‘Tell me a story, Moanegi,’ I hear you say. People utter these words every time I visit their village. So here I am, with all of you, pulling out my bowl, and giving it a jingle before setting it upon my carpet that–

Yes, child, the very carpet that once flew with more agility and grace than Aladdin’s, until the magic was stolen by a tricky hare–

Hares are not as cute and friendly as many believe. Take your eye off one, and they’ll have stolen everything you value most, and the moment you try to catch it–

Ah, now, children, coin for a tale, I accept. Ke a leboha, enkosi.

Now to begin, where many storytellers do: Once upon a time in a land created in a rough draft–

Well, yes, child, our world is only but one of the many in existence. You did not imagine that the planet we live on, with all its mathematical perfection, was created on the first attempt, did you?

The world our story dwells in was made in a time before precision and logic were pounded into the foundation of nature. Thus, in that world, Inkalimeva and Tokoloshe are as common as zebras. This earth of the story was made before precision and logic ruled human hearts and minds. Even though, in our lands today, dreams continue to inspire, to motivate, to teach us lessons. In the worlds created after ours, dreaming is unnecessary and foolish, for logic and reason is the only motivation those good people require. Understand?

Good. Now, let us begin again.

Once upon a time, in a world created before our own, there was a girl named Nqobi, taller than a warthog, but shorter than the shoulder of an eland. She lived at the edge of her village with her mother, Zinikele, who cleaned homes during the day and at night served drinks at the local shebeen. The mother was so overworked and tired, she barely saw her daughter while the child was awake.

Thus, Nqobi was often in the care of Sompisi, her wicked stepfather, who owned most of the village. This made him very wealthy. He did not help his wife financially, however, telling her, “We are not true partners in marriage if you must rely on me for money.”

He did, however, agree to watch her child, “for marriage is about give and take, and I work from my home, you see.”

And take he did, from drink, to drugs, to women. And all this while squeezing as much coin as he could from those who occupied any of his properties – unless they agreed to do a favour, of course. “Just one, small, little thing,” he would say, to the desperate unfortunates that crossed his threshold. “That’s all I’m asking. How can you refuse such a small thing when you ask so much of me?”

Nqobi witnessed it all, peering above the pages of her home-schooling books. “You have no idea the pain I’ve spared you from,” Sompisi told her, day after day. “Children at school are cruel. They’d taunt you about everything from the size of your thighs, to the fact your mother hasn’t the faintest idea of who fathered you.”


Tell us: Do you think people like Sompisi exist in real life?