Cangala: The Man Who Defeated the Man Who Could Turn into a Lion

Here is a story:

There once was a man who had two children: Ngoza and Cangala. Ngoza was the older one and she grew to be a magnificently beautiful woman. As time went by, Ngoza came closer and closer to the age at which she could marry. Whenever a man would come to her and ask her for her hand, she would always turn him down. All of the men lost desire to marry her and stopped coming to see her.

One day, a very handsome young man came to her home. When she saw him, she lost her mind and said to herself: If he has come looking for me, then I will not waste any time and shall marry him at once. The young man wasted no time and proposed to her immediately, getting her hand in marriage and the approval of her parents.

This was bad luck: This young man whom the girl liked more than any of the other men that had proposed had the power to transform himself into a Lion. The girl’s younger brother did everything he could to prevent the engagement with this boy, but she would not listen. So, finally, her younger brother Cangala gave up.

The wedding was organised but he did not take his bride to his home village. Instead, he lived at the girl’s place. At night, when he went to the bush, he turned into a Lion. When he started to hunt for animals, he usually hunted down ten or more animals during one night.

One day, his small brother-in-law asked him to allow him to go with him to the bush. He turned down the proposal because he was afraid that he would come to realise that he was in fact a Lion. Then he got up and headed out of the house and small Cangala went on behind him. Whenever the Lion-man would look back, Cangala would hide himself by laying flat on the ground. It was like that until the Lion-man arrived at the termite hill where he took off his human flesh and transformed into a Lion. This was his usual routine: he would transform into a Lion and then go looking for prey to hunt.

When his brother-in-law saw this, he started to shiver with fear. In his hiding place he did not even move out of fear, because he reasoned: If the Lion sees me, it will be my end. When the Lion had killed some animals according to how he had planned, he returned to the termite hill and threw off his Lion’s hide and became human again. Cangala left the hiding place and came back to the village before him, and the Lion did not notice him.

The Lion-man returned with the animals and divided his catch as he had always done. From that point on, Ngoza’s younger brother stopped eating the meat brought home by the Lion-man.

The next day, the Lion-man went hunting as usual. In the meantime, Cangala stayed in the village and told his sister that the man she married was in fact a Lion. His older sister refused to believe him and they had a very bad argument and both of them showered the other with harsh insults. Cangala then became engrossed in pity and empathy for his sister, so he did not say much except: You will see for yourself.

That same day, the Lion-man decided that it was going to be the day when he ate the whole family. At midnight, the Lion-man came home and when his wife looked at who was coming through the door, she saw an enormous Lion with a mane. She yelled out in fear and remembered what her brother had told her during the day. In an instant, the Lion grabbed the girl and devoured her and began to wonder about how he could get the rest of the family. After giving himself a little rest, the Lion went out in front of his mother-in-law’s house and began to sing:

Ngoza’s mother, open up,
Oh how they cry, oh how they cry!
Ngoza’s mother, open up,
Oh how they cry, oh how they cry!
Ngoza is sick,
Oh how they cry, oh how they cry!
Ngoza is sick, open up,
Oh how they cry, oh how they cry!

When his mother-in-law came out of the house, she immediately asked her son-in-law what was wrong with her child and he immediately grabbed her and ate her. The Lion killed everyone; he didn’t spare anybody from his uncle’s family. When he came to Cangala’s place, Cangala knew what had occurred and so he got his bow and arrows and left the door open by a crack. When the Lion thought to himself: Now I’ll get you, hewas pierced with a spear with a Cwaa sound. He went back and fell to the ground with a crashing sound. Then he continued with arrows until the Lion was finally dead.

Cangala left the Lion corpse and made his way to the house of the one-buttocked Ant to consult spirits and the ant told him: Take this shell and make a bonfire at a crossroad, on the fire heat up the shell until it is very hot, then take the shell and burn the toes, the stomach, and the fingers. So he did exactly as he was told and the people that had been devoured all came out through the places the big Lion had been burned.

And that is the end of our story.


Written by Vera Mwimbe, 7th of September 1994. It is a second version of a folk-tale (74) How Cangala Saved the Girl Lozi from the Evil Spirit told by Daniel Simungala. Cf. also (second version 11) How Cangala saved Lozi from the Evil Spirit.