“Chon chon gi lala… (Once upon a time),” she began narrating, “there was a man of the lake who said in his heart, ‘When I marry and start having children, I will take good care of my family.’ His name was Opondo. He was a fisherman at Nam Lolwe. So when time came, when he had enough cattle to pay dowry, a thousand bulls and ten thousand goats as it were those days, Opondo searched in the east and west, north and south, and found for himself one beautiful damsel, a daughter of the lake. But lo! A season went by, two seasons, three, four, five… and finally the reality of his wife being barren hit him, and he had to offer sacrifices to Nyasaye to exterminate the curse from his wife.
When his wife finally conceived and gave birth, to their surprise, she gave birth to a monitor lizard. They killed the child and buried it immediately. When she conceived and gave birth the second time, she bore another monitor lizard which they also killed. Nine times she gave birth to monitor lizards and they killed and buried all of them. When she gave birth to a lizard the tenth time, they were tired of killing their children and decided to let the lizard live to see what would happen. They named it Ojwang’. What do you think Ojwang’ ate when he grew up?”
“Leaves,” answered Adhiambo.
“Fish,” said Ochola.
“Chicks,” said Gumba.
“No. He ate exactly the same food that the rest of his family ate… meat, fish, kuon (ugali), veges, porridge, cassava, potatoes… all, everything,” she went on narrating. “When Ojwang’ had grown up, he used to go to the lake to swim. At the lake, he’d remove his lizard skin before he entered the water. And in the water, he’d turn into a very handsome man. A passerby saw him doing this and informed his parents. They followed him to the lake one day and were surprised to see him turn into a handsome man in the water. They therefore sneaked to the shore and stole away his lizard skin, and when he came out of the waters, he remained a human being. The couple desired in vain their nine kids that they had killed without knowing the remedy for the problem. Finally, when days more numerous than hair on a sheep’s skin had passed, Ojwang’ was loved and accepted by the whole community.”
“Wow! What a nice story!” exclaimed Gumba.
“Oh it was so sweet I didn’t expect it to end so soon,” said Otolo.
“Mmmm… dana (grandmother), give us another story,” requested Ochola.
This story is an excerpt from the novel The Long-lasting Tree.