AKANKE AND THE JEALOUS PAWNBROKER
From The Village Witch Doctor & Other Stories by Amos Tutuola
There once lived in a village an old man who had only one daughter named Akanke. This old man was so poor that all of his neighbours and friends believed that he was destined for poverty from birth. Although he was a hardworking man from his youth, as he grew older it was so that his poverty became more serious.
At last he became so entirely old and weary that he could not go and work on his farm for his living. Then his only daughter, Akanke, advised him to pawn her for money so that he might get money for his food. So without delay, but with great sorrow, this old man took Akanke to a pawnbroker who lived in another village, and he pawned Akanke for forty naira. Having got the money, this old man returned to his village with the money.
The pawnbroker was a middle-aged woman. She was very greedy and jealous, and she had only one son who was about twelve years old. She loved this her son so much that she indulged him in everything': she did not even allow him to do any work.
The work that Akanke was going to do for her was to. grind corn until Akanke's old father would be able to refund the forty naira for which she was pawned.
In the village of this pawnbroker there was a very large flat grinding stone, on which all the people of the village ground their corn, pepper, and many other things. None of the people of this village could tell how the strange stone came there. It was on the outskirts of the village, and it was by the side of the strange road which the goblins used to pass through to the place of their meetings in the night. Anyone who came there on the night of their meeting would be carried away by the goblins.
But as this pawnbroker was merciless, she forced poor Akanke to go and grind corn on the stone every night. She was not worried at all whether Akanke was carried away by the goblins. When it was the seventh day of the week, when everyone avoided the place of the stone, Akanke reminded her mistress, the jealous pawnbroker, 'It is the night that the goblins will pass by the stone to get to the place of their meeting.'
The pawnbroker answered, shouting with great annoyance, 'Akanke, you are a fool to remind me of the goblins' meeting this night! Don't you know that your old father has pawned you for money? Eh, Akanke, you must understand as from now that a pawned girl like you must work at any time in the day or night! Better you put the basket of corn on your head and go and grind it for me, or if you refuse to go to the stone this night, then better you go and tell your old father to pay my forty naira back at once!'
Willing or not, Akanke, with tears rolling down her cheeks, carried the corn to that strange grinding stone that night.
Akanke had hardly got to the stone when she knelt down before it and began to grind the corn as hastily as she could in fear, so that she might leave there before the goblins would come and pass through there to the place of meeting.
Akanke tried her best to grind all the corn so that she might leave there before the arrival of the goblins, but all her efforts were in vain. At last, a one-headed goblin who first arrived and met her there stopped and shouted horribly at Akanke: 'Who are you, grinding corn on this stone in this night? Don't you know that we goblins are having our meeting this night, and that we will pass through here to the place of our meeting?'
'Yes, I am sure that you goblins will pass through here this night, and of course I reminded my mistress, the jealous pawnbroker, about it. But she forced me to come here,' Akanke explained with fear, in a trembling voice.
'Better you leave here now, I 'advise you,' that oneheaded goblin warned Akanke with a terrible noise, 'because if the two-, three-, four-, five-, six- and sevenheaded goblins, who are my masters, meet you here, they will carry you away. Leave now before it is too late for you!' Then he passed through there to the place of their meeting.
But Akanke could not return to the pawnbroker without grinding all the corn.
A few minutes later, the master goblins arrived. They were two-, three-, four-, five-, six- and seven-headed goblins. The one with seven heads was their king. He stopped together with the rest in front of Akanke and shouted impatiently, 'Who are you so brave as to come here to grind corn this night? Are you human or some other being?'
'It was not my wish to come and grind corn here this night, but my mistress, who is a jealous pawnbroker and to whom I am pawned for money, has forced me to come here this night.' Akanke was trembling from feet to head, with fear, as she explained this to the king of goblins, and tears were rolling down her cheeks.
Luckily, he listened to her attentively. He did not attempt to kill or take her away as he usually did. Instead he was sorry when he had heard her explanation. After he paused for a while, he told her to spread her head tie on the grinding stone. When she had done so with fear, he pulled out one of the seven horns which he wore on his seven heads. When he had put the horn on the head tie and recited some magic words on it, a strange cowrie came out from it, and it fell on to the head tie.
'All right. Wrap up the cowrie with your head tie and take it to your old father, and put it in the room and leave it there for one night. He should go back to that room the following morning, and whatever he finds in the head tie when he unwraps it, it is his. And I am sure that you and your old father will be happy. But I warn you, don't attempt to come to this stone at night again!' In this way, the king of goblins had taken pity on the condition of Akanke and her father.
The king of goblins had hardly left there when Akanke, with great fear, wrapped up the cowrie with her head tie, and she then went in the darkness direct to her father. She and her old father put the head tie in the room as soon as she entered the house. After, she told him how the king of goblins had had mercy for her although she had ground corn on the stone in the night when the goblins passed through there on their way to their meeting.
It was to Akanke's and her father's greatest surprise that they entered the room the following morning. They did not believe their eyes at first when they met more than two thousand naira on the floor.
And that very morning, her father took above forty naira from that money. He and Akanke went to the jealous pawnbroker. He refunded her forty naira, for which Akanke was pawned, and in addition he gave her a few naira as a reward.
But the pawnbroker was so jealous when she saw a large sum of money in Akanke's father's hand that she refused the reward. She saw that although she had treated Akanke badly, the bad treatment had forced her to meet her good fortune.
'Take your money away. I know how Akanke got it, and I shall send my own son to go and grind the corn on the same stone, and my son will get an even larger amount of money from the same king of goblins. Go back to your village now!' the jealous pawnbroker spoke jealously, and she proudly frowned at Akanke and her old father. Then Akanke and her old father left for their village happily.
The jealous pawnbroker shrugged and said to herself as they left, 'Who would accept such a little amount of money as a reward from them when I know where Akanke got it!' The very next night that the goblins would pass by the stone to go to the place of their meeting, this jealous pawnbroker gave some quantity of corn to her son. She told him to go and grind it on the same stone.
As soon as he began to grind the corn, the king of goblins and his followers met the boy there. All of them stopped. 'Who are you again?' the king of goblins shouted with great passion. 'Yes, it is high time enough to teach the people of this village a lesson. Last time,' he continued with annoyance, 'I met one lady here, and of course it was your mother, the pawnbroker, who sent her.
'But this night I shall take you away to my house instead of giving you money, because your mother is disturbing us
here too much,' he shouted angrily at the boy.
Then he gripped the poor boy so suddenly that he shrank with fear to the size of a lizard. The king threw him
in the big bag which was hung on his left shoulder, and he and his followers went direct to the place of their meeting.
After his mother, the jealous pawnbroker, had waited till the following morning but did not see him return, she
went to the strange stone. But she found nothing there. She tried with all her effort to get her son back, but she
Then she went to the soothsayer. The soothsayer disclosed to her, 'Your son is still alive, but he is in the
custody of a certain creature who is more powerful than a human being.'
'What is the remedy now?' the pawnbroker asked impatiently. 'I mean, how can I get my son back from that creature?'
The soothsayer was without mercy. 'If you want to get your son back, you will sacrifice four goats, four fowls, four bottles of palm oil, and a large sum of money to the Iroko tree, to the god of iron, to the god of thunder, and to the god of rivers,' he said.
'But my money will not be sufficient to buy all those things!' the pawnbroker said, weeping bitterly. 'What shall I do then, good soothsayer?'
'I am sorry, indeed,' the soothsayer said, deceiving the jealous pawnbroker, 'but just to help you, I say go and bring all of the money that you have got at home.'
Then the pawnbroker ran to her house and brought all the money she had to the soothsayer. He took it all from her, but her only son still could not be found. Thus the jealous pawnbroker lost both her son and money as a result of her greediness and jealousy.
Copyright © 1998 - 2002, MotherlandNigeria.COM