The hero Makóma


9 min

Tale from Zaire, Africa.

In a village on the banks of the Zambezi River, a strange child was once born. When he emerged from his mother's womb, he had an iron hammer and a leather sack with him. He was also immediately able to speak and asked his parents to fetch the wise men of the village and then take him to the river. There was a particular place the boy wanted to get to, a ford that was dangerous to cross because there were always a lot of crocodiles there. The whole village came down to the river to see what would happen. They all cried out in terror as the children jumped into the water in the midst of the crocodiles. The water began to boil as if a huge battle was going on below the surface of the river. Suddenly the water turned red with blood and the water became still. The boy's parents and the villagers were sure that the child had been devoured by the crocodiles. But soon he came out of the water without a scratch on his skin. What was more strange, he had now turned into a young man, tall, broad-shouldered and handsome. "It was the blood of the crocodiles you saw," he explained. "I have now bathed in it and grown strong. I didn't have time to wait to grow up like a normal man. I have a great task to fulfill and must leave at once. You can henceforth call me Makóma – the greater one.”

Makóma slung his leather bag over his shoulder and took Nu-éndo, his hammer, in his hand. So he embraced his parents and said: “I know that the wilderness around your village is full of mighty monsters and that our people do not dare to spread out and find new land. I will challenge them all and make the wilderness free of all man and beast.”

So Makóma set off and crossed the Zambezi River. He wandered into the wilderness and continued his journey until he came to a place of high mountains. There stood a giant and made the mountains with his hands. "Were greeted!" Makóma said to the giant. "Who are you and what do you do?" "I am Chi-éswa-mapiri, he who builds mountains," answered the giant. "My name is Makóma, which means `bigger'." "Bigger than what?" wondered the giant. "Bigger than you!" answered Makóma. Then the giant rushed at him in fury, but Makóma swung his iron hammer and struck the giant so hard on the head that he shrank into a small dwarf. "You are indeed powerful!" said the giant, rubbing his head. “I swear to be your servant henceforth.” Makóma picked up the former giant and put him in his sack. Then he walked on with new healthy steps. The giant's strength had gone into Makóma's arm when he struck with the hammer, so now he was stronger than before.

After a few days, Makóma came to a place where a giant was digging long furrows in the ground with his fingers. "Good day," greeted Makóma. "Who are you and what do you do?" "I am Chi-dúbula-taka, he who makes riverbeds," answered the giant. "My name is Makóma, which means `bigger'." "Bigger than what?" wondered the giant. "Bigger than you!" answered Makóma. Then the giant became angry and rushed at him with his hands full of stones. But Makóma quickly stepped aside and lashed out at the giant with his mighty hammer. Immediately the giant shrunk to a dwarf. "You have defeated me and I promise to be your servant in the future," chirped the giant. Makóma put him in his sack and moved on, now with the strength of two giants in his arms.

Eventually Makóma came to a forest of thorn bushes. They were as tall as trees and Makóma had never seen anything like them. At the edge of the forest stood a giant planting thorn trees. "Greetings," Makóma called. “What kind of person are you?” "I am Chi-gwisa-miti, he who plants trees," rumbled the giant. "I would love to spar with you," said Makóma. The giant laughed and hurled some of the trees at the young man. But instead of being hit by them, Makóma ran up the trees and jumped from one to the other until he reached the giant. Then he hit the bastard in the skull with his hammer so that he became as small as a child. "I've never met someone like you!" said the giant. "I promise to serve you and be faithful to you."

With three giants in his sack and the strength of three giants in his body, Makóma wandered on until he came to a barren, rocky land with smoking volcanoes and poisonous gases in the air. A giant stood by a volcano and sucked in the fire that burned in the crater. “Good day to you,” Makóma called. "I've never seen anyone do that before! Who are you?" "I am Chin-ideamóto, the fire-eater and I can destroy everything that I see." "You still can't scratch me, because I'm Makóma - the bigger one. So bigger than you!” Then the giant breathed out a long flame of fire at the brave young man. But Makóma took a great leap towards his opponent and knocked him to the ground with the hammer. The cocky giant was pressed into a pout by the blow and looked at Makóma in horror. "I meant no harm," whined the giant. "I will gladly be your friend and servant if you want me." So the fire eater had to join the other little giants in the sack.

Makóma had not yet eaten anything during his long journey and was getting hungry. He made a camp with his giants and went hunting with them, except Chi-éswa-mapiri, who remained as a guard. When the hunting party returned, they found their comrade tied to a tree by a single long strand of hair. Makóma cut it off with his thumb nail. When the little giant was freed, he told what had happened. "A huge fellow came out of the river over here," he explained. "The colossus had long whiskers that threw out this hair and tied me up."

Makóma did not like his comrades being ambushed and went down to the river with his hammer. When he stood staring into the water for a while, he noticed that someone down there was staring back. A giant head suddenly came rushing out of the water. It was a huge man who rose out of the river. He had thick mustaches that billowed into the air along the river in both directions and as far away as Makóma could see. "Who are you?" thundered the giant. “I am Makóma and before I kill you I want to know your name!” "I am Chin-débou-Mau-giri," answered the giant, "and my mustache is the gray fever mist that lies over the river, and with it I ensnare and suffocate all who come hither." "Not any more!" Makóma exclaimed, striking the beast with his iron hammer. But the river giant's skin was so slimy that the hammer blow just slipped off. Chin-débou-Mau-giri threw out one of her long hairs and quickly bound Makóma with it. Makóma felt his arms being locked and he was having trouble breathing. Then he remembered the fire eater's powers, which were now his. Makóma blew out a broom of fire that burned off the hair. Then he threw his sack over the giant's head and struck it with the hammer. The hammer blow did not slip off the sack and the giant's head burst into a thousand pieces.

That evening Makóma and the giants feasted and danced to celebrate the victory over Chindébou-Mau-giri, but the next morning Makóma looked gloomy. His companions asked what was going on. "My ancestors came to me last night in my dreams and told me what I must do next," said Makóma. "They told me that I shall not be able to rest until I have found the great, five-headed Sákatiriná and fought with him." So Makóma bid farewell to his companions and returned the powers and abilities he had taken from them. Now Makóma was as strong as when he once left his home village, but it wasn't bad.

After wandering through swamps, deserts and jungles, Makóma came to a savannah where he saw two beautiful women fetching water from a spring. He told them who he was and asked if they had heard of the great Sákatiriná. "We are his wives," said one woman, "and those are his feet you see over there." She pointed to what Makóma thought were two mountain peaks rising into the clouds. The great Sákatiriná was truly great!

Makóma walked over to one foot and slammed the hammer into it as hard as he could. "Who is tickling my foot?" a voice like thunder from the clouds was heard. "It's Makóma who has come to fight you, so I don't get old, fat and bored!" cried the young hero. "I'm bored," said the huge giant quietly. “I know what you're talking about. Let us fight and may the best fighter win.” Thus began the violent struggle between Makóma and Sákatiriná. Just like before, Makóma's strength grew every time he landed a hammer blow on his enemy, but this time the giant did not shrink. Sákatiriná tore up entire mountains and hurled them at Makóma. For two days they fought and finally Nu-éndo, the durable iron hammer, was split. Then Makóma took a wrestling hold on his opponent and they both tumbled around on the ground so that the earth shook and all of Africa shook. Eventually, their strength began to wane and they became too tired to continue fighting.

Then Mulimó, the great spirit who watches over all living things, appeared. "You are both great fighters indeed," said the spirit, "but look what you have done on earth." Makóma and Sákatiriná looked around at the devastation and were ashamed. Then Mulimó said: "The gods have seen your fight and decided that you are both equally brave and strong. You will therefore be allowed to ascend to their palace above the clouds and live there in the future.” And so Makóma and Sákatiriná became invisible to the people of the earth and were never seen again.

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