African Folklore: How I Shall Be Admired

A Bene-Mukuni Tale

This is what the man did.

He went to report. “Listen!” he said. “At the place where I come from I have found an enormous snake. I should say, my lords, that, if you had brought it here, all your honourable friends would assemble to come and look at it.”

The king, hearing that, said, “I am going to call all the people of the land together.”

He had them called, then held an assembly where he said, “I am the king, bring me the thing that is over there, that I too may come and see it with my own eyes in a hut.”

Of course the people went. As they reached the place, they gathered together outside, trying to go peep inside. Then, finding the snake still asleep, they started singing:

“How I shall be admired!

[chorus]: How I shall be admired!

Come out that we may look at you!

If I come out, you will be afraid of me!

[Chorus] By [your] mother! You will be afraid of me!

That is what was done by your fathers!

[Chorus] By your fathers!

They even left their bows here!

[Chorus] Even their bows!”

The people ran away leaving their bows there and came and said, “As for us, O Chief, that is more than we can do.”

The king then said, “Go and give birth to children.”

The following day, when they gave birth to children and these went, as soon as they reached the place, they too surrounded the hut, but said, “It is you, your very own self, that we have come for, you who are in the house.”

Bacu! They put the snake on their shoulders, the tail hanging behind. Then, having brought it outside, they dragged it along, singing the while:

“How I shall be admired!” (etc.)

Then, as they took that thing to the court and reached the place, the king said: “You my wives, all of you, go and fetch water to whitewash the hut.”

So, having gone to fetch water, the women came and whitewashed the hut.”

And, when they had finished whitewashing, the brute itself was brought in.

Then the king came over also to have a look at it. And having seen it, he said: “You people of my realm, disperse and go away, all of you. I do not care in the least for such things. To me, such as I am, what have you brought but an ugly snake?”

The Bene-Mukuni people reside in modern-day Zambia