he went mad, and the blacksmith had always been kind to him, so when he asked: “Why are you looking so sad?” Walukaga thought in his heart: “I have very few days to live; let me do a kindness while I can.” So he took the madman aside and told him all the King had said.The madman gave him some advice, and both of them went home. Walukaga thought over the madman’s words and then he went back to the King and asked for an audience. When the King saw him he laughed and said: “Have you made the man yet at your forge?”

Then Walukaga said bravely: “Sir, I have thought about it, and I have come to ask your help because this is a very difficult task, and I cannot do it alone; a special kind of charcoal is needed, it is made of human hair, and I want three large sacks of it!”

Then the King gave the order, and messengers went through all the country ordering the people to shave their heads and send their hair to Walukaga. But when it was burnt there was not enough charcoal to fill one sack.

Then Walukaga went again to the King and said: “Sir, before I can forge a man I must have water. But ordinary water will not do. I must have tears of men and women, for it takes many tears to make one human life. I want three water-pots full.”

Then the King sent messengers all through the country ordering the men and women to keep their tears, and send them to Walukaga the blacksmith, but though the land was full of sorrow and the people wept every day, there were only enough tears to fill one water-pot. Then Walukaga went to the King and bowed very low, and knelt before him and fell on his face and said: “Sir, you set me a hard task to do, and I asked you to help me in an easy way. If a great King cannot do a small thing, how shall a poor blacksmith do the work of the Creator?”

Then the King said: “Walukaga is right. The thing I gave him to do was impossible,” and he gave him a present and sent him away, and now in Uganda when a man is perplexed and does not know what to do in a great difficulty, his friends say: “Find a madman and ask his advice,” because this has become a proverb since the days of Walukaga the blacksmith.