The Monster who Married the King’s Daughter

Here is a story:

There once was a village with many people and in this village there lived twelve boys. Eleven of these boys were normal, but one of them was a monster who was as round as a ball. He had no eyes and was missing many other things. Wherever he went, he would roll. Then the other boys said: We are grown now! Let’s go and get engaged. So the eleven boys went and when the monster heard this, he said to himself: Oh gosh! No matter what, I must go on this journey too! They told their parents and they gave them food for the road.

The next morning, they went on their journey and the monster followed. They walked and walked very far. When one boy turned back and saw the monster, he said: Look, he is following us. Oh gosh! He might embarrass us all. They beat him repeatedly and burned him. Then they heard a small part of it go away with a loud blast mpuu, and from this small part the monster was whole again. Then they said: It is over. They took the ashes and scattered them. When they went on, however, he followed them. They continued on their journey and when they noticed him, they said: What can we do with this thing? Shall we go back? Then they said: Oh no, is he cleverer than us? He can’t be more intelligent than we are! They beat and beat him and burned him again. A small part went aside with a loud blast: mpuu. This time they buried it under a few mounds. But the monster made himself whole again and they continued on their journey. In the evening, they arrived at a huge village where there were some beautiful girls. When they arrived it was announced: Some boys have arrived and are looking for wives. The monster then arrived and there was nothing they could do. He slept in the meeting house while the other boys slept in the village houses.

Early in the morning, the girls went to the river to wash themselves and said: They might not pay attention to us because none of us have married for a long time! It took them a long time to scrape all the skin cracks in their feet; their feet became very clean and shining. Then the time foreseen for entertainment came when the girls would find out whom they would marry. They brought out a ball, and the eleven boys lined up while the monster remained on the side. The people asked: What is this? They answered: What can we do about it? Whenever we chased him from one place, it came from another. They said: Let him stay there! They knew that no girl would want to marry this monster.

The king’s daughter was named Ntazipila, and she was still at the river when the others were already gathering. They started a game throwing a ball at the boys and whomever they hit would be their husband. When they got to the eleventh girl they all said: Do you want the king’s daughter not to be married? Immediately, they said: You friends, when the daughter of the king comes, she should throw the ball first and then all of you can do so. You will have no other chance to meet such boys again! Then the daughter of the king arrived – washed and shining. She did not come close to the others, she stood aside alone. They gave her the ball, saying: See carefully who you can hit? The girl looked attentively and threw the ball. The ball hit the monster where he stood. They said: You do not know how to throw the ball, throw it again. She threw again and again she hit him. She said: You, my friends, do not trouble me any more. He is the one. Give him to me. They began to complain: Everyone is normal. But you, Ntazipila, you chose him? She said: The boys are all standing so close, yet I kept missing them and hitting him, why is that? The others, each of them, took their husbands and went home. The king said: It can’t go, Ntazipila! Ntazipila answered: Give him to me. If this is a bad omen, let it kill me, and then she took him to her house. She bent down and said: Oh gosh! This man might strangle me tonight. She put him to sleep just close to the fireplace. That night, neither Ntazipila nor he slept.

In the morning, she got up and went to her mother and said: Mother, make some mush so I can bring it to him. Her mother said: You who bring upon us this evil omen! It has no lips! It is has no other things! Do you want to live with it? She answered: He is my husband, whom I have chosen. To whom could I have been given then? If I went to the ones who have their normal husbands, it would stir up jealousy. That could get us killed. The mother gave her the food. She carried it on a piece of broken shell and took along some relish beans. She put it at the place where the monster was staying. Then she left and closed the house. She went to her parents’ house, where she stayed. After some time she said to herself: Let me go back. She noticed that half of the mush was eaten. Who could have got in and eaten this mush? This is not possible! She took the mush to the king and said: Look, some of this mush is eaten. He said: You are lying! You ate it yourself. She denied it and said: When could I have eaten it? Then he said: How could it eat it? They stopped talking about it.

The other boys went for work and began cutting down trees. Another day Ntazipila heard the Monster say: Go and tell your father to sharpen an axe for me. You will show me where I can cut down trees. She heard only a voice, but it had no mouth, which it could move. The girl went to her father and said: Father, listen to what it said: ‘Go and tell your father to sharpen an axe for me. You will show me where I can cut down trees’. The king replied: My child, you Ntazipila, you are so good! And you yourself, where do you want to take him? She said: It’s true. I really heard him saying: ‘Sharpen an axe, show me where to cut trees’.

In the morning the king sharpened an axe and a squeaking sound was heard, and then he gave it to his daughter. She took the axe and some water, and then she picked the monster up, put him on her shoulder and carried him. When she arrived at the place, she said: This is the place where my father said you should cut down trees. Ntazipila did all the talking, as her husband did not answer. She just put him down under the tree, but then she got scared and said: Maybe he will turn into a Lion and will beat me and then kill me. She returned to the village, running.

When Ntazipila was gone, the monster discarded his external appearance and turned into a good-looking young man. Without holding the axe, he said:Bag of mine, let 300 people come out of you so that we may work for my in-laws. There was a great commotion and all these people went to cut trees, working for a long time cutting trees from here up to the mountain called Malamba. The other boys were cutting trees for two days. Again, the man said: Bag of mine, take the people back and leave me with the axe. The people went back into his bag, and he became round again.

When Ntazipila came back, she could not find the place where she left the monster by the tree as it was cut down with all the other trees. She tried hard to find it and reaching the place she was so surprised that she asked herself: How could he have done the cutting? How could he do it? Maybe the people started long ago? As she was saying this, she found him where she had left him at the tree. She couldn’t even congratulate him and say: You have worked very well! She took him to the village and then she said: Father, what he has cut is not to be compared with what the husbands of others have cut down in two days. I wonder how the people will carry it all to the garden. In the morning, go and look for yourself. The king said: You are stupid, my daughter! You want to scare me? She said: It’s true, Father, go and see for yourself. Maybe he brings us an evil omen or evil spell. The king did not sleep this day. Then he said: I have been cutting there for three months, and he did it all in one day? Early in the morning the king went and when he looked at this place he did not know what to think about it, and said: It’s true, there is something in it.

The people heard rumours. The other girls began saying: You, my friends, could we have not agree to marry him? The mother said: Was I there? We do not know what kind of a creature he is! The others continued cutting trees. In order to carry the trees, once again he produced his ‘children’, and they finished transporting the wood in one day. They stayed a few days. He said: Let us get married! Then he said: You my bag, bring all that is needed for marriage! In the evening he said: Today is the right time to let the people know that I am a man hidden in a bag. He left his bag and became a man. They smeared some pleasantly smelling oil on him. At this time Ntazipila was fast asleep. When she woke up, she saw a man and said: So it is you! She became very happy and said: Oh my! Indeed, I have married very well!

In the morning, the young man said: Bag of mine, make me a road I could go on! The road was made. He got in his car and drove through the village. When the people heard the car in the village, some of them ran away and shouted: A lion has come! The others locked themselves in their houses and said: The king has died! The young boy stopped at the house of the king. The daughter of the king stepped from the car and said: Father, open please! The king looked through the window and saw only his daughter. The king came and opened the door and said: Really, he is my son-in-law! Ntazipila said: There is not much to say: I got married and you will be happy about it. At this very moment the boy gave all the marriage gifts to the king.

On another day, in the morning, they started the wedding ceremony and made them sit on stools and gave them sound advice. Many others came and celebrated the marriage of this boy. Each girl who was present there asked herself: Why did I miss him? Each said: I missed him. The boy was held in great esteem. Ever since he has stayed with his father-in-law.

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: (1) in order to achieve something good, one must be dedicated and serve in humility. Then you can earn your reward and you will rejoice; (2) never ignore people who might seem unimportant or poor as the last will become first and the first will be last. Do not judge on appearances only because you may underestimate his abilities.

The Mambwe proverbs say: (1) A docile child eats what comes from submissiveness (Mwana mufuke, akalya utwa ufuke); English equivalent: All doors are open to courtesy; Civility/courtesy/politeness costs nothing; Courtesy never broke man’s crown; He may freely receive courtesies who knows how to return them; There is nothing lost by civility; (2) When you see a leafless tree, do not say: “It is dead” (Utalola umuti ukupululuka, uti: uma);English equivalent: “All that glitters is not gold”; “Appearances are deceptive/deceitful/deceiving”; “Beauty is but/only skin-deep”; “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”; “Never judge a book by its cover”; “Never judge from appearances”; “Things are not always what they seem”; “You cannot judge of a tree by its bark”; “You can’t tell a book by its cover”.

Subjects: appearances – judging – wisdom – honesty – goodness – perseverance – success


Told by Bernard Kungula from Kapufi village (recorded).