She Who Never Danced

Once there were three girls who went to a dance. On the way to the dance, they came across a luxuriant bush of achuga berries. They agreed to pick some before proceeding to the dance. However, to make it more exciting, one of them suggested that they pick only the juiciest berries with their eyes closed.

As they picked the berries, two of the girls opened their eyes and picked only the best and juiciest berries. They tiptoed to the other end of the berry bush. The other girl with closed eyes would call out, “are you still there?” and the two would shout out, “yes we’re still here.”

By the time the voices of her two friends became soft in the wind, she thought to open her eyes, but then decided angst it. After picking all the berries she could reach, she decided that she’d had enough and opened her eyes. She looked around her and searched around the berry bushes, but there was no one else. She set off with her berries and began to sing a song:

Look look look,
Look at the deeds of those girls,
Saying yes from the top of the rock
But all that is left of them is their shit,
Shouting after them, ei.
Ei from the top of the rock.

Along the way she met a mother and her little baby. “Young lady, what’s the matter?” the mother asked.

“Nothing much, all I want to know is whether you came across two age mates of mine on this path?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Well, we were on the way to a dance but those two girls left me behind.”

The lady listened to her and asked, “What’s that you are carrying in your hands?”

“Oh nothing much, just some achuga berries.”

When the girl revealed the berries to the woman, the woman said to her, “let me have a closer look at them.” With that, she grabbed the berries and stuffed them into her mouth, relishing the sweetness of the berries as they burst in between her teeth.

The girl then started singing:

Look look look,

Look at the deed of this woman,
She gobbled all my berries,
The berries I’d picked with those girls,
Those girls who left me behind,
But all that is left of them is their shit,
Shouting after them, ei.
Ei from the top of the rock.

The woman was appalled by her song and in shame, she said, “Okay, I’ve got nothing to give you except my own milk.”

So the woman expressed milk and gave her a bowl of it. The girl then went on her way and came across a pond. She placed her bowl of milk on the edge of the pond and thought about how lovely the pond was.

The pond sensed the milk and knocked it over spilling all of it into itself. In alarm she got up from her reverie and started singing;

Look look look,
Look at the deed of this pond,
This pond spilled my milk,
My milk, the milk of that woman,
That woman who gobbled my berries,
The berries I’d picked with those girls,
Those girls who left me behind,
Saying yes from the top of the rock
But all that is left of them is their shit,
Shouting after them, ei.
Ei from the top of the rock.

The pond gave her a luut, lung fish, and she slung the slithering fish over her shoulder and continued on her journey. As she walked on, she came across an eagle who swooped down onto her path from the bushes. “Hey lady, what news? ” it asked.

“Nothing much,” she answered.

“What’s that you are carrying?”

“Oh, I’m carrying a fish.”

“Well then, let me have a look at your nice fish.”

The greedy eagle looked at the fish and could not help drooling. He opened his beak wide and ate the fish as the girl looked on.

The girl became sad and started crying as she sand her song:

Look look look,
Look at the deed of Ukwateng,
This Ukwateng ate my fish,
My fish, the fish of that pond,
That pond that spilled my milk,
My milk, the milk of that woman,
That woman who gobbled my berries,
The berries I’d picked with those girls,
Those girls who left me behind,
Saying yes from the top of the rock
But all that is left of them is their shit,
Shouting after them, ei.

When the eagle heard her song, he was ashamed and plucked a feather from his wing. “Here, have this beautiful feather,” it said.

The girl took the feather and walked on until she came across a group of dancers who were dancing without any feathered adornment. She was heartbroken as she had never been to any dance where the dancers didn’t wear any feathers.

She said hello them and the dancers asked her, “can you lend us your feather so that we can admire it?”

She gave them the beautiful feather and they passed it from hand to hand and soon they were trying it on their heads and posing with it. They delighted in the feather but soon rough handling broke the delicate feather.

When the girl saw this, she became distraught and started singing;

Look look look
At the deed of these dancers,
These dancers broke my feather,
My feather, the feather of Ukwateng,
Ukwateng who ate my fish,
My fish, the fish of that pond,
That pond that spilled my milk,
My milk, the milk of that woman,
That woman who gobbled my berries,
The berries I’d picked with those girls,
Those girls who left me behind,
Saying yes from the top of the rock
But all that is left of them is their shit,
Shouting after them, ei.

“Aah,” the dancing men protested, “if that is the case then we’ll give you something to atone for our deed.” With that they looked for what to give her. Eventually they gave her a beautiful staff which she took with her as she continued on her journey.

After walking for a long time, she came across a herdsman who was herding his animals empty handed.

“Hey there,” she said, “how come you are herding cattle with empty hands?”

“Well, you see in these parts there are neither sticks or canes. Can I borrow yours to have a try?”

She gave the staff to the herdsman and he was too keen to try it out on one of the cows that when he lifted up the staff and brought it down on the rump of a wayward cow, it broke in two.

“Aah,” screamed the girl in alarm and began to sing her song:

Look look look
At the deed of this herdsman,
This herdsman has broken my staff,
My staff the staff of those dancers,
Those dancers who broke my feather,
My feather the feather Ukwateng,
Ukwateng who ate my fish,
My fish the fish of that pond,
That pond that spilled my milk,
My milk the milk of that woman,
That woman who gobbled my berries,
The berries I’d picked with those girls,
Those girls who left me behind,
Saying yes from the top of the rock
But all that is left of them is their shit,
Shouting after them, ei.

The herdsman was an uncouth sort of a man who thought of nothing to give in atonement. So he jumped at her and started hitting her with his fist. He kept smacking her, and she took to her heels as fast as she could to escape the brutal beating.

As the girl ran, she thought about her journey and how she had missed the dance because of the treachery of the other girls.

This story teaches us to be mindful about the kind of friends that we’ve got. For all those that you count as your friends, you must know their character – unlike this girl who did not know the nature of her friends.


Retold by Lagile

Translated from the Luo by Deyu African.