Bantu Eyeball Soup
From Virginia Holladay's folk tales taken from the Baluba and Lulua tribes from along the African Congo River in the 1930s
(New York, Viking Press)
There was once a terrible famine in the forest. All the animals
were suffering for lack of food. At last a meeting was called to
decide what should be done to relieve the situation. After a long
discussion it was decided that each animal should take out his
right eye to contribute to a soup. The animals all agreed. And the
next day they met to make the soup.
Each animal pulled out his eye and dropped it into the pot. Of
course there was a great deal of crying and confusion. When
Kabundi's turn came, the little cousin of the weasel walked up to
the pot holding one hand over his eye and weeping bitterly. He
dropped something into the pot and went on crying. He made so
much more noise than anyone else that the other animals became
suspicious and dipped out his contribution to examine it. It was
only a small stone. They caught Kabundi and told the leopard to
keep him in prison until they could decide on his punishment.
The leopard took Kabundi to his house and watched him very
carefully. When it was time to eat, the leopard had nothing to give
Kabundi but beans, because he was not allowed to have any of the soup. Kabundi said he could only eat gourds, and that was why he had not contributed to the soup.
Now the animals had given the leopard very strict orders to take good care of the prisoner, so he locked Kabundi in the house and went to look for gourds.
While the leopard was gone Kabundi slipped out between the roof
and the wall. It was such a small space that the big leopard had
forgotten about it.
When the leopard discovered that Kabundi had escaped, he
reported it to the other animals and after a great deal of trouble
they succeeded in catching him again. This time they gave him to
the turtle to keep.
The first time that Kabundi tried to escape, the turtle told him
that if he tried again he would kill him and eat him.
''I shall try again," said Kabundi. "And I can't bear for any food
to be wasted. So when you kill me, take me out on the plain, find
a small hole, spread leaves over the hole, and kill and eat me there.
If I am killed any other way, my meat will be bitter and worthless."
Meat was so scarce that the turtle did just as he was told. He
found a small hole and carefully spread clean leaves over its mouth.
Then he put Kabundi on the leaves. Only when he let go of
Kabundi's leg to kill him, Kabundi slipped under the leaves and
down into the hole. The turtle could not get in the hole, nor could
any of the other larger animals. So Kabundi was safe until the
famine was over.