Loading...
Menu
Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Nonfiction  ➡  Travel  ➡  Essays & Travelogues  ➡  Fairy tales

Gorgui and his Four Wives - A West African Folk Tale re-told

West African Folk Tales

GORGUI AND HIS FOUR WIVES

[*re-told by *]

Mark Williams

(British ex-pat author in The Gambia)

© Mark Williams 2016

Odyssey

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Gorgui and his Four Wives 1.

Gorgui and his Four Wives 2.

Gorgui and his Four Wives 3.

Gorgui and his Four Wives 4.

Gorgui and his Four Wives 5.

Gorgui and his Four Wives 6.

Gorgui and his Four Wives 7.

Gorgui and his Four Wives 8.

Gorgui and his Four Wives 9.

Gorgui and his Four Wives 10.

Gorgui and his Four Wives 11.

Gorgui and his Four Wives 12.

Gorgui and his Four Wives 13.

Gorgui and his Four Wives 14.

Gorgui and his Four Wives 1.

THERE WAS A MAN named Gorgui who lived in a remote West African village, far from the city.

He had four beautiful wives. In order, they were his first wife Yeela, his second wife Yeelankeh, his third wife Torro, and his fourth wife Torrino. All these women lived with their husband Gorgui in one compound in the time-honoured tradition of the region.

Many said the four women were among the most beautiful in the whole of Africa and that Gorgui was the luckiest man alive to have four such beautiful wives.

One day Hyena was passing the village and he heard mention of this man Gorgui, who had four such beautiful wives, so he asked the villagers about them.

The villagers were always happy to see a new face in the village to chat to, for the village was remote and visitors few and far between, so they made Hyena very welcome.

The villagers cooked green tea, attaya, and the first glass went to their guest, as was the custom in West Africa.  As Hyena sat beneath the shade of the big baobab tree in the village bantaba he heard wonderful things said about Gorgui and his four beautiful wives.

No-one had a bad word to say about Gorgui. He was the richest man in the village, with the most beautiful wives in the village, and everyone envied his good fortune.

They all marvelled at how Gorgui’s crops always grew faster and bigger than the crops of the other farmers, and how he could afford to eat goat meat all year round when the other villagers had to make do with dried fish and could only afford to kill a goat for the special festivals like Tobaski.

But most of all they talked again and again about Gorgui’s four beautiful wives. They told Hyena how Gorgui had got his first three wives from neighbouring villages and that he wanted his fourth wife to come from their own village, but the only woman beautiful enough, Torrino, was already betrothed to another man, Modou.

“What happened?” asked Hyena.

“It was all very strange,” explained the village elder. “The cola nuts had been exchanged and we were all set for the marriage ceremony, but on the night before the wedding Modou just disappeared, never to return.”

“That is terrible,” said Hyena. “And what became of poor Torrino?”

The village elder smiled. “Torrino was very distressed, of course, for it would bring great shame on her family if there was no marriage, but fortunately for everyone our dear friend Gorgui came forward and asked Torrino to be his fourth wife, so everyone was happy.”

The more the villagers told Hyena about these four beautiful wives, the more Hyena began to think to himself how tasty these four beautiful wives might be were they to be popped into a cooking pot with hot spices and cassava and sweet potatoes.

At length Hyena decided it was time to see the four women for himself. He thanked the villagers for their kindness in entertaining him, then asked for directions to Gorgui’s compound and set off on his own.

Gorgui and his Four Wives 2.

WHEN HYENA REACHED the compound he saw Gorgui stretched out in a hammock, relaxing beneath the shade of a big mango tree, laden with ripe fruit, for it was that time of year.

“Hello, friend,” Hyena said. “I just happen to be passing through your village. And what a fine village it is. But I was especially astonished to see this compound, which I do believe is the finest compound I have ever seen in all my travels.”

At this Gorgui swelled with pride. He sat up and welcomed the stranger, as is the custom West Africa.

“Hello, friend Hyena,” Gorgui said, shaking hands with the visitor. “My name is Gorgui. Do come in. Is there anything I can get you?”

Of course Hyena wanted to see Gorgui’s four beautiful wives, but he couldn’t say so, so he said, “I am thirsty, friend Gorgui. Would you be so kind as to spare me some water to drink?”

Gorgui looked up from his comfortable hammock. “Why, of course, Hyena. Come in and sit beneath the shade of this mango tree. I will send for some water for you.”

So Hyena sat beneath the mango tree alongside Gorgui, and Gorgui called out, “Yeela, please fetch some water for my new friend, Hyena.”

Minutes later Yeela, Gorgui’s first wife, returned with the water, which Hyena gratefully drank.

“You are very kind,” said Hyena. “You must be Gorgui’s daughter,” he said to Yeela.

Gorgui laughed. “No, friend Hyena, this is my dear wife Yeela.”

Hyena stared in admiration at Yeela. Hyena was thinking, _My, my, Yeela, you look very tasty indeed. You would fit nicely into a big cooking pot filled with hot spices and cassava and sweet potatoes. _

But of course he could not say this. Instead Hyena said, “Why, you must be the luckiest man in the whole village to have such a young and beautiful wife, friend Gorgui,” and Gorgui swelled with pride.

When Yeela had gone Hyena said, “Why, I do not think I have ever seen a woman so beautiful in all my travels.”

At this Gorgui swelled with pride again. “Friend Hyena, you speak the truth. But I am even luckier than you think.”

“How is that so?” Hyena asked, not wanting Gorgui to know that he, Hyena, had already heard about Gorgui’s splendid compound and his beautiful wives from the other villagers.

Gorgui wanted Hyena to see all his beautiful wives, but he did not want to appear boastful, so he said, “Friend Hyena we must have green tea now,” as was also the custom in West Africa.

“Green tea?” said Hyena. “Why, I have not had green tea for many days,” he lied, for the villagers had served him green tea just an hour earlier, beneath the baobab tree at the village bantaba. “That is very generous of you to offer me green tea,” said Hyena, and Gorgui swelled with pride.

Gorgui wanted to show the stranger just how generous he could be, so he said, “And then, friend Hyena, you must stay and have lunch with me.”

“But friend Gorgui,” said Hyena, “I do not want to impose on your good will. I can hunt in the bush and find some dry leaves to eat. I will be fine.”

“No, that will not do,” said Gorgui, seeing another way he could show off his wealth. “You are my guest and I will have you eat a fine lunch with me. We are having rice and cassava and sweet potato and goat meat served in a domada groundnut sauce.”

Hyena stared in mock amazement at Gorgui. “My, that is a fine meal,” he said. “I did not realise it was a festival today that you should be eating goat meat.”

Gorgui laughed. “No, it is just an ordinary day, friend Hyena, but here in Kunda Gorgui we eat goat meat every day.”

Hyena pretended to be amazed. “Why, in all my travels I have never known anybody wealthy enough to eat goat meat every day. You are very fortunate to be able to eat so well.”

At this Gorgui swelled with pride. “But first, attaya,” Gorgui said. “We must have green tea before we have lunch.” And so saying, Gorgui clapped his hands. “Yeelankeh, prepare charcoal for attaya,” he shouted.

“Yeelankeh? Who is Yeelankeh?” Hyena asked.

Gorgui smiled. “You will soon see,” he said. He clapped his hands again. “Torro, bring the glasses and the cooking pot for attaya,” he shouted.

“And who is Torro?” Hyena asked.

“You will soon see,” said Gorgui. He clapped his hands again. “Torrino, bring green tea and sugar for attaya,” he said.

“And who is Torrino?” asked Hyena.

“You will soon see,” said Gorgui again, and he sat back and waited for his other three beautiful wives to bring the things he had requested.

Gorgui and his Four Wives 3.

YEELANKEH QUICKLY RETURNED with the charcoal burner, full of glowing red embers, and she placed it down in front of Gorgui, then stood to attention, waiting to be introduced to the visitor.

“Friend Hyena, this is Yeelankeh,” said Gorgui.

“What a beautiful daughter you have,” said Hyena.

Gorgui laughed. “This is not my daughter,” he said. “Yeelankeh is my second wife.”

Hyena stared in admiration at Yeelankeh. Hyena was thinking, _My, my, Yeelankeh, you look very tasty indeed. You would fit nicely into a big cooking pot filled with hot spices and cassava and sweet potatoes. _

But of course he could not say this. Instead Hyena said, “Why, you must be the luckiest man in the whole country to have such a young and beautiful second wife, friend Gorgui.”

At this Gorgui swelled with pride. He clapped his hands. “Torro,” he cried. “Come meet my friend Hyena.”

Torro came forward with the two attaya glasses and the attaya cooking pot and placed them on the ground in front of Gorgui alongside the charcoal burner with its glowing red embers, then she stood to attention, waiting to be introduced to the visitor.

“Friend Hyena, this is Torro,” said Gorgui.

Hyena stared in admiration at Torro. Hyena was thinking, _My, my, Torro, you look very tasty indeed. You would fit nicely into a big cooking pot filled with hot spices and cassava and sweet potatoes. _

But of course he could not say this. Instead Hyena said, “Why, you must be the luckiest man in the whole of Africa to have such a young and beautiful third wife, friend Gorgui.”

At this Gorgui swelled with pride. He clapped his hands. “Torrino,” he cried. “Come meet my friend Hyena.”

Hyena stared in admiration at Torrino. Hyena was thinking, _My, my, Torrino, you look very tasty indeed. You would fit nicely into a big cooking pot filled with hot spices and cassava and sweet potatoes. _

But of course he could not say this. Instead Hyena exclaimed, “Such a beautiful daughter!”

Gorgui laughed. “Daughter, Hyena? No, I have no daughters yet. Torrino is my fourth wife.”

Hyena again pretended to be surprised, shaking his head in disbelief. “Never have I seen four such beautiful women in one village, let alone in one compound married to the same man. You must be the luckiest man in the whole world to have four such young and beautiful wives.”

Of course, Gorgui swelled with pride.

Hyena saw this and said, “Your neighbours must be very envious of you, friend Gorgui.”

At this Gorgui swelled with pride yet again, for he could not help himself. “That they are, Hyena,” Gorgui said. “And my brothers too. All the men here are jealous of my good fortune.” He clapped his hands again and the ladies went back to their chores, leaving Gorgui and Hyena alone under the mango tree.

Hyena was nodding wisely. “Good fortune indeed, friend Gorgui,” he said, thinking how tasty those four wives would be if they were cooked in a nice yassa sauce.

Gorgui began making the attaya, pouring sugar and green tea into the cooking pot with a little water and then boiling the water. He filled one small glass with the green tea liquid and then held the glass high and poured that glass of tea into the next glass, and then poured the second glass of tea back into the first glass. Then he poured the tea back into the pot and added more tea and more sugar and more water and did it all over again.

Gorgui was concentrating hard on getting the attaya just right, because he wanted Hyena to think that he, Gorgui, was the best attaya maker in the world.

Hyena was happy to sit quietly and watch Gorgui, because it meant he had more time to think of a way to somehow get to eat those four beautiful wives. It wasn’t going to be easy, but Hyena was a sly and cunning creature and by the time he and Gorgui had finished their attaya Hyena had begun to form a plan.

Gorgui and his Four Wives 4.

HYENA CHATTED QUIETLY with Gorgui about the soon-to-come rainy season and all the work Gorgui would have to do on his farm, and Gorgui took Hyena for a walk around the compound to show off his wealth.

Hyena pretended to listen to Gorgui as he prattled on, but really he was thinking of ways to get to eat those four beautiful wives, and when he saw some black magic masks hanging on a wall his plan began to take shape.

Pretty soon the four beautiful wives placed beneath the shade of the mango tree a big bowl of rice and cassava and sweet potatoes and goat meat in groundnut domada sauce and Gorgui and Hyena sat down to lunch.

“This is a fine meal, friend Gorgui,” said Hyena as he ate, “and how could it be otherwise when it has been cooked by four such beautiful wives.”

At this Gorgui swelled with pride, as Hyena knew he would.

“But it must cause you much worry too,” said Hyena.

Gorgui stopped eating and looked up at Hyena. “Worry?” he said. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, how do you sleep at night,” asked Hyena, “knowing what might happen to you?”

Gorgui stared at Hyena, mystified by this statement. “Why would I worry?” Gorgui demanded. “I sleep fine at night. What could possibly happen to me?”

Hyena looked Gorgui square in the eye. “But friend Gorgui, when you die, what is going to happen? Why, the other men in the village will fight over who will get to marry your four beautiful widows. You have nourished them and cared for them so well, such that they will be prized possessions once you are gone.”

Gorgui was still staring at Hyena. “Die? Who told you I am going to die?”

“We must all die,” said Hyena. “No-one lives forever.”

Gorgui laughed, breathing a sigh of relief. “That is true, friend Hyena,” he said. “We must all die eventually. But by the time I am old and wrinkled and ready to die, my wives will be old and wrinkled too, so no-one else will want to marry them.”

A sly smile crossed Hyena’s face. “But some of us will die sooner than others.”

“Not I,” said Gorgui. He jumped up and stood straight, thrusting out his chest and flexing his muscles. “Look! I am strong and in good health. I have many decades still to go before I am ready to die.”

“It is true you are strong and healthy, friend Gorgui,” agreed Hyena, “but strength and good health are no match for black magic.”

Gorgui’s eyes widened, a mixture of surprise and fear. “What do you mean, Hyena? What is this talk of black magic?”

Hyena grinned, baring his sharp teeth. “I am a hyena,” said Hyena. “I prowl the villages of a night, and see things other folks don’t see.”

Gorgui eyed Hyena warily. “What have you seen, friend Hyena?” he demanded.

“I have seen you late at night in the bush beyond the village,” Hyena said.

Gorgui shrugged. “What of it? Sometimes I like to take a walk at night when the moon is bright and the stars sparkle in the sky.”

Hyena got up and prowled back and forth before Gorgui, thinking about the black magic masks he had seen hanging from the wall. Even though Hyena had never seen Gorgui before, he knew the ways of black magic.

“I have seen you practicing your magic, that is what I have seen,” Hyena lied. “I know you have used witchcraft to overcome your enemies, and so you can have your own way in all things.”

“Not so,” said Gorgui. “Not so. You are mistaken, friend Hyena.”

But the protest was lame and Hyena knew he had guessed correctly.

“Come, come, friend Gorgui,” said Hyena. “Look at this splendid compound you live in. Why, it is by far the best compound in the village.”

Gorgui swelled with pride. “That is it. I cannot deny it.”

“And you have the four most beautiful wives in the village,” said Hyena.

Gorgui swelled with pride again. “That I have. This cannot be denied either.”

“Yet you are a poor farmer, working the land,” said Hyena. “How is it possible for someone in your position to live in such splendour with such beautiful wives without the help of witchcraft?”

Gorgui nodded. “You are right, of course, friend Hyena,” he said. “But I have only ever used black magic to help my crops grow,” he said.

Hyena grinned again, baring his teeth even more. “Come now, friend Gorgui,” he said. “You need to be honest with me now, so that I might help you overcome the many troubles ahead.”

“I have told you the truth, friend Hyena,” protested Gorgui.

“But I have seen you cook and eat the liver of your victims,” Hyena lied. “In fact, I have licked my lips enviously, for the last liver was particularly fine.”

“My last victim?” Gorgui was unsure how much of Hyena’s talk was bluff. “Then tell me, friend Hyena, the name of my last victim was, if you know so much.”

Hyena remembered what the villagers had told him, of how Gorgui’s fourth wife Torrino had been betrothed to another man, Modou, and that cola nuts had been exchanged, but that the husband-to-be had disappeared the night before the wedding, never to return.

“Why it was Modou, of course,” said Hyena. “The man all set to marry the beautiful Torrino, until you killed him with your magic, ate his liver, and took Torrino as your fourth wife.”

Gorgui and his Four Wives 5.

GORGUI STARED IN shock at Hyena. “You know too much, friend Hyena. Yes, this is all true. What is it you want of me? Do you intend to tell everyone in the village about what I have done?”

Hyena smiled the special hyena smile that only hyenas can smile.

“Do not fear, friend Gorgui,” he said. “Your secret is safe with me. I am here to help you.”

“Help me?” said Gorgui. “I do not understand. How can you help me?”

“Well think about it like this,” said Hyena. “What is to stop someone doing to you what you have done to Modou? What is to stop someone else using black magic to kill you and then eating your liver, so they can marry one of your beautiful wives? Maybe even all four of them?”

“But who would do such a thing?” Gorgui said.

Hyena smiled the hyena smile again. “Do not your neighbours look on in envy at your four beautiful wives every time they see them?”

“They do,” said Gorgui, and he swelled with pride. “Every time one of my wives goes to fetch water, or to the market to buy rice, heads turn. It makes me very proud.”

“And your brothers,” said Hyena. “Do they not cast envious glances at your four beautiful wives also?”

“They do,” agreed Gorgui, and he swelled with pride again. “Sometimes my youngest brother even jokes that he will marry my wives when I am gone.”

“You see!” cried Hyena. “That is exactly what I mean. Do you think your brothers and your neighbours will wait until you are old and withered? By then your wives will be that much older and less beautiful too.”

“Yes, they will be older and less beautiful too,” agreed Gorgui.

“So your neighbours and your brothers will not wait for you to die, friend Gorgui,” said Hyena. “They will make it happen sooner, so they can marry your four beautiful wives while they are still young and beautiful.”

“But they might not,” said Gorgui hopefully.

“But they will,” said Hyena firmly.

“How can you be so sure?” asked Gorgui.

“Answer me this, friend Gorgui,” Hyena replied. “Do you know where your neighbours are right now, as we speak?”

“Why, they are working the fields, perhaps, or otherwise going about their business,” said Gorgui.

“Are you sure?” asked Hyena.

Gorgui thought for a moment. “No, I cannot be absolutelysure unless I see it with my own eyes,” he admitted, beginning to worry.

“And where are your brothers right now, friend Gorgui?” asked Hyena.

“Why, they are… Well, most likely they are at work in the fields or otherwise going about their business,” said Gorgui, no longer so sure of himself, and worrying all the more.

Hyena dropped his voice to a whisper. “Let me tell you, friend Gorgui, that just this morning as I walked through the village on my way to your compound I saw both your neighbours and your brothers together, beneath the shelter of the baobab tree at the bantaba, discussing matters of great importance.”

Gorgui stared at Hyena in disbelief. “My brothers and my neighbours? Together beneath the baobab tree? Discussing matters of great importance? But what matters could be of great importance that they would exclude me?”

“What do you think?” Hyena said. “There can only be one matter they would want to discuss without your being there. Obviously they were discussing how to kill you and then share your four beautiful wives between them.”

“No!” cried a horrified Gorgui. “That cannot be!”

“But I saw them with my own eyes,” said Hyena, pointing to his big, bright eyes. “I heard them with my own ears,” he said, pointing to his long ears. “That is why I came here, friend Gorgui. To warn you.”

“I will fight them!” declared Gorgui angrily. “Every last one of them. None of them shall have my four beautiful wives.”

“But the villagers are many,” said Hyena. “You are one. Even with your mastery of black magic and witchcraft, you cannot take them all on.”

“You are right,” said Gorgui, looking deeply worried. “There are too many of them.” He grabbed Hyena by the paw. “Friend Hyena, you must help me.”

Hyena smiled the hyena smile. “Sit down and finish this fine meal, friend Gorgui,” he said.

“I have no appetite now,” said Gorgui. “You eat it, friend Hyena, and tell me how I can save myself.”

So Hyena ate the whole bowl of food himself, while explaining to Gorgui what he had overheard the villagers planning. It was all lies, of course, for Hyena was a hyena after all. But Gorgui was too worried about what would happen to him to think that hyenas are incapable of telling the truth and only think about themselves.

“They plan to wait until the rains come,” Hyena said, “and then, one night when there is a mighty tropical storm, with thunder clashing loudly and the wind howling so no-one will hear your screams, they will come and end your life and steal your four beautiful wives from you.”

Gorgui gasped in horror. “But the rainy season is just four months away. That means I have only four months to live! Hyena, I do not want to die. Tell me what I must do.”

Hyena licked his paws clean as he finished the last sweet potato from the bowl. “Friend Gorgui, there is only one way you can prevent the men of the village from doing what they plan,” he said.

“And what is that, pray tell, friend Hyena,” demanded Gorgui. “I will listen to any plan you may have, for I will never let another man marry any of my four beautiful wives.”

“There is only one way,” Hyena said again, with a sly smile.

“Tell me! Tell me!” implored Gorgui.

“We must kill your four beautiful wives and eat them ourselves,” said Hyena.

“Kill my four beautiful wives?”Gorgui stared at Hyena. “But why? How will that help?”

Hyena smiled the hyena smile. “Why, Gorgui, is it not obvious?” he said. “The only reason the villagers want to kill you is because they want to marry your four beautiful wives. If we kill and eat your four beautiful wives first then no-one else will ever be able to marry them, and the men of the village will have no reason to want to kill you.”

Gorgui thought about this for a few minutes. Hyena waited patiently, guessing rightly what was going through Gorgui’s mind.

Hyena is correct, Gorgui was thinking. If I die tomorrow then some other man will surely come and take my beautiful wives for his own. And even if I do not die tomorrow, maybe some men will try to kill me the next day, or the day after, just so they can steal my women.

Finally Gorgui nodded to Hyena. “Okay, you have a deal, my friend. We will start on the last Wednesday of the month, since I do not have to go the farm on that day. We will kill one wife each month for the next four months, so by the time the rains begin there will be no reason for the men of the village to kill me.”

Hyena licked his lips at the thought of eating the four beautiful wives. “You are indeed a wise man, Gorgui,” he said. “A very wise man.”

And Gorgui swelled with pride.

Gorgui and his Four Wives 6.

WEDNESDAY CAME, AND Hyena arrived at Gorgui’s compound. Gorgui was resting in his hut to avoid the hot sun, but when he heard Hyena arrive Gorgui jumped up from his bed to meet his friend. They quickly discussed their plan, and then set about making it happen.

Gorgui called out to one of his wives, “Yeela, can you bring me some water to drink with Hyena?”

To the other three wives he said, “Yeelankeh, dear second wife, and Torro dear third wife, and Torrino dear fourth wife, would you please go to the market to buy some palm oil, green tea and sugar.” He handed some coins each to his second, third and fourth wife. “Go together,” Gorgui instructed them, “so Hyena and I will not be disturbed. We have important business to discuss about the mango trees and the groundnut harvest.”

Hyena and Gorgui watched the three women head off for the market, then sat back to wait for Yeela to bring the water from the well.

When Yeela returned, Gorgui watched her put the water vessel down carefully on the small table, so as not so spill a single drop. Then he said to her, “Thank you dear first wife Yeela. Now would you please bring me an empty rice sack, a big, heavy cooking pot and a small bag of charcoal.”

Yeela looked most surprised at this strange request. “But dear husband Gorgui,” she said. “You have four wives to cook for you, and besides, what meal can you make with an empty rice sack?”

Gorgui sighed at Hyena. “You see how troublesome women can be, friend Hyena? Always they ask questions, instead of doing as they are bid.”

Gorgui then turned to his first wife. “Dear first wife Yeela, my friend Hyena is thirsty. The water is for him to drink. My friend Hyena asked me if he could borrow a cooking pot and some charcoal just for one day, and the empty rice sack is so he can carry the cooking pot and charcoal slung over his shoulder when he leaves. Of course, I said yes, for am I not the most generous man in the village? Now please bring them to me.”

“Yes, dear husband,” said Yeela, and off she went to fetch the items Gorgui had asked for.

When Yeela returned, Gorgui took the charcoal and the empty rice sack from her, then handed the heavy cooking pot to Hyena.

“Anything else, dear husband?” Yeela asked.

Gorgui let the empty rice sack slip from his fingers to the floor. “Oops. I have dropped the rice sack. Would you pick it up for me, dear first wife?” he said.

“Of course, dear husband,” said Yeela.

As Yeela bent down to pick up the empty rice sack, Hyena raised the heavy cooking pot and then brought it crashing down on the poor woman’s head, killing her instantly.

Gorgui and Hyena together quickly put the dead first wife into the rice sack and dragged her into the bush along with the cooking pot, the water and the charcoal, and hid everything behind a cluster of small trees.

When the other three wives returned from the market Gorgui called them all over.

“My three beautiful wives,” he said, “I am afraid Yeela has had to rush to a neighbouring village because her uncle is very ill. She will not be coming back until after the rainy season.”

“Yes,” said Hyena,” joining in the act. “A messenger from Yeela’s village came calling, saying she must leave at once, so your kind and generous husband Gorgui gave her money and sent her off immediately.”

The three wives were of course most surprised and disappointed that Yeela had left so suddenly.

“We all wish Yeela’s uncle a speedy recovery,” said the second wife Yeelankeh, “and we hope Yeela returns to be with us soon.”

“Yes, we will all miss Yeela,” said the third wife Torro.

“But don’t worry, dear husband Gorgui,” said the fourth wife Torrino, “for we three wives will all work extra hard to do Yeela’s chores.”

Gorgui smiled when he heard this, for it meant his three remaining wives were not at all suspicious. “I am very lucky to have three such thoughtful and beautiful wives,” he said.

“Yes, friend Gorgui,” said Hyena. “You are indeed the luckiest man in the village,” and he watched Gorgui swell with pride.

That night, when the three remaining wives were all asleep, Gorgui took his machete and crept out into the bush where he found Hyena waiting patiently where they had hidden everything earlier in the day.

Together they chopped up Yeela into bits small enough to pop into the cooking pot, lit the charcoal, cooked her and then ate her  .

As Hyena licked his paws clean afterwards, he said, “Gorgui, never have I had a more satisfying meal. Truly your wives are both beautiful and tasty.”

At this Gorgui swelled with pride.

“You think this one was tasty, friend Hyena?” Gorgui said. “Why, wait until you taste the next wife. She will be even more succulent, for I shall leave it one month, so as not to arouse suspicion. And during that time I will give the next wife extra portions of sweet potato and cassava to fatten her up in readiness for our next feast.”

Hyena smiled the hyena smile, for his plan was working well. “I look forward to that, friend Gorgui,” Hyena said. “Truly you are wise to think of fattening up the next wife in advance. Even the brains of all your brothers and neighbours together are no match for you.”

And of course Gorgui again swelled with pride.

“Goodbye for now, my friend,” said Hyena, “I will return in one month.”

And with that Hyena left Gorgui alone in the bush.

Gorgui and his Four Wives 7.

EXACTLY ONE MONTH later Hyena returned to Gorgui’s compound. When he saw the three remaining wives busy at their chores he went over to them.

“I saw Yeela yesterday,” he said. “Her uncle is still sick so she will not be coming back any time soon, but she told me to say hello and that she is thinking of you all.”

Of course the three remaining wives were saddened to hear Yeela’s uncle was still sick, but they were pleased to hear Yeela had been thinking of them.

“Thank you for letting us know, Hyena,” said the second wife, Yeelankeh. “If you see Yeela again, tell her we are all thinking of her too, and we hope her uncle gets well soon.”

“And tell her not to worry about us,” said the third wife Torro. “Our wonderful husband has very thoughtfully let us buy the same amount of food each day as we did when Yeela was here, and we three wives share the extra food between us.”

“Yes,” said the fourth wife Torrino. “Can you see how we are getting fatter each day? When Yeela comes back after the rainy season she will not recognise us.”

Torro turned to Gorgui, who had come across to meet Hyena. “Dear husband,” Torro said. “Will your friend Hyena be staying for lunch? I will need to buy extra rice at the market if so.”

“You are kind to think of it, dear third wife,” said Gorgui. “That is a good idea. Of course my friend Hyena must stay for lunch. You and fourth wife Torrino should go to the market right now and buy extra rice.”

“That is very kind of you to invite me to lunch again,” said Hyena. “You are indeed the most generous man in the village, friend Gorgui.”

And of course on hearing this Gorgui swelled with pride.

Gorgui, looked his second, third and fourth wives up and down. “You say you are getting fatter, dear wives, but I do not see it,” he said. “In fact, I think you are all getting thinner. Here, take this extra money and buy more sweet potatoes for yourselves. I do not want our neighbours to see you looking so thin, or they will think I am a poor man that cannot afford to look after you.”

“Why thank you, dear husband,” said Yeelankeh and Torro and Torrino together.

“Yeelankeh,” said Gorgui to his second wife, “while Torro and Torrino go to the market, will you kindly fetch my friend Hyena some water from the well.”

“Of course, dear husband,” said Yeelankeh, and off she went in one direction to the well while Torro and Torrino went in the other direction to the market.

When Yeelankeh returned, Gorgui watched her put the water vessel down carefully on the small table, so as not so spill a single drop. Then he said to her, “Thank you dear second wife Yeelankeh. Now would you please bring me an empty rice sack, a big, heavy cooking pot and a small bag of charcoal.”

Yeelankeh looked most surprised at this strange request. “But dear husband Gorgui,” she said. “You have three wives to cook for you, and besides, what meal can you make with an empty rice sack?”

Gorgui sighed at Hyena. “You see how troublesome women can be, friend Hyena? Always they ask questions, instead of doing as they are bid.”

Gorgui then turned to his second wife. “Dear second wife Yeela, my friend Hyena is thirsty. The water is for him to drink. My friend Hyena asked me if he could borrow a cooking pot and some charcoal for one day, and the empty rice sack is so he can carry the cooking pot and charcoal slung over his shoulder when he leaves. Of course, I said yes, for am I not the most generous man in the village? Now please bring them to me.”

“Yes, dear husband,” said Yeelankeh, and off she went to fetch the items Gorgui had asked for.

When Yeelankeh returned, Gorgui took the charcoal and the empty rice sack from her, then handed the heavy cooking pot to Hyena.

“Anything else, dear husband?” Yeelankeh asked.

Gorgui let the empty rice sack slip from his fingers to the floor. “Oops. I have dropped the rice sack. Would you pick it up for me, dear second wife?” he said.

“Of course, dear husband,” said Yeelankeh.

As Yeelankeh bent down to pick up the empty rice sack, Hyena raised the heavy cooking pot and then brought it crashing down on the poor woman’s head, killing her instantly.

Gorgui and Hyena together quickly put the dead second wife into the rice sack and dragged her into the bush along with the cooking pot, the water and the charcoal, and hid everything behind a cluster of small trees.

When the other two wives returned from the market Gorgui called them all over.

“My two beautiful wives,” he said, “I am afraid Yeelankeh has had to rush to a neighbouring village because her father is very ill. She will not be coming back until after the rainy season.”

“Yes,” said Hyena,” joining in the act. “A messenger from Yeelankeh’s village came calling, saying she must leave at once, so your kind and generous husband Gorgui gave her money and sent her off immediately.”

The two remaining wives were of course most surprised and disappointed that Yeelankeh had left so suddenly.

“We all wish Yeelankeh’s father a speedy recovery,” said the third wife Torro, “and we hope Yeelankeh returns to be with us soon.”

“Yes, we will all miss Yeelankeh,” said the fourth wife Torrino. “But don’t worry, dear husband Gorgui, for we two remaining wives will all work extra hard to do Yeela’s and Yeelankeh’s chores.”

Gorgui smiled when he heard this, for it meant his two remaining wives were not at all suspicious. “I am very lucky to have three such thoughtful and beautiful wives,” he said.

“Yes, friend Gorgui,” said Hyena. “You are indeed the luckiest man in the village,” and he watched Gorgui swell with pride.

That night, as the remaining two wives slept in their beds, Gorgui took his machete and sneaked out into the bush where Hyena was waiting for him.

Together they chopped up poor Yeelankeh into small pieces so she would fit in the cooking pot and they cooked and ate her.

As Hyena licked his paws clean after devouring Yeelankeh he said, “Friend Gorgui, you were wise indeed to fatten up this second wife for us. She was even more tasty than the first wife.”

At this Gorgui swelled with pride. “She was indeed tastier than the first wife, friend Hyena. You are right. And as you saw earlier today, I gave the third and fourth wives money for extra food so they will be all the more plump and delicious when it is their turn to be killed and eaten next month and the month after.”

“You are the wisest man I have ever met,” said Hyena. “I will return in one month and help you get rid of your third wife, Torro. Very soon your brothers and neighbours will have no reason to kill you, because you will have no wives left.”

Gorgui and his Four Wives 8.

DURING THE NEXT few weeks lots of people from the village were asking Gorgui about the whereabouts of his first and second wives, but always he has cheerful answers to anyone who wanted to know.

“Yeela is visiting her sick uncle in a distant village,” he would say. “My friend Hyena saw her there. I have given her extra money so she can stay there and comfort the old man.”

And when people asked about Yeelankeh, Gorgui would say, “Yeelankeh’s father was kicked by a mule and cannot work, so Yeelankeh has returned to their farm to help them prepare for the rains.”

This seemed to allay any suspicions anyone might have had about the missing women, but each night at home Gorgui felt lonely with only two wives to attend his needs.

Sometimes he felt pangs of regret about what he had done, and would look affectionately at his remaining two wives and would decide that when Hyena next came he, Gorgui, would say “Enough, friend Hyena. I am going to live happily with my two remaining wives,” and he would send Hyena on his way.

But even as he had these thoughts, Gorgui would be reminded how beautiful they were and that, so long as they were here, his own life would be in danger.

Thus he spent the next few weeks in two minds about his plans. For when the time came to kill and eat his third wife this would surely bring even more questions from the neighbours. And he would only have one wife left to keep him company of an evening. What was he to do?

When Hyena arrived on his third visit, Gorgui explained his concerns.

“Do you not think, friend Hyena, that we should stop this now?” said Gorgui. “My neighbours are asking awkward questions, and when my third wife Torro disappears their suspicions will surely be aroused still further.”

“But Gorgui,” said Hyena with his sly smile, “remember how I heard your neighbours and your brothers plotting to kill you and marry your four widows? So long as you have even one wife left who is so beautiful, then your own life will be in danger, for a brother or a neighbour will surely kill you one day soon and marry your widow.”

“You are right, of course,” said Gorgui. “Only when all my wives have been killed and eaten will I be safe.”

And so Gorgui sent his fourth wife Torrino off to the market, and his third wife Torro was asked to fetch Hyena some water from the well.

When Torro returned, Gorgui watched her put the water vessel down carefully on the small table, so as not so spill a single drop. Then he said to her, “Thank you dear third wife Torro. Now would you please bring me an empty rice sack, a big, heavy cooking pot and a small bag of charcoal.”

Torro looked most surprised at this strange request. “But dear husband Gorgui,” she said. “You have two wives to cook for you, and besides, what meal can you make with an empty rice sack?”

Gorgui sighed at Hyena. “You see how troublesome women can be, friend Hyena? Always they ask questions, instead of doing as they are bid.”

Gorgui then turned to his third wife. “Dear third wife Torro, my friend Hyena is thirsty. The water is for him to drink. My friend Hyena asked me if he could borrow a cooking pot and some charcoal for just one day, and the empty rice sack is so he can carry the cooking pot and charcoal slung over his shoulder when he leaves. Of course, I said yes, for am I not the most generous man in the village? Now please bring them to me.”

“Yes, dear husband,” said third wife Torro, and off she went to fetch the items Gorgui had asked for.

When Torro returned, Gorgui took the charcoal and the empty rice sack from her, then handed the heavy cooking pot to Hyena.

“Anything else, dear husband?” Torro asked.

Gorgui let the empty rice sack slip from his fingers to the floor. “Oops. I have dropped the rice sack. Would you pick it up for me, dear third wife?” he said.

“Of course, dear husband,” said Torro.

As Torro bent down to pick up the empty rice sack, Hyena raised the heavy cooking pot and then brought it crashing down on the poor woman’s head, killing her instantly.

Gorgui and Hyena together quickly put the dead third wife into the rice sack and dragged her into the bush along with the cooking pot, the water and the charcoal, and hid everything behind a cluster of small trees.

When the one remaining wife returned from the market Gorgui called her over.

“My beautiful fourth wife Torrino,” he said, “I am afraid Torro has had to rush to a neighbouring village because her mother is very ill. She will not be coming back until after the rainy season.”

“Yes,” said Hyena,” joining in the act. “A messenger from Torro’s village came calling, saying she must leave at once, so your kind and generous husband Gorgui gave her money and sent her off immediately.”

The remaining fourth wife Torrino was of course most surprised and disappointed that Torro had left so suddenly.

“I wish Torro’s mother a speedy recovery,” said the fourth wife Torrino, “and I hope Torro returns to be with us soon. But don’t worry, dear husband Gorgui. I will work extra hard to do Yeela’s and Yeelankeh’s and Torro’s chores.”

[I’m sure you will, _]thought Gorgui to himself.[ But who will look after me after we have killed and eaten you, dear Torrino? _]But of course he could not say this, so he smiled and said, “I am very lucky to have such a thoughtful and beautiful wife.” he said.

“Yes, friend Gorgui,” said Hyena. “You are indeed the luckiest man in the village,” and he watched Gorgui swell with pride.

That night, as Torrino slept soundly in her bed, Gorgui collected his machete and crept out into the bush, where of course Hyena was patiently waiting for him. Together they chopped Torro up into small pieces so she would fit in the pot and they cooked her and ate her.

Hyena licked his paws clean and Gorgui licked his fingers clean.

“Who would have thought your third wife would be even tastier than your first wife and your second wife, friend Gorgui,” said Hyena.

“Torro was indeed tastier than Yeela and Yeelankeh,” agreed Gorgui, “but friend Hyena, I am not sure it is such a good idea to kill my very last wife.”

Hyena nodded sagely. “Truly you are a wise and thoughtful man,” said Hyena, “to think about sparing the life of your fourth wife, after having eaten this most delicious third wife. Why, by next month your fourth wife will be so plump I am certain that she will be the finest meal we will ever eat. And afterwards you will be able to sleep easy in your bed each night knowing there are no more wives that your brothers and neighbours can marry, so they will have no reason to want to kill you.”

Gorgui licked his lips at the thought of eating his plump fourth wife.

“You are right, Hyena,” said Gorgui. “Torrino will be the tastiest wife of all. We  will buy sweet potatoes and onions and rice and cassava and peppers and add them to the pot when we cook her, as she will be our last meal together.”

Gorgui and his Four Wives 9.

THE NEXT DAY, when Gorgui’s brothers and neighbours heard that yet another wife had been called away to look after a sick family without taking time to say goodbye, they became very suspicious and began to talk among themselves.

“It is not like Yeela or Yeelankeh or Torro to leave the village without bothering to say goodbye,” said one woman. “Why, even when they went to the market they always stopped to chat.”

The other villagers nodded their agreement.

“And isn’t it strange that each wife has left on the last Wednesday of the month,” said another.

“Yes, and each time no-one else in the village has seen the messenger that Gorgui says came from their villages with the bad news,” said another.

“And is it not strange that Gorgui’s friend Hyena is always here on the day the wives disappear?” said yet another.

And so the villagers began to have regular meetings beneath the big baobab tree in the bantaba to discuss their concerns, for the last Wednesday of the month was fast approaching.

Then one day, just before the last Wednesday of the month, Gorgui had to go to the city on business to do with the farm, and the villagers knew Torrino would be alone at Gorgui’s compound all day.

They waited until Gorgui had left, and then the villagers all went to the compound to talk to Torrino.

Torrino was very pleased to see them, for she too had noticed how all the other wives had disappeared on the last Wednesday of the month, and she too felt it strange that all the other wives had left without saying goodbye, and she was wondering if perhaps it would be her turn next.

Just then Hyena appeared at the gate of the compound and saw all the villagers huddled inside Gorgui’s house talking to Torrino. He knew they would be there because he had just come from the village bantaba, where one of the elders had explained what was happening.

Hyena was not surprised, because after Gorgui had told him the villagers were beginning to get suspicious Hyena had been thinking hard and making a new plan.

“Hello, everybody,” Hyena said as he marched boldly towards them. “I am so glad I have found you all here, for there is not much time.”

“What do you mean?” said the village spokesman.

“I have come to warn you about Gorgui,” said Hyena. “He has killed and eaten his first three wives, and now he plans to kill and eat Torrino on Wednesday.”

“How do you know all this?” the village spokesman demanded.

“Gorgui invited me into his house to meet his four wives,” explained Hyena, “and I asked him how he could have such a splendid compound and marry four such beautiful women, and he told me he used black magic.”

At this the crowd gasped. “Black magic? Gorgui?”

“Come, I will prove it to you,” said Hyena, and he led the crowd to the rear of the compound where Gorgui kept his black magic masks. “You see,” said Hyena. “There is all the proof you need.”

“It is true!” cried the villagers. “Gorgui is a practitioner of black magic! We are all in danger!”

“Yes,” said Hyena. “Gorgui told me his plan. First he killed and ate Modou, the man who should have married Torrino. Then he killed and ate Yeela, his first wife, and then Yeelankeh, his second wife, and then Torro, his third wife. And now he plans to kill and eat Torrino, and then next month he will start killing all the other people in the village one by one each month and eat you all.”

“And he told you all this, Hyena?” asked the village spokesman.

”Sadly I helped him,” said Hyena, “but only because Gorgui cast a black magic spell on me so I had no control over what I was doing or what I was saying. I was completely in his power each time.”

“Tell us what happened,” said the village spokesman. “We will not hold you responsible for helping Gorgui, for if he used black magic to make you do bad things then it was not your fault.”

So Hyena hid his smile and tried to look sad as he began to tell the villagers what had happened.

“Each time Gorgui sends the other wives to the market and then kills the wife who is left at home,” said Hyena. “He does so on the last Wednesday of each month because that is when I come to visit him, and he needs two people to carry the dead wife into the bush. That was my only involvement,” Hyena lied.

Again the villagers gasped.

“How does he do it?” asked the village spokesman.

“First he smashes a heavy cooking pot over the poor wife’s head,” said Hyena solemnly. “Although I can see him do it and I am standing next to him I am powerless to stop him because I am under the black magic spell, you understand.”

“We understand,” said the village spokesman. “It is not your fault.”

“Then Gorgui’s black magic spell forces me to help him put the dead wife into an empty rice sack and drag her into the bush. Then late at night, he goes out into the bush and chops her up with machete and cooks and eats her, and again he makes me help him, although of course I did not eat any of the wives myself. Gorgui is far too greedy to share.”

“You poor thing,” said Torrino, “that is terrible.”

“Gorgui even made me lie to you about the messengers coming and asking the other wives to go back to their villages,” explained Hyena. “I am so sorry I lied to you, Torrino, but black magic is so powerful he can make me do anything, and the same spell stopped me telling you all until now.”

“But why now?” asked the village spokesman. “Why are you able to tell us this now and not before?”

Hyena had already thought they would ask this question and he had his answer ready.

“Gorgui can only work his black magic when he is close by,” explained Hyena. “So every time I come to the village I fall under his spell, but today he is on business in the city and that is too far away for him to influence me, so I came immediately to warn you of the terrible danger you are all in.”

“You are very brave and kind to come here today,” said the village spokesman. “We are all most grateful. But if Gorgui intends to kill and eat Torrino this coming Wednesday, then what can we mere villagers do to stop him if he is so powerful and so well versed in the black magic arts?”

Hyena smiled his big hyena smile. “Come, let us all return to the bantaba and sit under the shade of the big baobab tree and drink green tea, and I will explain to you my plan.”

“You have a plan?” asked the village spokesman

“A foolproof plan that can defy even the power of Gorgui’s black magic,” said Hyena. “A plan that will rid you all of Gorgui forever, and let you all live peacefully.”

Gorgui and his Four Wives 10.

ON THE LAST Wednesday of the month Hyena arrived as usual at the village and as he walked through the bantaba on his way to Gorgui’s compound he immediately began telling everyone how he had seen the first, second and third wives Yeela, Yalenkeh and Torro on his travels, and that they had all sent messages saying they would not be returning.

Of course, this time the villagers knew the truth, but they all pretended to be pleased to hear the good news, and they did not mind that Hyena was not being honest with them because they knew he was under Gorgui’s black magic spell.

And they also knew that, thanks to Hyena’s cunning plan, they would all soon be rid of Gorgui forever.

When Hyena arrived at the compound he saw Gorgui and his one remaining wife Torrino together.

“Hello friend Gorgui and friend Torrino,” said Hyena. “I have just been passing through the village bantaba and letting everyone know that I have seen Yeela and Yeelankeh and Torro on my travels, and that they are all fine and will be back after the rains come and go.”

“That is good news, Hyena,” said Torrino.

Hyena stared at Torrino. “Torrino, you do not look very well today,” he said. “Are you feeling okay?”

“As it happens I am feeling quite sick today,” said Torrino. “But don’t worry, dear husband Gorgui. I will still go to the market and buy the rice and sweet potatoes and make sure you and friend Hyena have your lunch.”

“What a kind and thoughtful wife you have, friend Gorgui,” said Hyena.

Gorgui swelled with pride.

“But friend Torrino, you are in luck,” said Hyena, following the plan he had made with the villagers previously. “When I was passing through the bantaba one of the village elders asked me to invite you and Gorgui and I to come eat with them today. That will save you having to cook for us.”

Oh, Hyena,” said Torrino, “that is good news. But I rather think I would prefer to stay here at home and try to sleep, for I am so very tired this day.” She turned to Gorgui. “But you, dear husband, must go with Hyena and enjoy the hospitality of the village elders. I will be fine here on my own.”

“Yes, we will do that,” said Hyena quickly, before Gorgui could protest. “Friend Gorgui, I think your fourth wife Torrino is feeling so tired because she is doing all the work of four wives, when she is only one. It will do Torrino much god if she is able to rest all today. Torrino, you go and rest now, and Gorgui and I will go eat with the village elders.”

“But how can we kill Torrino and hide her in the bush if we are at the bantaba eating with the village elders?” Gorgui demanded after Torrino had left them.

“You are forgetting, friend Gorgui,” said Hyena, “that as there is only the one wife left it does not matter what time we kill her, for there is nobody else here to witness it. We can sneak into her bedroom and kill her in her bed tonight as she sleeps, and then wrap her in the sheets and carry her out to the bush and cook her straight away.”

“You think of everything, friend Hyena,” said Gorgui gratefully. “Come, let us go to lunch with those foolish villagers at the bantaba, and while they prattle on with their small talk about the groundnut crop and the price of mangoes we can eat their food and then sit back and think about the even bigger feast we will have tonight, when we kill and eat my fourth wife, Torrino.”

Gorgui and his Four Wives 11.

WHAT GORGUI DID not know was that the lunch at the bantaba had been arranged especially to get Gorgui out of the compound and to keep him out all afternoon. The village men did a fine job of chatting to Gorgui so he had no chance to leave until it was dark.

Meanwhile back in Gorgui’s compound some of the village women were with Torrino. Together they drugged a goat to make it sleepy, and carried the sleeping goat into Torrino’s bed, where they covered it with a sheet. Then Torrino left the compound with the other women and went to a safe house in the village. All just as Hyena had planned for them.

“Be sure not to disturb Torrino this evening,” the villagers said as Gorgui and Hyena prepared to leave. “She looked very sick earlier today, so she will need to rest.”

“Do not worry,” said Gorgui. “We shall not disturb her.”

When Gorgui and Hyena returned to the compound they lit a candle and peered into the dark bedroom, where they could just see what Gorgui thought was Torrino sleeping beneath the sheet, but of course it was really the drugged goat.

“How peaceful my fourth wife looks,” said Gorgui. “We will wait until ten o’clock then sneak in, kill her where she lies, and cart her off to the bush wrapped in that sheet, ready to be cooked and eaten.”

Hyena licked his lips in anticipation. “I am so looking forward to this last meal,” he said. “I have brought along the sweet potatoes and cassava and spices as you asked, friend Gorgui. This will be the finest meal of all. And after this, you will be quite safe because you will have no wives left so no-one will have any reason to want to kill you.”

Gorgui and his Four Wives 12.

AT TEN O’CLOCK Gorgui and Hyena entered the room and crept up to the edge of the bed. Gorgui held the candle aloft as Hyena brought the heavy cooking pot crashing down on what Gorgui thought was Torrino’s head. The poor goat was killed instantly.

Together they wrapped the goat in the sheet and carted it off into the bush where Gorgui lit the charcoal fire and began boiling the water.

Hyena knew the village men folk were hiding in the bush behind them, but Gorgui thought they were all alone. Hyena took the knife and began cutting the sheet open, ready to carve up Gorgui’s fourth wife and put her in the pot. But as the sheet tore open Hyena stepped back in pretend astonishment.

“Gorgui!” Hyena gasped. “Look! Your fourth wife has turned into a goat!”

“What magic is this?” demanded Gorgui. “How can this have happened?”

“Torrino must have felt better and went out to walk in the fresh air,” suggested Hyena,” and the goat must have crept into her bed to sleep while she was gone.”

Gorgui shrugged. “Well, at least we can eat the goat tonight,” he said.

“What will you do about Torrino, friend Gorgui?” Hyena asked loudly so the villagers would hear.

“I will kill and eat her tomorrow night,” said Gorgui.

“It was a marvelous idea of yours to kill all your first three wives, friend Gorgui,” said Hyena loudly. “I would never have thought of something so clever.”

At this Gorgui swelled with pride. “Yes, it was all my idea, friend Hyena, wasn’t it” he said.

“And it was such a clever idea of yours, friend Gorgui, to make the villagers foolishly think the missing wives were all safely with their families in neighbouring villagers, when in reality you had killed and eaten each one all by yourself.”

Gorgui swelled with pride. “Yes, the villagers are such fools to believe my lies,” he said.

“And your plan to kill all the other villagers one by one and eat them next just proves how much more clever you are than anyone else,” said Hyena loudly, so the hiding villagers would be sure to hear.

Gorgui stared at Hyena for a moment, for he had never heard Hyena describe that part of the plan before. Then Gorgui swelled with pride as he realised what a marvellous idea that was and that Hyena thought it was Gorgui’s idea.

“You are so right, Hyena,” Gorgui said. “Yes, that was my plan, wasn’t it. To kill all the villagers one by one and eat every one of them.”

“And friend Gorgui,” said Hyena loudly, “didn’t you say the villagers are all so stupid they would never realise what was happening until the very last one was killed and eaten?”

“Did I?” said Gorgui. “I mean, yes, I certainly did, Hyena.” Gorgui swelled with pride. “I tell you, Hyena, the villagers are the most stupid people I have ever met.”

“Yes, you have said that many times,” said Hyena loudly, knowing all the villagers were listening.

“Why, even now they are fast asleep in their beds while I am here, having already killed and eaten three of my wives,” said Gorgui. “Well, tomorrow night I will kill and eat Torrino, and then the night after that I will start killing and eating the other villagers, one by one, until there are none left.”

“Don’t forget you cleverly said you would save four of the womenfolk from the village to be your new wives,” said Hyena loudly.

Why, yes, so I did,” said Gorgui, and he swelled with pride again. “That was a clever idea of mine, wasn’t it. I will set aside the four most beautiful women in the village and kill and eat their husbands first, so I can marry the widows. Then I will kill and eat everyone else in the village.”

“I could never have thought up such a clever plan,” said Hyena. “You are truly a master of the black magic arts to be able to live in such splendor and to be able to trick the villagers all this time, and to be able to kill and eat your wives without anyone suspecting anything.”

“Yes,” agreed Gorgui, swelling with pride. “I am truly the master of black magic.”

On hearing this the villagers had all the proof they needed. Gorgui had admitted he used black magic, and he had admitted that he had killed and eaten his first three wives, and he had admitted he intended to kill and eat Torrino, and he had admitted that he intended to kill and eat everyone else in the village apart from the four most beautiful women, who he would marry after he had killed their husbands.

“We have heard everything,” the men of the village declared as they emerged from the bush to confront a surprised Gorgui. “Now we know the truth about what happened to your first three wives, Yeela and Yeelankeh and Torro, and what you planned for your fourth wife, Torrino,” they said. ”Stand aside, friend Hyena. There is only one way we can protect ourselves from this evil master of the black magic arts.”

And with that the men of the village killed Gorgui with their machetes.

Hyena stood back with his arms folded, pleased that his plan had worked so well. And the best parts was still to come, for Hyena’s plan was exceptionally cunning.

Gorgui and his Four Wives 13.

THE MEN CARRIED carried Gorgui and the dead goat back to the bantaba, where Torrino and the other women were waiting. The women had two big cooking pots over blazing fires, cooking cassava and sweet potatoes.

The men used their machetes to chop up Gorgui and the goat into pieces small enough to pop into the cooking pots, and when everything was ready everyone in the village sat down to enjoy the splendid meal.

As Gorgui licked his paws afterwards he thought to himself, Well, Gorgui, you were not quite as tasty as your first three wives, but still very nice to eat. But there is still one more part of my plan to come.

Gorgui and his Four Wives 14.

AFTER THE MEAL the village elder got up and began to speak.

“Friend Hyena,” said the elder, “we are truly grateful for your help in capturing Gorgui and putting an end to his evil deeds. And to show our gratitude we would like you to come and live here in the village with us.”

This was just what Hyena had expected, but he pretended to be most surprised.

“I am honoured, dear friends,” he said, “but I cannot accept your kind offer, for I am just a poor Hyena. I have no home. I have no land to farm. I do not even have a wife.”

“That need not be a problem,” said the village elder. “Friend Hyena, what if we were able to offer you a fine home, and farm land. Would you stay with us then?”

Hyena smiled the hyena smile. “That would be wonderful,” he said, “but I know all the homes in the village are already owned, and all the farm land is already taken.”

The village elder smiled back. “That was true yesterday, but not today,” he said. “Today Gorgui’s home and land are available for you, friend Hyena. It is only right that you should have them, for without you everyone in the village would soon have been killed and eaten.”

“That is truly generous of you,” said Hyena, unable to hide his smile that his plan had worked so well. “But without a beautiful wife to share this new home and land with me then I could never be happy here.”

The village elder smiled again. “That is not a problem, friend Hyena, for it just so happens that we have a young woman newly in need of a husband, and it is said she is the most beautiful woman in the village.”

Hyena pretended to be surprised. “And who might that be?” he asked.

“Why, Torrino, of course,” said the village elder. “Friend Hyena, it is only right that, as reward for your help in ridding us of the evil Gorgui, you take over Gorgui’s house, Gorgui’s land, and Gorgui’s one surviving wife.”

And so it came to pass that cunning Hyena, who just a few months before had never seen or heard of Gorgui and his four beautiful wives, got to eat three of them and marry the fourth, and lived peacefully in Gorgui’s home, farming Gorgui’s land, and being a fine husband to Torrino.

That is, right up until the day he killed and ate her.

Which of course had to happen. After all, he was a hyena.

END


Gorgui and his Four Wives - A West African Folk Tale re-told

A West African fable of pride, prejudice and sweet potatoes. Every country and region has its own folktales, and The Gambia in West Africa is no exception. British ex-pat and international bestselling author Mark Williams has been taking the short oral tales of West Africa and bringing them to life for western audiences who prefer to read their folktales delivered. Come meet Gorgui and is four beautiful wives, Yeela, Yeelankeh, Torro and Tolino, and discover the fate that befalls them when the cunning Hyena arrives their quite village in this classic West African fable of pride, prejudice and sweet potatoes.

  • Author: Mark Williams
  • Published: 2016-11-01 14:50:11
  • Words: 11503
Gorgui and his Four Wives - A West African Folk Tale re-told Gorgui and his Four Wives - A West African Folk Tale re-told