The Story of Kintu - Ugandan Folktale

Updated: Feb 22

(Baskerville & Morris)

ONCE upon a time, a very long while ago, there were no people in the country of Uganda except one man, and his name was Kintu. He had one cow, and this cow was his great friend, but he was very lonely all by himself on the Earth.


Now up in the sky there was a lovely kingdom called the Cloud Land, and the King was called Gulu. He had many sons and daughters, and these children used to wait for a rainbow to touch the Earth, and then they would slide down it and stay a little while below, playing among the trees; but they couldn't stay long, for a rainbow very soon melts away in the hot Sun, and if they had waited too long they could not have climbed home to the Cloud Land. One day two of Gulu's sons saw a rainbow touching the Earth, and they called to their sister Nambi to come with them. Nambi was a very beautiful girl, and the King Gulu loved her very much. She went quickly with her brothers and slid down to the Earth, and the part of the Earth the rainbow touched was Uganda, and there they saw Kintu sitting all alone watching his cow graze. At first they were rather frightened, for they had never seen a man before, but they soon made friends with Kintu, and they stayed a long time talking to him. He told them how lonely he was, and Nambi, who had a tender heart, was very sorry for him, and she said: "I will come back again and marry you, and then you won't be lonely any more in this beautiful country." When they were on their way home the brothers reproved Nambi; they said: "Why did you say that? You know our father Gulu will never allow you to go away and marry Kintu."


But Nambi said: "I will go, I promised Kintu, and my father would never wish me to break my promise. I will go home now and tell my father, and then pack up all my things, and go to the Earth to live there always."


When they arrived back in the Cloud Land they told Gulu all they had done, and Nambi told him that she had promised to marry Kintu, and go and live on the Earth. At first Gulu was angry, but at last he gave his consent, but on one condition. He said to Nambi: "If you want to be happy on the Earth you must go secretly; pack your things very carefully, and these two brothers will go with you and see that you arrive safely; but, whatever you do, you must not tell any of the others that you are going. If your brother Death, whom we call Walumbe, hears of it, he will want to go with you, and he will spoil your beautiful Earth."


So Nambi and her two brothers packed all her things in bundles, and she said good-bye to her father, and they started down a rainbow. Suddenly Nambi stopped. "Oh, I have forgotten the millet seed for my fowls," she said, "and as Kintu has no fowls he will have no millet seed, and my fowls will die; I must hurry back and fetch it." She went back quickly and found the little parcel of seeds, and just as she was starting for the rainbow again she met her brother Walumbe. "Where are you going?" he asked. Nambi was very frightened, and at first she would not tell him, but Walumbe would not go away. "Where you go I am going too," he said.


"You cannot come with me," cried poor Nambi. "I am going to the Earth, and our father said you were not to go with me."

"Oh, ho!" said Walumbe, "so you have tried to have a secret from me; well, you can go off, but I shall come and visit you and your man Kintu very soon."


Poor Nambi cried very much, and when she came to the place where her brothers were waiting for her she told them. They were horrified and afraid what their father Gulu might say, and they said to Nambi, "If you had not been disobedient this would not have happened"; but as nothing could be done they all slid down the rainbow to the Earth, and Nambi soon forgot her tears when she met Kintu again and saw how happy she had made him by coming back

Then the brothers said good-bye to her and went home, and Nambi began to make her new life. She untied the bundle of banana stalks and showed Kintu how to plant them in rows wide apart, for she said: "They will spread and need room to grow"; then she planted a barkcloth branch from which in time she showed Kintu how to make barkcloth, and she sowed some of the millet seed, so that her fowls should always have food; and she and Kintu were very busy and very happy and loved each other very much.


Then one day Walumbe came down to see them, and Nambi was very frightened. She told Kintu all about him and said: "We must get rid of him at all costs; my father Gulu told me he would spoil our happiness." But nothing would induce Walumbe to go away, and at last Kintu promised him: "If you will go away, not to return, I will give you my first child"; and then he went back. Kintu and Nambi lived many years happily together and had many sons and daughters, and Kintu forgot all about his promise. At last, one day, Walumbe came back and claimed his child. Kintu was very angry and tried to drive him away, but this time Walumbe would not go, and he said, "As you did not keep your promise and give me your first child, now I will stay on the Earth always, and I will take what I want." And although Kintu and Nambi had so many children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren that Uganda was soon full of people, still every now and then cruel Walumbe came and took one away, sometimes an old man and sometimes a young one and sometimes a little baby. But still the country of Uganda is full of people who have beautiful banana gardens, and many cows and fowls, and little fat children with skins like chocolate, and the rainbows still come down from the Cloud Land and touch the Earth, as they did in the days when Nambi played with her brothers.


Excerpt from:

Baskerville, Rosetta, and E. G Morris. The King Of The Snakes. 1st ed., Sheldon Press (S.P.C.K.), 1951.


Submitted by Kebirungi Destiny Mugasha


#Uganda

(Baskerville, and Morris)

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