Mwindo in the Underworld

Published: 19th September 2014 06:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th September 2014 06:25 AM   |  A+A-

Mwindo chased his father down to the Underworld where he was hiding. He will battle death, if need be…

Mwindo made his way to Muisa, the god of the Underworld and found him seated on a stool — he was an old man with a long, white beard. “Greetings, Mwindo! Whatever brings you here, my boy? Don’t you know that none who enter here ever return alive?” asked Muisa, who sat calmly smoking a clay pipe.

“Greetings, my lord! I have come here to find my father,” replied Mwindo boldly for he was afraid of no one.

“No, no, no!” said the old man, shaking his head. “Didn’t you hear what I said? No one returns from here — neither you nor your father.”

Mythology.jpg “But I’m not afraid. I intend to find my father and return alive. Haven’t you heard about me?” laughed Mwindo, shaking his magic conga.

“Hmmm… We shall see about that,” said Muisa, blowing his pipe and looking hard at the boy. “Anyway, you’ve travelled far to get here. Have a seat and drink some banana beer. You must be thirsty.”

“No, thank you sir. But I will not,” replied Mwindo, remembering Kahindo’s advise. Kahindo, if you remember, was Muisa’s daughter, whom he met at the entrance.

“Shall it be some gruel then?’’ persisted the old man. “No, thank you again,” said Mwindo.

What a clever boy, thought Muisa. “All right then, go rest tonight. Tomorrow you shall be given some tasks to do. If you complete them, you can return to your land with your father.”

Mwindo went to Kahindo’s home that night and returned at dawn to Muisa’s chambers. Muisa gave him a knife, an axe and some banana shoots. “Plant these and make a banana grove. By evening, you have to bring me ripe bananas from that grove. Then you can take your father.”

UNDERWORLD.jpgThe boy accepted the challenge and made his way to the forest where he was to make the grove. Once there, he waved his magic flywhisk over the knife three times. “You’ve rested enough. Now get to work and clear all the underbrush among the trees.” The knife magically made its way between the trees and cleaned up the area. Mwindo turned to the axe next. “You! You’ve rested enough too. Go do your work!” He waved his conga over the axe which promptly jumped up and cut down all the trees in a jiffy!  Next he waved his conga over the banana shoots which at once stood up and planted themselves.

As Mwindo rested under a shady tree, the banana shoots grew, flowered and bore fruit, which ripened by the end of the day. Then the knife magically went up and cut all the bananas. Mwindo returned to Muisa at sunset with the ripened fruit.

But the old man was not finished yet, for he pointed to a tree in the distance and said, “Mwindo, see that tree over there? Tomorrow morning, go there and extract the honey  from it. Then you can take your father back.”

Next day, Muisa gave the boy a torch, an axe and a calabash to collect the honey. Mwindo set out cheerfully as usual. When he came upon the tree, he torched it to rid it of the bees. Then he tried to axe the tree but it didn’t yield. Muisa is up to tricks again, thought Mwindo. He decided to seek help from his new friend Nkuba, the lightning. Nkuba sent down a rod of lightning that smote the tree and split it into pieces. Mwindo easily collected the honey in the calabash and went to Muisa.

“You’re a clever boy! I’m so pleased with you! Here, take this!” said Muisa and threw a belt of cowrie shells at him. The belt wrapped itself around Mwindo and suffocated him. Mwindo’s eyes popped out and he couldn’t breathe. The belt tightened around his neck and he fell down dead!

Up in the land of the living, Iyangura, Mwindo’s aunt, who sat holding his birth rope, found the rope becoming still. “Oh God! Is the boy dead?” she cried out. Down in the Underworld, Muisa laughed triumphantly. “Haha! This boy thought he was so clever! And now he lies dead!” All of a sudden, the magic flywhisk, the conga, which lay beside the boy, rose up and began to beat the belt of cowrie shells. The belt unwound itself from around Mwindo’s neck and dropped away. The conga then began to beat the boy who lay very still. Wake up master, it seemed to say as it beat Mwindo on his head. Slowly, Mwindo sneezed and his eyes opened. And there he was, back on his feet again!

“So you think you can finish me off?” shouted Mwindo. “You make me grow bananas, collect honey and yet I’m not allowed to find my father. Now you think you can finish me off?” Mwindo took the belt with which Muisa had strangled him and returned the favour. The belt tightened around Muisa’s neck and he dropped dead. At that point Kahindo, Muisa’s daughter, came there and saw her father lying dead and began to weep. “How could you kill my father, Mwindo? You come to take your father home and kill mine!” Mwindo remembered her kindness and felt sad for her. He swatted his conga on Muisa’s head once, twice and thrice. Muisa woke up as if from sleep. He was impressed with Mwindo — his generosity, his bravery and his kindness. “You’re a good boy, Mwindo! Take your father and leave.”

Mwindo soon caught up with Shemwindo, his father. He held him and pinned him to the ground. Shemwindo was quivering with fear. “Are you going to kill me now?” he asked.

Mwindo smiled. “I don’t hold grudges. Come, let us return to Tubondo.” Together they went back to the land of the living where Iyangura was waiting. Mwindo revived his uncles and the other men in the village with his conga. Everyone was happy — even Shemwindo. “You make me proud, my son! From today, you shall rule this kingdom!” said Shemwindo. Amid great rejoicing, Mwindo, the boy wonder was crowned chief.


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