[Extracted from H. Johnston, Uganda Protectorate, vol. 2, pp. 700-6.]


Kintu was the first man, and when he came from the unknown he found nothing in Uganda—no food, no water, no animals, nothing but a blank. He had a cow with him, and when he was hungry he drank her milk.

One day as he roamed about searching for something he saw two girls just dropping down from Mugulu (Heaven, or the Above). He stopped. The girls also stopped a long way off. They were Mugulu's daughters, Nambi and her sister. The girls were much surprised, and Nambi said: "Sister, look at the two things over there. What can they be?" The sister looked, but said nothing. Nambi continued: "We never saw anything like them before. Just go down and see what brings things like these to such a place as the earth."

"How can I?" replied the sister. "Look at those horns!"

"Oh, I don't mean that one; try the other."

The sister then advanced a little way, and when Kintu saw her coming he also advanced to meet her, whereon the sister ran back to Nambi, and they both prepared for flight. Kintu, however, did not continue the pursuit, but returned to the cow.

After some time Nambi and her sister decided to come close to Kintu, and when a hundred places only separated them Nambi spoke to him.

"Who are you?"

"I am Kintu."

"And what is that," pointing to the cow.

"That is my cow."

Nambi and her sister withdrew to consider whether this could possibly be true. They returned directly and asked: "We have never seen anything like you before; where did you come from?"

"I do not know."

Kintu at this point milked some milk on to the palm of his left hand and drank it.

"What do you do that for?" asked Nambi.

"That's my food," replied Kintu.

"We see no water here. What do you drink?"

"I drink milk."

The girls then retired for another conference, and Nambi confided to her sister that she believed this was a man; nothing else could do such extraordinary things. They returned to Kintu and submitted their decision, and Kintu said: "Yes, I am a man."

Nambi then told him all about themselves, and suggested that he should accompany them to Mugulu. Kintu agreed on condition that they also took his cow. This they declined to do, and disappeared.

As soon as they arrived they told Mugulu that they had found a man and a cow.

"Where?" asked Mugulu.

"On the earth."

"Not a real man, surely!" and Mugulu smiled as if he did not believe them, but they suspected he knew all the time.

"Oh yes, a real man. We know he is a real man because he wants food, and when he is hungry he drags the udder of his cow, and squeezes out white juice, which he drinks."

"I shall make inquiries."

"He is very nice," said Nambi, "and I wanted to bring him up here. May I go and fetch him?"

"Leave the matter to me," said Mugulu, and the girls withdrew.

Directly they had gone Mugulu called his sons and said: "Go to the earth and test this story about a real man being there. Nambi says she saw a wild man and a cow, and that the man drank the cow's juice. Fetch the cow."

The boys prepared to start at once.

"Soka olinderira" ("Wait a bit"), said Mugulu; "I don't want the man. He will probably die when he sees you; the cow only."

The boys arrived near Kintu's resting-place, and he was asleep. They took the cow and carried her off. When Kintu awoke he did not see the cow, but just then he did not start in search of her, as he supposed she had only wandered a short distance. Presently he got hungry, and tried to find the cow, but in vain. He ultimately decided that the girls must have returned and stolen her, and he was very angry and hungry. He used many words not of peace, and he sat down and pointed his nails and sharpened his teeth, but there was no one with whom to fight. He then peeled the bark off a tree and sucked it, and thus he fed himself.

Next day Nambi saw Kintu's cow as the boys arrived, and she exclaimed: "You have stolen Kintu's cow! That cow was his food and drink, and now what has he to eat! I like Kintu, if you do not. I shall go down to-morrow, and if he is not dead I shall bring him up here," and she went and found Kintu.

"So they have taken away your cow?"


"And what have you been eating since?"

"I have been sucking the bark of a tree."

"Did you really do that?"

"What else was there to do?"

"Well, come with me to Mugulu and you shall have your cow given back to you." They went, and Kintu, when he arrived, saw a vast multitude of people and plenty of bananas and fowls and goats and sheep—in fact, everything was there in plenty. And the boys, when they saw Nambi arrive with Kintu. said: "Let us tell our father Mugulu," and they went and told him, and Mugulu said: "Go and tell my chiefs to build a big house without a door for the stranger Kintu." The house was built, and Kintu went into it.

Mugulu then gave the folloAving lavish order: "People, go and cook 10,000 dishes of food, and roast 10,000 cows, and fill 10,000 vessels with beer, and give it to the stranger. If he is a real man he will eat it, if not, then—the penalty is death."

The food was prepared and taken to Kintu's house. As there was no door, the crowd put their shoulders to one side of the house and raised it up off the ground, and put the food inside, and told Kintu that if he did not finish it all at a meal the result would be death. They dropped down the side of the house again, and waited outside.

Kintu surveyed the mass of food with dismay, and then started to walk round it, muttering his feelings to himself. As he went round the heap his foot slipped into a hole, and on examination he found that it was the opening of a cavern. "Ha! ha!" said he, "this cave has a good appetite; let me feed it," and he took the 10,000 measures of beer and spilled them in, laying the empty vessels on one side; then the 10,000 carcases of roast cows were pitched into the cavern, and lastly the food from the 10,000 baskets; and then he called to the people outside, after he had closed the hole: "Haven't you got a little more food out there?"

"No," they replied. "Did we not give you enough?"

"Well, I suppose I must do with it, if you have nothing more cooked."

"Have you finished it all?"

"Yes, yes. Come and take away the empty dishes."

The crowd raised the side wall of the house, came inside, and asked Kintu whether he really had disposed of the food. He assured them that he had, and they with one accord cried out: "Then it is a man indeed!" And they went direct to Mugulu and told him that the stranger had finished his meal and asked for more. Mugulu at first branded this statement as a falsehood, but on consideration he believed it. He pondered for a moment, then taking up a copper axe he said to his chiefs: "Take this to Kintu. Tell him I want material to make a fire. Tell him that Mugulu is old and cold, and that Mugulu does not burn wood for a fire. Tell him I want stones, and tell him that he must cut up rocks with this copper axe and fetch the pieces and light me a fire. If he does so, then he may claim his cow. He may also have Nambi, and he can return to the earth."

The chiefs went to Kintu and told him that Mugulu wanted a fire made of stones, and that he must chop a rock with the copper axe.

Kintu suspected there was something wrong, but he spoke no words to that effect. He ]nit the axe on his shoulder and went out before they allowed the wall to drop to the ground. He walked straight to a big rock, stood in front of it, placed the head of the axe on the rock, and rested his chin on the top of the handle.

"It does not seem easy to cut," said he to the axe.

"It is easy enough to me," replied the axe: "just strike and see."

Kintu struck the rock, and it splintered in all directions. He picked up the pieces of rock, and went straight to Mugulu and said: "Here's your firewood, Mugulu. Do you want any more?"

Mugulu said: "This is marvellous! Go back to your house. It only remains now for you to find your cow," and Kintu went away.

Next morning the chiefs were called before Mugulu, and he said: "Take this bucket to Kintu, and tell him to fetch water. Tell him that Mugulu does not drink anything but dew. and if he is a man he is to fetch it quickly."

Kintu received the bucket and the message, and again he suspected there was something wrong, and he said words within himself, but he spoke nothing to that effect. He took the bucket and went out, and he set it down on the grass, and he said to the bucket: "This does not seem very easy." The bucket replied: "It is easy enough to me," and when Kintu looked down he saw that the bucket was full of dew. He took it to Mugulu and said: ''Here's your drinking water, Mugulu. Do you want any more?"

Mugulu said: "This is marvellous. Kintu, you are a prodigy. I am now satisfied that you are a man indeed, and it only remains for you to get your cow. Whoever took Kintu's cow let him restore it."

"Your own sons stole my cow," said Kintu.

"If so," replied Mugulu, "drive all the cows here, and let Kintu pick out his cow if she is amongst them."

Ten thousand cows were brought in a herd. (It will be remembered that Nambi and her sister assumed a fine astonishment at the "horned thing" when they first saw Kintu's cow, and yet this large herd had belonged to Mugulu all the time. It is, however, fatal to cross-examine the story-teller, as will be seen later on.)

Kintu stood near the herd in great perplexity, lost in thought. A hornet came and sat on Kintu's shoulder, and as Kintu gave no heed, the hornet prepared his sting and drove it home.

Kintu struck at the hornet and missed him, and the hornet said: "Don't strike. I am your friend."

"You have just bit me," replied Kintu.

"It wasn't a bite. Listen. You can never tell your cow amongst all that herd. Just you wait until I go out and sit on the shoulder of a cow. That's yours. Milk her."

The herd of 10,000 cows was driven past, but the hornet did not move, and Kintu said aloud: "My cow is not amongst them."

Mugulu then ordered another herd to be brought, numbering twice as many cows as the last herd; but the hornet did not move, and Kintu said aloud: "My cow is not amongst them."

The herdsmen drove the cows away, and another herd was brought, and the hornet flew off and sat on the shoulder of a cow. Kintu went forward and marked her. "That's mine," said he to Mugulu. The hornet then flew to another, a young cow, and Kintu went forward and marked her, and said: "That also is mine." The hornet flew to a third, and Kinttu went forward and marked this one also, and said: "That is mine also."

Mugulu said: ''Quite correct; your cow has had two calves since she arrived in Heaven. You are a prodigy, Kintu. Take your cows, and take Nambi also, and go back to the earth. Wait a bit." Here Mugulu called his servants and said to them: "Go to my store and fetch one banana plant, one potato, one bean, one Indian corn, one ground-nut, and one hen." The things were brought, and Mugulu then addressed Kintu and Nambi: "Take these things with you; you may want them." Then addressing Kintu he said: "I must tell you that Nambi has a brother named Warumbe (Disease or Death). He is mad and ruthless. At this moment he is not here, so you had better start quickly before he returns. If he sees you he may wish to go with you, and you are certain to quarrel." Then to Nambi: "Here is some millet to feed the hen on the road down.* If you forget anything, don't come back to fetch it. That is all; you may go."

Kintu and Nambi started, and when they were some distance on the journey Nambi suddenly remembered that it was time to feed the hen. She asked Kintu for the millet, but it was nowhere to be found, and now it was clear they had forgotten it in the hurry of departure.

"I shall return and fetch it," said Kintu.

"No, no, you must not. Warumbe will have returned, and he will probably wish to accompany us. I don't want him, and you had better not return."

"But the hen is hungry, and we must feed it."

"Yes, it is," assented Nambi.

Nambi remained where she was, and Kintu returned to Mugulu, and explained that he had forgotten the millet. Mugulu was very angry at his having returned, and Warumbe, who just then arrived, asked: "Where is Nambi?"

''She is gone to the earth with Kintu."

"Then I must come too," said Warumbe (literally, "Death").

After some hesitation Kintu agreed to this, and they returned together to Nambi.

"Otya," said Nambi.

"Otya," replied Kintu.







Nambi then objected to Warumbe accompanying them; but he insisted, and finally it was agreed that he should come for a time and stay with Nambi and Kintu. They all three proceeded, and reached the earth at a place called Magongo in Uganda, and they rested. Then the woman planted the banana and the Indian corn, the bean and the ground-nut, and there was a plentiful crop. In the course of time three children were born, and Warumbe claimed one of them.

"Let me have this one," said he to Kintu. "You have still two remaining."

"Oh, I cannot spare one of these, but later on, perhaps, I may be able to spare one."

Years passed and many more children were born, and Warumbe again begged Kintu to give him one. Kintu went round to all the children with the object of selecting one for Warumbe, and he finally returned and said: ''Warumbe, I cannot spare you one just yet; but later on, perhaps, I may be able to do so."

"When you had three you said the same thing. Now you have many, and still refuse to give me one. Mark you, I shall now kill them all. Not to-day, not to-morrow, not this year, not next year; but one by one I shall claim them all."

Next day one child died, and Kintu charged Warumbe with the deed. Next day again another died, and next clay again another; and at last Kintu proposed to return to Mugulu and tell him how Warumbe was killing all his children.

Kintu accordingly went to Mugulu and explained matters. Mugulu replied that he had expected it. His original plan was that Kintu and Warumbe should not have met. He told him that Warumbe was a madman, and that trouble would come of it; yet Kintu returned for the millet against the orders of Mugulu, and this was the consequence.

"However," continued Mugulu, "I shall see what can be done." And with that he called his son Kaikuzi (literally, the "Digger"), and said to him: "Go down and try to bring me back Warunabe."

Kintu and Kaikuzi started off together, and when they arrived were greeted by Nambi. She explained that in his absence Warumbe had killed several more of her sons. Kaikuzi called up Warumbe, and said: "Why are you killing all these children!"

"I wanted one child badly to help me cook my food. I begged Kintu to give me one. He refused. Now I shall kill them every one."

"Mugulu is angry, and he sent me down to recall you."

"I decline to leave here."

"You are only a small man in comparison to me. I shall fetch you by force."

With this they grappled, and a severe contest ensued. After a while Warunibe slipped from Kaikuzi's grasp, and ran into a hole in the ground. Kaikuzi started to dig him out with his fingers, and succeeded in reaching him, but Warumbe dived still deeper into the earth. Kaikuzi tried to dig him out again, and had almost caught him when Warumbe sunk still further into the ground.

"I'm tired now," said Kaikuzi to Kintu, "I will remain a few days, and have another try to catch him."

Kaikuzi then issued an order that there was to be two days' silence in the earth, and that Warumbe would come out of the ground to see what it meant. The people were ordered to lay in two days' provisions, and firewood and water, and not to go out of doors to feed goats or cattle. This having been done, Kaikuzi went into the ground to catch Warumbe, and pursued him for two days, and he forced Warunibe out at a place called Tanda. At this place there were some children feeding goats, and when they saw Warumbe they cried out, and the spell was broken, and Warumbe returned again into the earth. Directly afterwards Kaikuzi appeared at the same place and asked why the children had broken the silence. He was angry and disappointed, and he said to Kintu that the people had broken his order, and that he would concern himself no further with the recalling of Warumbe.

"I am tired now," said Kaikuzi.

"Never mind him," replied Kintu, "let Warumbe remain since you cannot expel him. You may now go back to Mugulu, and 'webale'" ("thank you").

Kaikuzi returned to Mugulu, and explained the whole circumstances.

"Very well," said Mugulu, "let Warumbe stop there."

And Warumbe remained.

* Mugulu never omitted a detail.