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Tales of the Konumtali - Watch Your Words

by Patrick Sullivan

Tales of the Konumtali--instalment 1--from the notes of M'doli Nuwamanya

"Watch Your Words"

The story is told in the region of Angorit of the tragedy of Makouila village. The village of Makouila had long enjoyed the prosperity brought about by bountiful peanut and cocoa harvests.

One warm afternoon, the women of Makouila were hard at work harvesting the peanut crop while their husbands were hunting game on the Savannah and their children were playing down by the river. As they were working and singing, an ogre of some renown, who happened to be walking through the rain forest nearby, heard the women and decided to pay them a visit. When the women of Makouila saw his hulking form, they called to him, and, in keeping with custom, offered him a gift: "If you please, sir, come rest and enjoy our hospitality!" The ogre came nearer and thanked the women for their kindness. The women, seeing him clearly for the first time, began talking hushedly amongst themselves as he drew near. "Look at how ugly he is!"

"And so large! He must be quite a brute." "He seems so strange." "We don't want him sitting with us while we work!" "And we have nothing to offer him, anyway--these peanuts are too green!"

When he reached the group, they feigned friendliness toward their unpleasant-looking visitor, saying, "These peanuts are far too green. Go down to the river and eat peanuts with our children!"

The ogre could hardly believe his ears, so he asked, "Did I hear correctly? Did you say, 'Go down to the river and eat peanuts with our children'?" "Yes," they replied, "our children are playing by the river and eating peanuts. Go rest with them, and help yourself to all you can eat!"

The ogre thanked the women for their generosity, and went down to where the children were playing by the riverbank. The ogre sat at the edge of the river, allowing the children to climb on him, and playing good-naturedly with them as he ate the peanuts. The children, though initially frightened of the brute, soon accepted him as a playmate, diving from his shoulders into the cool water. They had never seen anyone eat as many peanuts as the ogre ate that afternoon. Within a couple hours, the ogre had finished off all the peanuts, but he found that he was still hungry. Remembering the offer of the women, he decided he might as well eat a child or two as they climbed on him. After eating one little boy and one little girl--and how he enjoyed them!--his hunger was finally sated and he rested by the riverbank playing with the remaining children until the women came to take their children home for dinner.

Alas! They found that two were missing! They began searching in panic for the missing children, and one woman asked the ogre if he had seen the youngsters.

He replied, "But why on Mystara are you so upset? You yourselves told me, 'Go down to the river and eat peanuts with our children.' I even asked, just to make sure of your meaning, and again you assured me that I could help myself to all I could eat!"

The women were horrified that their guest had eaten their children, but they were afraid of the brute, and so they told their husbands the story as soon as they returned with an eland they had slain on the savannah. Their husbands were outraged, but they too were frightened of the strong ogre, so they agreed to go to the jaji in Angorit to settle the dispute.

Upon their arrival in Angorit, the women complained to the jaji, "This horrible man was passing near our village, so, as you tell us to, we offered him hospitality. And how did he repay us? He ate two of our children!"

The ogre then said to the jaji, "These women were indeed very kind in offering me hospitality. They said to me, 'Go down to the river and eat peanuts with our children.' I could hardly believe my ears, so I asked them to make sure I had understood correctly, and they replied, 'help yourself to all you can eat!' So that is exactly what I did. I went to the river, and ate peanuts with their children until I was full. I really can't comprehend what they are fussing about!"

The jaji considered for a long time, but in the end he could find no way in which the ogre had broken the law. The women had acted as was the custom of the land, and the ogre had acted as ogres are wont to act--and he did seem a very sincere and honest ogre. The jaji had no choice but to send the parties away, advising simply, "Watch your words!"

>Compiler's notes<

This story is quite common in the area of Angorit, in various forms. One difficulty I continue to have with these uneducated peasants is that they fail to understand the distinctions among different humanoid species. Some tell the story with a giant, some with an ogre, others with a large orc. Of particular interest is the version told to me by the people of Lastoku, a small village nearly thirty miles south of Angorit. The tale told in Lastoku was fairly similar to the standard presented above, but instead of an ogre (or hill giant, or bugbear), their tale described the cyclops Moni-Mambu, a common character in many of their tales. They even described the location of the cyclopsi's lair, in a hillside an hours walk west of their village, in an area they carefully avoid. No one in Angorit has any record of a cyclops ever having been sighted within their district, but the tales in Lastoku were quite persistent. I shall have someone check up on it....

This tale is used primarily as a cautionary tale about the nuances of language, and occasionally to frighten young children. Fortunately, the Angorit region does not seem to be plagued with significant resistance to the custom of hospitality, legally mandated in 817 by one of my predecessors as part of the Welcoming Pact. Neither does this state have significant difficulties with humanoid harassment--this is undoubtedly linked with the local populace's acceptance of the Pact. The tales of cyclopsi near Lastoku, however, are quite disturbing, since none of that species on the Serpent Peninsula have accepted the Welcoming Pact.

The acceptance of this tale as fairly realistic further displays the relative security of the people of this district. Unlike many people who refuse hospitality to those who look frightening (a major problem with our humanoid relations), the people of Angorit state seem very secure that they would be warned of danger by the local rampla and that they are protected from lawbreakers by Kwa'a Chiku's security forces.

Another difficulty is that Makouila (or any of a dozen other villages named) actually exists. The location varies with each person who tells the tale, and often the tale is not given any setting at all. Nonetheless, the consistency with which this story remains within the State of Angorit is a testament to the competence of Kwa'a Chiku and the state's former Kwa'as.

--from M'doli Nuwamanya's notes

(((((by Patrick Sullivan--credits: >Contes et légendes du monde francophone,< by Vary & Brouillet, "Ce sont les paroles qui mènent le monde!"; the contributions of Bruce Heard, Ann Dupuis, Merle Rasmussen, and anyone else who contributed to the information in TSR products X6, Champions of Mystara, and Dragon Magazine #170. My thanks!))))))