THE LOST HEIR
This story is about waiting patiently for what is yours to come back to you and not fighting a losing battle in the process.
A long time ago, in western Nigeria, there lived a man. He had three wives but no son. The man was the king of the land, and he desperately needed an heir to succeed him. Over time, he became so worried that began seeking help from different sources.
The last source that he went to was the Ifa priest. He complained to the priest that he was growing old and needed someone to succeed him. The priest saw his complaint as valid and decided to help him. After making some incantations, the priest revealed to the king that the king would have a son, but he did not say which of his wives would bear the son. He would give him a pot of stew; all his wives have to eat it. Each of them will get pregnant, and one will bear a son for him.
This excited the king, and he quickly agreed to what the priest said. Immediately, the priest went about making the stew. He told the king to return to his palace and wait for him there. A few minutes after the king reached his palace, the priest came in with a hot pot of stew. In the pot of stew, he had mixed a portion for the three wives to share. However, the two older wives disliked the younger wife greatly and didn’t want her to prosper in any way. So they didn’t allow her to have a taste of the stew.
When the stew arrived, they sent the younger wife on an errand. The younger wife resisted, but she could not disobey their orders, so she went to do as they ordered, and before she could return, they packed the entire stew into their separate pots and left none for her. They did this because they believed that if the younger wife eats of the stew, she may bare a son, and they didn’t want that.
When the younger wife returned, she realized the stew had finished. She cried and cried, but no one came to her rescue. She finally got tired of crying and scraped the contents of the pot into her mouth. It was barely a mouthful, but she was satisfied. At least she got to taste the stew.
A few weeks later, the bellies of the two older wives started growing, and so did the younger wife’s belly. The two older wives got very angry and devised another plan. Months passed, and soon it was time for them to give birth. The two older wives both gave birth to girls. After this incident, all eyes fell on the younger wife. The two older wives became very close to her, and when it was time for her to give birth, they helped her through it all.
Immediately the younger wife gave birth to a boy, and the older wives took the boy and replaced him with a stone. When the younger wife awoke, the older wives let out an alarm. Everyone was surprised at what the younger wife gave birth to. It is an abomination to give birth to a non-human. For this reason, the younger wife was sent out of the village as they believed she gave birth to a stone.
The older wives had taken her son to the forest and left him there to die, but as fate would have it, a herbalist who lived deep in the forest was out gathering herbs and found him. He took the baby to his home and raised him into a fine gentleman.
Years passed, and one day the king died. The king still had no heir to the throne, so the elders of the land met with the priest to find out what to do and who to crown the king. The priest told them that the heir to the throne was living in a very powerful medicine man’s house. The elders were all suprised to hear this but went ahead to ask him where the ‘would-be king’ lived. The priest told them that he lived in the forest. The elders sent a trusted member of the council to bring him home.
The return of the king-in-waiting was a joyous occasion, and no one could stop singing songs of joy. The villagers did not know whose son he was. They had many questions as to which woman bore the king an heir. The priest called in; he informed them that the boy’s mother lived in the village.
Who could it be? Every woman desired to be the boy’s mother even when they knew it was’t possible. The prince’s mother had to be found before his coronation.
The priest advised all the women to prepare a good pot of stew and bring it to the village square. The boy will then taste all the stew; this will help him find his mother. Whoever the prince eats up her food is she. The women were happy with this instruction. They went to the market and bought the best ingredients to prepare the best stew.
There was only one woman who couldn’t do this. It was the outcast. She didn’t even have anything to feed on besides the vegetables and fruits in the forest.
So on that day, when all the other women brought a hot pot of delicious stew, the woman threw different vegetables and grasses into hot water to make her stew.
On the occasion, the village square was buzzing. The different pots of stew made by the village women gave off a very delicious aroma. When the prince arrived, everyone was silent as he walked around tasting the different stews before him. The tasting event lasted the whole day; the boy was exhausted. He finally reached the last pot and saw a ragged-looking woman sitting behind it. He tasted the stew and sat and ate even more. Then he shouted with joy, “I have seen my mother,” and burst into songs and dancing.
Thus, the wicked deed of many years past was uncovered. The council investigated, and the two wicked co-wives were banished from the village.
- Never take what doesn’t belong to you.
- Hold your peace, and God will fight for you.
Writer: Daramfon Etim
Editor and Reviewer: Chinyere Nwosu