The Story Of The Hero Makoma

: The Orange Fairy Book

From the Senna (Oral Tradition)

Once upon a time, at the town of Senna on the banks of the Zambesi, was

born a child. He was not like other children, for he was very tall and

strong; over his shoulder he carried a big sack, and in his hand an

iron hammer. He could also speak like a grown man, but usually he was

very silent.

One day his mother said to him: 'M
child, by what name shall we know


And he answered: 'Call all the head men of Senna here to the river's

bank.' And his mother called the head men of the town, and when they

had come he led them down to a deep black pool in the river where all

the fierce crocodiles lived.

'O great men!' he said, while they all listened, 'which of you will

leap into the pool and overcome the crocodiles?' But no one would come

forward. So he turned and sprang into the water and disappeared.

The people held their breath, for they thought: 'Surely the boy is

bewitched and throws away his life, for the crocodiles will eat him!'

Then suddenly the ground trembled, and the pool, heaving and swirling,

became red with blood, and presently the boy rising to the surface swam

on shore.

But he was no longer just a boy! He was stronger than any man and very

tall and handsome, so that the people shouted with gladness when they

saw him.

'Now, O my people!' he cried, waving his hand, 'you know my name--I am

Makoma, "the Greater"; for have I not slain the crocodiles into the

pool where none would venture?'

Then he said to his mother: 'Rest gently, my mother, for I go to make a

home for myself and become a hero.' Then, entering his hut he took

Nu-endo, his iron hammer, and throwing the sack over his shoulder, he

went away.

Makoma crossed the Zambesi, and for many moons he wandered towards the

north and west until he came to a very hilly country where, one day, he

met a huge giant making mountains.

'Greeting,' shouted Makoma, 'you are you?'

'I am Chi-eswa-mapiri, who makes the mountains,' answered the giant;

'and who are you?'

'I am Makoma, which signifies "greater,"' answered he.

'Greater than who?' asked the giant.

'Greater than you!' answered Makoma.

The giant gave a roar and rushed upon him. Makoma said nothing, but

swinging his great hammer, Nu-endo, he struck the giant upon the head.

He struck him so hard a blow that the giant shrank into quite a little

man, who fell upon his knees saying: 'You are indeed greater than I, O

Makoma; take me with you to be your slave!' So Makoma picked him up

and dropped him into the sack that he carried upon his back.

He was greater than ever now, for all the giant's strength had gone

into him; and he resumed his journey, carrying his burden with as

little difficulty as an eagle might carry a hare.

Before long he came to a country broken up with huge stones and immense

clods of earth. Looking over one of the heaps he saw a giant wrapped

in dust dragging out the very earth and hurling it in handfuls on

either side of him.

'Who are you,' cried Makoma, 'that pulls up the earth in this way?'

'I am Chi-dubula-taka,' said he, 'and I am making the river-beds.'

'Do you know who I am?' said Makoma. 'I am he that is called


'Greater than who?' thundered the giant.

'Greater than you!' answered Makoma.

With a shout, Chi-dubula-taka seized a great clod of earth and launched

it at Makoma. But the hero had his sack held over his left arm and the

stones and earth fell harmlessly upon it, and, tightly gripping his

iron hammer, he rushed in and struck the giant to the ground.

Chi-dubula-taka grovelled before him, all the while growing smaller and

smaller; and when he had become a convenient size Makoma picked him up

and put him into the sack beside Chi- eswa-mapiri.

He went on his way even greater than before, as all the river-maker's

power had become his; and at last he came to a forest of bao- babs and

thorn trees. He was astonished at their size, for every one was full

grown and larger than any trees he had ever seen, and close by he saw

Chi-gwisa-miti, the giant who was planting the forest.

Chi-gwisa-miti was taller than either of his brothers, but Makoma was

not afraid, and called out to him: 'Who are you, O Big One?'

'I,' said the giant, 'am Chi-gwisa-miti, and I am planting these

bao-babs and thorns as food for my children the elephants.'

'Leave off!' shouted the hero, 'for I am Makoma, and would like to

exchange a blow with thee!'

The giant, plucking up a monster bao-bab by the roots, struck heavily

at Makoma; but the hero sprang aside, and as the weapon sank deep into

the soft earth, whirled Nu-endo the hammer round his head and felled

the giant with one blow.

So terrible was the stroke that Chi-gwisa- miti shrivelled up as the

other giants had done; and when he had got back his breath he begged

Makoma to take him as his servant. 'For,' said he, 'it is honourable

to serve a man so great as thou.'

Makoma, after placing him in his sack, proceeded upon his journey, and

travelling for many days he at last reached a country so barren and

rocky that not a single living thing grew upon it--everywhere reigned

grim desolation. And in the midst of this dead region he found a man

eating fire.

'What are you doing?' demanded Makoma.

'I am eating fire,' answered the man, laughing; 'and my name is

Chi-idea-moto, for I am the flame-spirit, and can waste and destroy

what I like.'

'You are wrong,' said Makoma; 'for I am Makoma, who is "greater" than

you--and you cannot destroy me!'

The fire-eater laughed again, and blew a flame at Makoma. But the hero

sprang behind a rock--just in time, for the ground upon which he had

been standing was turned to molten glass, like an overbaked pot, by the

heat of the flame-spirit's breath.

Then the hero flung his iron hammer at Chi- idea-moto, and, striking

him, it knocked him helpless; so Makoma placed him in the sack,

Woro-nowu, with the other great men that he had overcome.

And now, truly, Makoma was a very great hero; for he had the strength

to make hills, the industry to lead rivers over dry wastes, foresight

and wisdom in planting trees, and the power of producing fire when he


Wandering on he arrived one day at a great plain, well watered and full

of game; and in the very middle of it, close to a large river, was a

grassy spot, very pleasant to make a home upon.

Makoma was so delighted with the little meadow that he sat down under a

large tree and removing the sack from his shoulder, took out all the

giants and set them before him. 'My friends,' said he, 'I have

travelled far and am weary. Is not this such a place as would suit a

hero for his home? Let us then go, to-morrow, to bring in timber to

make a kraal.'

So the next day Makoma and the giants set out to get poles to build the

kraal, leaving only Chi-eswa-mapiri to look after the place and cook

some venison which they had killed. In the evening, when they

returned, they found the giant helpless and tied to a tree by one

enormous hair!

'How is it,' said Makoma, astonished, 'that we find you thus bound and


'O Chief,' answered Chi-eswa-mapiri, 'at mid- day a man came out of the

river; he was of immense statue, and his grey moustaches were of such

length that I could not see where they ended! He demanded of me "Who

is thy master?" And I answered: "Makoma, the greatest of heroes." Then

the man seized me, and pulling a hair from his moustache, tied me to

this tree--even as you see me.'

Makoma was very wroth, but he said nothing, and drawing his finger-nail

across the hair (which was as thick and strong as palm rope) cut it,

and set free the mountain-maker.

The three following days exactly the same thing happened, only each

time with a different one of the party; and on the fourth day Makoma

stayed in camp when the others went to cut poles, saying that he would

see for himself what sort of man this was that lived in the river and

whose moustaches were so long that they extended beyond men's sight.

So when the giants had gone he swept and tidied the camp and put some

venison on the fire to roast. At midday, when the sun was right

overhead, he heard a rumbling noise from the river, and looking up he

saw the head and shoulders of an enormous man emerging from it. And

behold! right down the river-bed and up the river-bed, till they faded

into the blue distance, stretched the giant's grey moustaches!

'Who are you?' bellowed the giant, as soon as he was out of the water.

'I am he that is called Makoma,' answered the hero; 'and, before I slay

thee, tell me also what is thy name and what thou doest in the river?'

'My name is Chin-debou Mau-giri,' said the giant. 'My home is in the

river, for my moustache is the grey fever-mist that hangs above the

water, and with which I bind all those that come unto me so that they


'You cannot bind me!' shouted Makoma, rushing upon him and striking

with his hammer. But the river giant was so slimy that the blow slid

harmlessly off his green chest, and as Makoma stumbled and tried to

regain his balance, the giant swung one of his long hairs around him

and tripped him up.

For a moment Makoma was helpless, but remembering the power of the

flame-spirit which had entered into him, he breathed a fiery breath

upon the giant's hair and cut himself free.

As Chin-debou Mau-giri leaned forward to seize him the hero flung his

sack Woronowu over the giant's slippery head, and gripping his iron

hammer, struck him again; this time the blow alighted upon the dry sack

and Chin- debou Mau-giri fell dead.

When the four giants returned at sunset with the poles, they rejoiced

to find that Makoma had overcome the fever-spirit, and they feasted on

the roast venison till far into the night; but in the morning, when

they awoke, Makoma was already warming his hands to the fire, and his

face was gloomy.

'In the darkness of the night, O my friends,' he said presently, 'the

white spirits of my fathers came upon me and spoke, saying: "Get thee

hence, Makoma, for thou shalt have no rest until thou hast found and

fought with Sakatirina, who had five heads, and is very great and

strong; so take leave of thy friends, for thou must go alone."'

Then the giants were very sad, and bewailed the loss of their hero; but

Makoma comforted them, and gave back to each the gifts he had taken

from them. Then bidding them 'Farewell,' he went on his way.

Makoma travelled far towards the west; over rough mountains and

water-logged morasses, fording deep rivers, and tramping for days

across dry deserts where most men would have died, until at length he

arrived at a hut standing near some large peaks, and inside the hut

were two beautiful women.

'Greeting!' said the hero. 'Is this the country of Sakatirina of five

heads, whom I am seeking?'

'We greet you, O Great One!' answered the women. 'We are the wives of

Sakatirina; your search is at an end, for there stands he whom you

seek!' And they pointed to what Makoma had thought were two tall

mountain peaks. 'Those are his legs,' they said; 'his body you cannot

see, for it is hidden in the clouds.'

Makoma was astonished when he beheld how tall was the giant; but,

nothing daunted, he went forward until he reached one of Sakatirina's

legs, which he struck heavily with Nu-endo. Nothing happened, so he

hit again and then again until, presently, he heard a tired, far-away

voice saying: 'Who is it that scratches my feet?'

And Makoma shouted as loud as he could, answering: 'It is I, Makoma,

who is called "Greater"!' And he listened, but there was no answer.

Then Makoma collected all the dead brushwood and trees that he could

find, and making an enormous pile round the giant's legs, set a light

to it.

This time the giant spoke; his voice was very terrible, for it was the

rumble of thunder in the clouds. 'Who is it,' he said, 'making that

fire smoulder around my feet?'

'It is I, Makoma!' shouted the hero. 'And I have come from far away to

see thee, O Sakatirina, for the spirits of my fathers bade me go seek

and fight with thee, lest I should grow fat, and weary of myself.'

There was silence for a while, and then the giant spoke softly: 'It is

good, O Makoma!' he said. 'For I too have grown weary. There is no

man so great as I, therefore I am all alone. Guard thyself!' and

bending suddenly he seized the hero in his hands and dashed him upon

the ground. And lo! instead of death, Makoma had found life, for he

sprang to his feet mightier in strength and stature than before, and

rushing in he gripped the giant by the waist and wrestled with him.

Hour by hour they fought, and mountains rolled beneath their feet like

pebbles in a flood; now Makoma would break away, and summoning up his

strength, strike the giant with Nu-endo his iron hammer, and Sakatirina

would pluck up the mountains and hurl them upon the hero, but neither

one could slay the other. At last, upon the second day, they grappled

so strongly that they could not break away; but their strength was

failing, and, just as the sun was sinking, they fell together to the

ground, insensible.

In the morning when they awoke, Mulimo the Great Spirit was standing by

them; and he said: 'O Makoma and Sakatirina! Ye are heroes so great

that no man may come against you. Therefore ye will leave the world

and take up your home with me in the clouds.' And as he spake the

heroes became invisible to the people of the Earth, and were no more

seen among them.

[Native Rhodesian Tale.]