Barracoon, p.9
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       Barracoon, p.9

           Zora Neale Hurston
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The Monkey and the Camel

  One day—I tellee disa one—de uthucudum (weasel) went up de melon tree to eatee hisself some fruit. De camel, he lak melon all de time; so when he see de weasel in de tree, he go aska him throw him some. De weasel throw him some, den he come down and go in his house.

  De camel, he still wantee some more melon, so he wait. After while, de monkey he go to de melon tree to gittee him some too. De camel, he hurry up under de tree and say to de monkey, “Gimmee some de melons too,” and de monkey throw him some.

  Den he aska de monkey to throw him more and he eata dat, den he aska for more and more till de monkey he git tired. He want to come down from de tree an’ go home to dinner wid his fruit, so he tell de camel he too greedy and if he want more melon, let him clam’ de tree hisself and gittee some.

  Dat make de camel mad so he say dat de monkey is a very moufy animal wid an ugly red behind, and ver’ ugly nose.

  Now de monkey he know dat his nose is ugly and he is very shamed for the camel to speaky ’bout it, so he say dat de camel is a creature widee no hindquarters.

  De camel gittee so mad at dat, till he reach up de tree and grab de monkey and carry him off.

  Well, after he walk a while, he meeta de rhinoceros and he aska, “Camel, how come you seize de monkey?”

  De camel say, “Let him tell himself.”

  De monkey, “Well I was up de melon tree eatin’ some fruit and de camel come ’long and aska me throw him some. I did throw him some, and more and more, but when I was tired and want to go home he says dat I am a beast wid ugly nostrils and sunken eyes, and I got very mad say dat de camel is a beast widout a rump and he done seized me and tote me off.”

  De rhinoceros said dat de monkey was wrong to speak of de camel so and told him not to let him go, so de camel carried him on.

  After a while, dey met de leopard and said, “O camel, what makee you seize de monkey? Is he done you wrong?”

  “Let him tellee you hisself what he done.”

  De monkey, “Well I was up de melon tree eatin’ some fruit an’ de camel he come up under de tree and aska me to throw him down some fruit. Well, I throw him some, den some more, den some more till I gittee very tired den I say he is a lazy animal dat worries other animals when dey go to git fruit, let him clam de melon tree hisself. Den he say I am a creature wid no manners and a red behind, and I say dat he is a beast wid no behind at all, and not enough tail to hide de place where his behind ought to be; den he grabee me and bring me here.”

  De leopard say dat de monkey was wrong to speak thus of the camel and that the camel must not let him go; so de camel carried him on.

  After a while dey come to de house of de weasel, and he was sittin’ outside de do’way. He seen de camel wid de monkey and he aska de camel, “O camel, how come you seize de monkey? Whut he done wrong?”

  De camel say, “Let him tell it hisself.”

  De monkey say, “Well, I was up de melon tree gittin’ fruit for my wife, and de camel come under de tree and aska me to throw him down some fruit, I done throw him some, den more, den more, till I was tired, and I said he was a greedy beast whose rump looked lak he been drinking kainya (a powerful laxative) and he grabee me and bring me here.”

  Now de weasel he feel sorry for de monkey and he know hisself dat de camel is worrysome under de fruit tree, so he set a while den he say, “I will be de judge ’twixt you two,” and dey both say, “All right, you be de judge for us.”

  De first thing, he say, “You monkey, come set here on my right side, and you camel set here on my left whilst I decide de question.”

  Dey both done whut he say, and he set dere quiet for a while. Den he open his mouf, “O monkey, I sentence you, for speaking so to de camel, to leap up dat tree, whilst I run into my hole,” and he done dat and de camel was lef’ settin’ where he was. After a while he went away.

  Story of de Jonah

  Whut you want me to talk, Jonah?

  Who and whut kinda prophet is Jonah, I doan know. I couldn’t tellee you dat.

  God speakee unto Jonah, go tell Ninevah to turn to me ’cause they sins it come befo’ me. Jonah say no, I ain’ gwine. Jonah say well, being I here, he gointer torment me, I goin’ git away from here.

  So he went dere, you know, in de vessel ship to go to Joppy—dat a country, you know, where God ain’ gwine bother him. Listen, Cudjo say so, he didn’t know it, God is everywhere. And so he went onto de ship to go to Joppy and God lookee at him. God see Jonah in de vessel and so when he went to de vessel God lookee (gesture of a penetrating look) at him. He see de Jonah dere.

  He see de Jonah dere, so God went to de east and (gesturing of unlocking and flinging wide a door) unlockee de storm room, say to de storm, “Come out” (hand uplifted in a kingly commanding gesture) and de storm started. Den God went to de west, unlockee anudder storm room. (Gesture.) “Come out! Come outa dere!” Den God went to de north, unlockee dat storm room, tell it to come out! Den he went to de south, unlockee anudder storm room, and anudder storm in de south. All storms come meetee together! All storms comee meetee together, and de vessel can’t go no where.

  Now! Whut did de captain say? Dat whut I go tellee you now. De captain say, “Dats not de first time I go travel in de sea. Something wrong!” And de man say, “Captain, dere’s a man in de boat and den he pay his fare.” De captain say, “Where ’bouts is he?” Dey say, “He way down in de bottom of de boat.” He say, “Go tell him to come here.”

  I goin’ tell you whut de sailors say when dey went down in de bottom of de boat. I goin’ tellee you whut dey say to Jonah. Dey say, “O sleeper, wake up from your sleep and call on your God, else we go perish in de sea!”

  When he come to de captain on de deck he say, “Who you?” He (Jonah) say, “I’m a Hebrew, done run away from God.” Captain say, “Whut must we do now so de sea kin become calm?” He say, “Heave me overboard.” De captain say, “I ain’ gwine do it till we draw de lot. We don’t want be guilty of your blood.”

  Dey draw de lot and de lot fell on Jonah. Lookee here God prepare de whale right long sidee de ship wi’ his mouf wide open (gesture). When dey throw him in, de whale tookee and carry him to Ninevah three days and three nights. When he got to de Ninevah he heave him on de shore. Ain’ no shade in de seashore, so God suffer de gourd vine grow over he head for de shade.

  Jonah wont go (to Ninevah) so God sendee de worm and cutee gourd vine (slashing gesture) down (hand lifted straight up). God said, “Jonah, your name called.” He say to him, “Go in de Ninevah, and when he got dere he say forty days and forty nights and Ninevah shall be overthrowed.”

  And de king say, “Dis is de man of God—three days, three nights, de cow, de pigs neither de mules neither de chickens give em nothin to eat. Nobody eat neither drink.”

  So Jonah went to de mountain to see how it goin’ be over throw, but stid uh dat God blessee dem. So den Jonah got mad: Say, “Lor’, didn’t you tell me you goin’ ’stroy dat city?”

  God say, “Jonah, dere’s seven thousand women and chillun in dat city don’t know right from wrong. If you think I go ’stroy dem, youse crazy.”

  How long Ninevah de blessee, I don’t know. Dat de end right dere. Dats de fur I kin go.

  Now Disa Abraham Fadda de Faitful

  He had nephew name Lot—now dass right. Boffe of dem kinfolks. Dey have servant mind de stock whut dey raisee. One day dey two servants dey were quarreling.

  Abraham say to de Lot, “We two kinfolks. Dese servant dey quarrel, don’t lettee dat breakee de friendship. Now, data right, dasa left. Now which way you goin’?” Lot say to de Abraham, “I goin’ to Sodom and Gomorrah, where you goin’?” Abraham say, “I goin’ to de Land of Caanan.”

  When dey so much in sin in Sodom and Gomorrah, den de Lord he tookee two angels to pass Abraham’s tent. Abraham seen dem and want to bow to dem and den he went and get kid and dressee him and set it before dem to eatee dinner. When dey get thew eatee dey start to Sodom and Gomorrah.

de angels say to de udder, “Less not hidee our business from Abraham. Less tellee him whar we gwine.” So dey say, “Abraham, do you know we goin’ to Sodom and Gomorrah to settee it afire, goin’ burn de place down? So muchee sin wentee before God dat God goin’ burn de place out.”

  “Naw,” Abraham say, “if I findee fifty ratcheous will you spare de city?” De angels say, “Yes, for your sake.”

  Abraham went to Sodom and Gomorrah and can’t find de fifty ratcheous. “If I findee forty ratcheous will you spare de place?”

  Dey say, “Yeah, for your sake, we spare ’em.”

  He fell back to twenty-five and couldn’t find ’em. When he call for ten de Lord wont lissen. He flee way from him. Den de two angels go to Lot house and tell him, “Now you leavee here and don’t lookee back.”

  When de people see de daughters of Zion come to Lot house, dey say to Lot, “Whut is dey doin dere?” Lot say don’t bother dem. Den de angel pull Lot backee and wavee de hand and all de people go blind. Den dey say to Lot, “You flee away from here jes’ as quick as you kin, and don’t lookee back.”

  Lot’s wife lookee back and turn to a pillar salt and she be dere till Judgment Day. Poor Cudjoe, I no lookee back. I pressee forward.

  The Lion Woman

  Three men, dey each have a lady. One say, “If I live to marry a wife, when she have a son, he go git down on top of a elephant to ride.”

  Another one say, “If I live to have a wife, when she have a son, he go git down on top a zebra for a ride.”

  De third man he say, “If I live to marry disa girl I love, when she have a son, he go git down on top a lion for a saddle horse.”

  De people, dey say, “How he goin’t do dat? He cain’t do dat because befo’ he ketchy de lion, de lion ketchy him.”

  He say, “Oh, no!”

  Well he marry de girl and dey have a son. When de boy he git so he kin run and throw de spear from the hand, you unnerstand me, de man he go in de woods and he found two young lions; but dey mama she gone killee something for them to eat. So he takee de two lions and killee one and takee de hide and stretch hit on de fence in de garden. De other one, you unnerstand me, he chain by de neck to de tree.

  De mama lion she come home and she miss her babies, and she know de man take her children.

  She feel hurtee, you unnerstand me, her breast swell way laka dis. She make up her mind she goin’ punish de man whut killee her babies. So she turn herself into a woman, and many men see her come into de village. She look very fat and handsome and all de men want to marry her.

  She tote a purse here (upon her hip). She say she will marry de man dat throw somethin’ in de purse.

  Everybody dey chunking at de purse. Dey chunk and dey chunk. Some throw too fur, some don’t throw fur ’nough. Nobody make it go in de purse.

  De man dat ketchee de lions, he stand and lookee but he don’t try chunkee in de purse. He love his wife and don’t want no mo’ wife. She watch him and she aska him, “Why you no try chunkee in de purse? Don’t you want me for yo’ wife?”

  He say, “I don’t wanta chunk. I gotta wife already.”

  She say, “But I wanta you to chunk.” She beg him please till after while jus’ so he pick up somethin’ wid his left hand throw disa way, but it went right in de purse, so she went home wid him to his house.

  Soon’s she git in de house she see de skin stretch on de garden fence and see de other one chained to de tree, and she swell up insider her, and she wish for night to come. She wishee it was night dat minute.

  She lay in de bed wid de man dat night, but she ain’ never go to sleep. He go sleep; but she wait to kill him. When she see he sleep, she turn back to a lion and got up walking in de house.

  De man he got dogs, you unnerstand me, and dey know she a lion, and dey know when she git up to kill him. Jus’ when she go to him to tear him up, de dogs bark and say, “No, you don’t! No, you don’t! Dass my master, and iffen you kill him you can’t cross dis yard. We killee you.”

  She come back and lay down wid de man and wakee him up. She say, “Husband, I can’t sleep. Yo’ dogs makee so much noise, dey keep me wake. I think dey goin’ come in de house and bite me. You betta go chain dem up.”

  He git up and go chain de dogs lak she say, den he go back to sleep. She git up agin, but de dogs hear her and dey talk so loud she skeered he hear ’em. So she git back in de bed and she think whut she kin do to kill him.

  In de morning she say to him, “I can’t stay wid you ’cause yo’ dogs dey won’t lemme sleep. I’m goin’ home disa morning. You going piece de way wid me?”

  He say he go wid her piece de way. He go git his hunting spear and his bow and arrow, but she say, “Whut for you take de spear? You mean to killee me on de way? You don’t need no arrow neither.”

  He tellee her he always take his spear when he go to de woods, but she cry and say she skeered he goin’ kill her, so he put down de weapons. Den he put on his hunting knife but she make him take dat off, too. Den he takee a whistle, you unnerstand me, and put it in his shirt, and takee nine eggs to eat on de way. Den he go on wid her.

  On de way dey talk. She aska him, “If a lion jump on you, whut you goin’ do?”

  He say, “I turn to a deer and run away fast.”

  “Oh, but a lion overtake a deer, den whut you do?”

  “Den I turn to a snake and go in de ground.”

  “Oh, but de lion ketchee you befo’ you dig de hole.”

  “Well, den I turn . . .” he start to say he turn to a bird and fly up in de tree, but de voice of his father come to him and say, “Hush!” so he say, “I don’t know whut I do den.”

  After a while dey come to a woods and de woman excuse herself and go in de bush and stay a minute—den a big lion come out and take right after de man. He think quick whut he goin’ do, and he turn to a bird and fly up in de highest tree.

  De lion open one side and took out nine men wid dey axes and open de other side and take out nine mo’ and dey ’gin to choppee down de tree. De man he blow on de whistle so his dogs hear him and come.

  De men dey chop hard at de tree. De lion she walk round and round and roar whut she goin’ do when de tree fall. When de tree ’gin to fall, de man drop one egg and de tree it come back up agin. He blow and blow for his dog, but dey ain’ heared him yit.

  He drop another egg when de tree commence to fall nex’ time, and he kep’ on till de last egg it gone. De tree ’gin to shake agin, but he blow and blow on his whistle.

  One young dog say to de other, “Dat seem lak master’s whistle I hear—don’t you think so?”

  De ole dog say, “Oh, lay down! You always hear somethin’ so you kin run in de woods.”

  After a while de young dog say he hear somethin’ agin, but de old dog say, “No, be quiet.”

  De tree is almost choppee down, and de lion stand on her hind legs so she grab him when he fall. De young dog say agin he hear de whistle and de ole dog say, “Wait, I believe I hear somethin’, too. Wait a minute.” He lissen, den he say, “Hit is master’s whistle! He in trouble, too. Lemme go in de house and put de eye medicine in de eye.”

  He go in de house and put de medicine in his eye, so dat he kin see clear cross de world. “Unhunh!” he say. “I see master and he in bad trouble. Less go.”

  Dey run to de tree faster dan anythin’ in de world and kill de lion and all de men. De man flew down from de tree and turn back to hisself agin. Den de man and de dogs take up all de meat and take it home and throw it in de yard. Den de man he go in de house wid his wife, but he don’t tell her nothin’ ’cause de ole dog he tell him dat if he tell, he will die.

  When she look in de yard and see all de meat, she say to him, “Where you git all de meat?”

  And he say, “I been hunting,” but he don’t tell her dat de dogs done made baskets outa plum twigs and brung de meat home. Dey walk on dey hind legs laka men and tote de baskets wid dey front legs.

  His wife say, “You never brung home all data meat. No man kin
tote so much, it too much for one man. You tell me who brung dat meat for you.”

  All day she keep dat up. Night time come and he wanta go to bed. She say no, she not sleep wid him never no mo’ less he tell her ’bout de meat. So he tell her and den she sleep wid him. But de nex’ mornin’ she say to de dogs, “Why don’t you tell me you kin tote meat laka man? Here I been had to wash yo’ eatin’ trough and tote yo’ grub to you, and you plenty able to bring yo’ plate and fetch yo’ own grub.”

  Den de man he die ’cause he told whut de dog tell him not to, and de people make a great funeral for three days wid him. His wife she cry and cry ’cause she make him die, but dey go to bury him. But de ole dog say, “No, wait till his father come—he gone away on a journey.” So dey wait three mo’ days and when de father come he rub medicine on his eyes and he woke him, and he live a long time after dat, and his son git down on de lion he brung home.

  Cudjo Lewis (Oluale Kossola), in front of his home in Africatown (Plateau), Alabama, circa 1928. To have his photograph taken, Kossola dressed in his best suit and removed his shoes: “I want to look lak I in Affica, ’cause dat where I want to be.”

  Afterword and Additional Materials Edited by Deborah G. Plant


  Hurston described Kossola as a “poetical old gentleman . . . who could tell a good story.”1 And in the tradition of the griot of his West African homeland, Kossola tells a story of epic proportion. He is at once storyteller and heroic figure, as he is the protagonist in the saga he relates to Hurston. He was “left to tell” the story of a massacre that befell the town of Bantè, and he was the last original founder to sing the paean of Africatown. Characteristic of griots is their extraordinary memory. As with others who had interviewed Kossola, Hurston, too, took note of this attribute. In the preface to Barracoon, Hurston commends his “remarkable memory.” And she states, “If he is a little hazy as to detail after sixty-seven years, he is certainly to be pardoned.” Hurston used secondary sources in relation to Kossola’s narrative, but not as a corrective. Her use of historical research did not align with that of “the scientific crowd.” “Woodson knew that people’s memories were notoriously unsound and must be checked carefully by reference to written documents.”2 But Hurston’s motivations were different: “The quotations from the works of travelers in Dahomey are set down, not to make this appear a thoroughly documented biography, but to emphasize his remarkable memory.”3

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