An Age old Venda Folktale
Once upon a time there was a Venda man called Badamughuvha. Badamughuvha had five wives. One day before he left for work, Badamughuvha called his five wives and said: “I am going away now and I want you to be obedient wives. You can eat from all the fruit trees but do not eat from this tree. This is my tree.”
Badamughuvha had scarcely left when the wives looked at the beautiful tree and picked the fruit and ate. The four wives who ate from the forbidden tree collapsed and died, only the youngest wife did not eat.
“What shall I do? Look at all these dead women? I must call Badamughuvha back. Whom shall I send?”
She called goat but goat said: “I cannot go and call Badamughuvha, all that I can say is ‘Mee’ “.
She called hen but hen said, “My eggs are about to hatch, I cannot leave the nest.”
She called cow but cow said, “I can only say ‘Moo’, no, I cannot go.”
Then the youngest wife called rooster and rooster said, “Very well, I’ll go immediately!” Rooster flapped his wings, shouted “Kukulikoo!” and off he flew to Louis Trichardt. “Kiii” he landed on a rooftop and started singing, “Badamughuvha! I am calling Badamughuvha, your people are dying at home!” There was no answer. So rooster flapped his wings and shouted “Kukulikoo!” and flew to Pietersburg. “Kiii” he landed on the highest rooftop in Pietersburg and sang: “Badamughuvha! I am calling Badamughuvha, your people are dying at home!” No answer. So rooster flapped his wings and shouted “Kukulikoo!” and off he flew to Johannesburg. There in Johannesburg he landed “Kiii” on the highest building and sang, “Badamughuvha! I am calling Badamughuvha, your people are dying at home!” And there Badamughuvha answered. “Come quickly Badamughuvha, your women are dead and people are crying at home!”
“This is very bad news,” Badamughuvha said to himself, “I’ll leave immediately. And as for this arrogant rooster, what can I do? I’ll have to travel with him. He is quite capable of telling everybody in the train about my misfortune.”
They left on the first train and to Badamughuvha’s great embarassment the rooster sang all the way back at the top of his voice, “Badamughuvha, your wives are all dead and people are crying at home!”
At their arrival Badamughuvha met his youngest wife and saw what happened. He went into the bush, picked a strong stick and gave those dead women such a hiding that they jumped up, and served him his dinner.
That is the end of the story.
Copyright © Dr Ina le Roux
The story affirms the status of men as head of the household in this patriarchal society as well as the violent means by which their authority is often exercised.
Men very often went off the mines of to find jobs and left the women with the children. Frequently they found a wife in the city and started a new life, leaving the original wife or wives to fend for themselves.
The rooster follows the tracks of many Venda migrant workers who first traveled south during the late 19th century to work in the diamond mines of Kimberley and later the gold mines of Johannesburg.
Traditionally women and children are powerless, and they find relief from their frustrations in the sharing of their common problems in the telling of these stories.