My gran is one of the reasons I enjoyed my childhood. Growing up under her guidance was a blessing. She was strict and would at times shout, even for minor things. The other village kids knew her well cos she treated every kid in the village as her own. That was the strict side of her that almost everyone was scared of.
But there was another side of hers that made a lot of our neighbour’s kids lose track of time if she showed it. She was a very good storyteller. And she would ask us riddles and give a treat if you got it right.
So I am going to tell a few of the stories she once told. I still can’t believe them but hey, to me they are fascinating…
The Colour Wheel Feet
Once upon a time, there was a woman who was walking home, alone, in the late afternoon. The weather that day wasn’t good, there was a fog. The kind of fog that can blind your eyes, that you couldn’t even see your own hand in front of your face.
So the woman walked and walked until she reached an old double storey abandoned house. It was the only house across the river in her village. She walked past the house but then on her way towards the river where she going to cross, she noticed her feet changing colour.
She looked at her feet, as she stepped down a different colour appeared. She loved this and started singing the names of the colours that showed up as she stepped. This carried on and on until she came back to her senses. To her surprise, she found out she had been following the trail of the river, misleading her, for a distance of about 4 km. And she walk back up again. She got to her home very late that night.
The Thirsty Stranger
This actually happened to my uncle. According to grandma, it was the weekend of the end of the month, and grandpa was home visiting for a few days. He and his friends quickly ran out of the homemade beer that gran had made for them. And so they had to send a boy to the shop to get them two more two litres of Ijuba and cigarettes. That was going get them drunk for the rest of the night.
Since Z’thulele, my uncle, was the oldest amongst the kids, they sent him to the shop. It was the rural area and shops were few and at the distance. So Z’thulele started his journey. To get the shop, he had to walk up the hill, cross the river and into the bush of an indigenous forest. He did all this and got to the shop and bought his items.
It was only a few minutes to 20h00 when Z’thulele left the tuckshop. It was already dark outside, of course. But he wasn’t scared of the dark. He hurried back home. On the way he met an old man, a total stranger, but they ended up walking together through the bush and across the river. And that’s where the unthinkable happened.
The old man cried of thirst, and begged Z’thulele to let him have just one sip of one the mqombothi. Uncle allowed him a sip. The old man gulped the first 2 litres down his throat. They shared the second one, and smoked all the 20 cigarettes.
Then the old man thanked him and disappeared. Z’thulele ran up the hill without looking back until he was in front of the door at home, out of breath. His lips were swollen and his eyes puffy and red. He told them everything that had happened. He was so lucky that grandpa didn’t beat him.
The Giant Tree
There was once a man who was a security officer at the local clinic. He finished his shift at 6 p.m. and instead of going home, he went to the place which sold alcohol (ejoyintini). He started drinking, still wearing his work uniform. He drank until they chased him out in the middle of the night.
Whenever he was drunk he liked singing and swearing at people who had hurt. He remembered every detail of what they did to him. He staggered all the way from the place he was drinking at and tried to walk home. He passed through the soccer pitch, where village boys played soccer on weekends. He felt something burning him from behind but when he turned to see what it was, he saw nothing.
And so he changed route.
When he was a few houses away from home, he came face-to-face with a giant tree. The tree was so huge and blocked his way. The time was now 1 a.m. He walked around the tree, trying to find the way to get home. He walked and walked until he was tired and sat down to rest a little bit.
Apparently he woke up in the morning around 5a.m. when he felt cold. He looked around and realised he was sleeping on a tomb. In the rural areas, back then, they didn’t have graveyards, they buried their deceased in their back yards. In this case, the family had buried a member and relocated, leaving the tomb behind.
The Fire Man
I know you are most likely not going to believe this one, but it’s my favourite. People who have lived in the rural areas will best understand this: you don’t walk around carrying meat with you at night.
So, in the rural areas, there are ceremonies that are usually done. Almost all of them include the slaughtering of animals. So one day, a distant relative once attended a ceremony. He was so helpful there, helping his relatives. The ceremony went well and people feasted and enjoyed themselves.
And then came time for people to leave. This relative was asked to wait a little while they prepared him some meat take away. He waited.
While waiting, they brought him booze to thank him for being so helpful during the whole ceremony. He started drinking and he was quickly getting drunk. Sometime later they gave him a plastic bag full of meat. He was so happy about that, he couldn’t wait to get home and share the takeaway with his whole family.
Little did he know that he wouldn’t make it home with the meat. It was already at night when he headed home, whistling with excitement. He came across a guy who was sitting by a very big camp fire. They greeted each other like people who knew each other, and shared a joke or two.
Then the guy said, “Can you be so kind as to share just a little piece of your takeaway with me? I will just braai it here and if you have time, you can stay and have a piece or two when it’s ready,”
Not thinking straight, the relative agreed and took a seat on a stone, opposite the guy, across the fire. They started braaing the meat. Out of nowhere, the guy produced a nice square wooden tray (Isthebe). All that while, the relative didn’t question the guy about where he got the wooden tray from, or why he made a fire in the wild or why he was sitting by himself outside at night.
It hit him when he felt all the hair in his body stand, that he was not actually sitting with a normal human being.
But it was already too late.
The guy snatched the wooden tray with the meat on it and shoved it in his mouth. While still amazed by that, the guy came again and snatched his fire and ate it too and he disappeared on the spot.
Tell us: What do you think the message in each tale is?