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sacred milk of Koumongoe.

From The Brown Fairy book by Andrew Lang.
Age Rating 8 Plus.

Start of Story

Far away, in a very hot country, there once lived a man and woman who had two children, a son named Koane and a daughter called Thakane. Early in the morning and late in the evenings the parents worked hard in the fields, resting, when the sun was high, under the shade of some tree. While they were absent the little girl kept house alone, for her brother always got up before the dawn, when the air was fresh and cool, and drove out the cattle to the sweetest patches of grass he could find. One day, when Koane had slept later than usual, his father and mother went to their work before him, and there was only Thakane to be seen busy making the bread for supper. 'Thakane,' he said, 'I am thirsty. Give me a drink from the tree Koumongoe, which has the best milk in the world.' 'Oh, Koane,' cried his sister, 'you know that we are forbidden to touch that tree. What would father say when he came home? For he would be sure to know.' 'Nonsense,' replied Koane, 'there is so much milk in Koumongoe that he will never miss a little. If you won't give it to me, I sha'n't take the cattle out. They will just have to stay all day in the hut, and you know that they will starve.' And he turned from her in a rage, and sat down in the corner. After a while Thakane said to him: 'It is getting hot, had you better drive out the cattle now?' But Koane only answered sulkily: 'I told you I am not going to drive them out at all. If I have to do without milk, they shall do without grass.' Thakane did not know what to do. She was afraid to disobey her parents, who would most likely beat her, yet the beasts would be sure to suffer if they were kept in, and she would perhaps be beaten for that too. So at last she took an axe and a tiny earthen bowl, she cut a very small hole in the side of Koumongoe, and out gushed enough milk to fill the bowl. 'Here is the milk you wanted,' said she, going up to Koane, who was still sulking in his corner.



'What is the use of that?' grumbled Koane; 'why, there is not enough to drown a fly. Go and get me three times as much!' Trembling with fright, Thakane returned to the tree, and struck it a sharp blow with the axe. In an instant there poured forth such a stream of milk that it ran like a river into the hut. 'Koane! Koane!' cried she, 'come and help me to plug up the hole. There will be no milk left for our father and mother.' But Koane could not stop it any more than Thakane, and soon the milk was flowing through the hut downhill towards their parents in the fields below. The man saw a white stream a long way off, and guessed what had happened. 'Wife, wife,' he called loudly to the woman, who was working at a little distance: 'Do you see Koumongoe running fast down the hill? That is some mischief of the children's, I am sure. I must go home and find out what is the matter.' And they both threw down their hoes and hurried to the side of Koumongoe. Kneeling on the grass, the man and his wife made a cup of their hands and drank the milk from it. And no sooner had they done this, than Koumongoe flowed back again up the hill, and entered the hut. 'Thakane,' said the parents, severely, when they reached home panting from the heat of the sun, 'what have you been doing? Why did Koumongoe come to us in the fields instead of staying in the garden?' 'It was Koane's fault,' answered Thakane. 'He would not take the cattle to feed until he drank some of the milk from Koumongoe. So, as I did not know what else to do, I gave it to him.' The father listened to Thakane's words, but made no answer. Instead, he went outside and brought in two sheepskins, which he stained red and sent for a blacksmith to forge some iron rings. The rings were then passed over Thakane's arms and legs and neck, and the skins fastened on her before and behind. When all was ready, the man sent for his servants and said:



'I am going to get rid of Thakane.' 'Get rid of your only daughter?' they answered, in surprise. 'But why?' 'Because she has eaten what she ought not to have eaten. She has touched the sacred tree which belongs to her mother and me alone.' And, turning his back, he called to Thakane to follow him, and they went down the road which led to the dwelling of an ogre. They were passing along some fields where the corn was ripening, when a rabbit suddenly sprang out at their feet, and standing on its hind legs, it sang: Why do you give to the ogre Your child, so fair, so fair? 'You had better ask her,' replied the man, 'she is old enough to give you an answer.' Then, in her turn, Thakane sang: I gave Koumongoe to Koane, Koumongoe to the keeper of beasts; For without Koumongoe they could not go to the meadows: Without Koumongoe they would starve in the hut; That was why I gave him the Koumongoe of my father. And when the rabbit heard that, he cried: 'Wretched man! it is you whom the ogre should eat, and not your beautiful daughter.' But the father paid no heed to what the rabbit said, and only walked on the faster, bidding Thakane to keep close behind him. By-and-by they met with a troop of great deer, called elands, and they stopped when they saw Thakane and sang: Why do you give to the ogre Your child, so fair, so fair? 'You had better ask her, replied the man, 'she is old enough to give you an answer.' Then, in her turn, Thakane sang: I gave Koumongoe to Koane, Koumongoe to the keeper of beasts; For without Koumongoe they could not go to the meadows: Without Koumongoe they would starve in the hut; That was why I gave him the Koumongoe of my father. And the elands all cried: 'Wretched man! it is you whom the ogre should eat, and not your beautiful daughter.'



By this time it was nearly dark, and the father said they could travel no further that night, and must go to sleep where they were. Thakane was thankful indeed when she heard this, for she was very tired, and found the two skins fastened round her almost too heavy to carry. So, in spite of her dread of the ogre, she slept till dawn, when her father woke her, and told her roughly that he was ready to continue their journey. Crossing the plain, the girl and her father passed a herd of gazelles feeding. They lifted their heads, wondering who was out so early, and when they caught sight of Thakane, they sang: Why do you give to the ogre Your child, so fair, so fair? 'You had better ask her, replied the man, 'she is old enough to answer for herself.' Then, in her turn, Thakane sang: I gave Koumongoe to Koane, Koumongoe to the keeper of beasts; For without Koumongoe they could not go to the meadows: Without Koumongoe they would starve in the hut; That was why I gave him the Koumongoe of my father. And the gazelles all cried: 'Wretched man! it is you whom the ogre should eat, and not your beautiful daughter.' At last they arrived at the village where the ogre lived, and they went straight to his hut. He was nowhere to be seen, but in his place was his son Masilo, who was not an ogre at all, but a very polite young man. He ordered his servants to bring a pile of skins for Thakane to sit on, but told her father he must sit on the ground. Then, catching sight of the girl's face, which she had kept down, he was struck by its beauty, and put the same question that the rabbit, and the elands, and the gazelles had done. Thakane answered him as before, and he instantly commanded that she should be taken to the hut of his mother, and placed under her care, while the man should be led to his father. Directly the ogre saw him he bade the servant throw him into the great pot which always stood ready on the fire, and in five minutes he was done to a turn. After that the servant returned to Masilo and related all that had happened.

       



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