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The Warrior Who Had Eight Lovers

In this tale bravery and love are combined, the former being the cause of the other. (Amongst the Maasai it is an honor for a girl to win the heart of a brave and handsome warrior.)The hero in this story is a famous warrior whose bravery and good looks set eight beautiful girls in competition to win him in matrimony. Each of the eight girls composed songs and poems of praise about the warrior. In the end the youngest of the eight girls, by composing a particularly touching song, won his precious love. In translation the words of the song run like this:

My warrior whom I love,

For whom I open the sweet curdled,

Milk of my father’s herd,

And to whom I give fat rams,

Of my father to slaughter,

To whom I give my slender,

Things to lie on,

With whom are you going on a raid next?

The warrior, the story goes, was getting ready to go on a lone raid in a faraway country. Before he set off, he told his new lover to put fresh milk in a calabash on the morning of his departure, and thereafter to keep on checking the color of the milk. If the milk turned red it would mean he had either been killed or seriously wounded. The girl did as she was instructed. One day, many days after the departure of her beloved, she witnessed the milk turning red-alas, the unwanted had happened. She wept bitterly, yet she did not divulge the secret of her grief to anybody.

At dawn the following morning she set off, her calabash on her back, to look for the remains of her lover. Not a single person knew of her mission. For days she travelled, singing loudly-now louder still-the song of praise with which she had won the love of the dead (so she thought) warrior. For eight days she weird on, sleeping in trees at night. Every day she checked the color of her fate-telling milk. Each day it turned a degree redder.

On the ninth day her song brought a reply from her lover somewhere in the wilderness. The voice was faint, almost inaudible. He was weak, seriously wounded. But there was no mistaking it. He was lying at the foot of a tree, bleeding, starving and slowly dying the death of a once great man. His war attire and his weapons-his great shield, his long sharp sword and his spear-lay beside him as if they were also feeling the loss of the hero. Weak with hunger and from the throbbing pain of his wounds, he murmured in scarcely audible whispers what might have been the last words ever to issue from his mouth. ‘You have fulfilled the greatest feat a women can do. Your love and concern for me are deeply registered in a warrior’s heart. When I am finished, and this will not be long, take my war attire and weapons home. When you get a son give them to him so that he may fulfil what I have not.?

Greatness, bravery, love and the world at large had all crumbled to nothing! Her god, her only joy in life, lay dying before her eyes. Even the burning love in her bosom would not save him. ‘But he must not die. He will not! How can he when I am alive? ‘Such thoughts traversed her young mind. She resolved to do the impossible and save him. Life would be meaningless without him.

Meanwhile the dying warrior had gone into a slumber. She felt his heartbeat. It was weak but he was still breathing. As if with heaven’s transformation she suddenly felt strong, very strong. A warrior ready to save her lover! With a jump she snatched up her lover’s shield, spear and club and dashed into night. After wandering for some hours, she came upon an antelope. Stealthily she approached it, the spear held in position ready to perform the fatal deed. It was unbelievable but there it was-innocent beast lay dead. She felt even stronger. The spirit of her lover had made her a warrior.

The cold wind of dawn awoke her lover. She is chopping up pieces of meat and roasting them over the glowing embers of the huge fire she had lit. Youth, love and aspiration had transformed a female lover into a heroine doing everything possible to save warrior hero. As darkness gave way to light, day found her sitting hand-feeding the wounded warrior. She was hungry, but she would not eat until she was sure he had his fill and would live at least a few more days. For two months she nursed him, washing his wounds with medicinal herbs. He could now talk though he was still not sufficiently recovered to walk. Six months elapsed before he recovered fully. For another three months they went out together and stole rams to slaughter. They both grew strong and healthy. Now it was time to go home in glory.

Her parents had wept. She had disappeared mysterious from home. Had she committed suicide? Had she been devoured by wild animals? It was now nine months since she was last seen. Death rites had long since been performed. Her name was no longer mentioned in the family. As for the warrior, he had never been away for so long and his mother had given up hope of ever seeing him again. But his father had persistently refused to perform the death rites. For eight months he had hopes of his illustrious son coming back. It was now the month of June in which the age-grouping of one of his younger sons would be circumcised. But he could not be circumcised when his elder brother’s whereabouts were unknown, not unless the death rites were performed. At last, the old man gave in. The younger son had to be circumcised, so the warrior’s death rites had to be performed forthwith.

It was midmorning, about ten o’ clock by the position of the sun. The family members had had their heads and eyebrow’s shaven clean. Mourners from the neighborhood had gathered around the master of ceremonies. The air was still and cool. The sun was shining bright. Elders and warrior friends delivered their high-flown eulogies. Now to sum it up the master of ceremonies stood before the mourning villagers and began, ‘Today is a dark day in the history of this our people. A true god of his generation is no more in our midst. His bravery, his prowess, his love for our people was unmatched. His death is crowned with honor. It is a shining example of the time-honored saying that no worthy man shall die in bed. Dying in bed is for women. Although he is dead his spirit…….’

‘Hush!’  someone shouted. ‘I hear the song of war.’

Everyone listened in silence. Not everyone heard, but it was there, faint but audible. They cocked their ears to listen. Their faces showed mixed reactions: fear, wonder, puzzlement, grief. The words of the song rang through the air. But the voices? One was thin and feminine, the other manly-heavy and broken. All the warriors were at home. Who could these be? Louder still and nearer rang the voices through the air.

‘That is my son, my dear lost son. He is alive.’ Shouted the bewildered mother.

The waiting was not to be long. From the other side of a hill near his home the warrior and his lover emerged, driving a large herd of cattle. The bells that were tied around the necks of the oxen played to the tune of the war song. And so, in full glory the two dead lovers for whom the people had mourned and were still mourning rose from the dead not a moment too soon.

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