The King of the Jungle

By Trust Bvengara

That year, the Christmas party at my in-laws was bigger than it had ever been; it was a jubilant experience. All the sons-in-law had gathered for the first time, and my brother, Manomano, asked me to accompany him to the gathering. The event was held in Southdown at our in-laws’ place, in the jungle. When you approach from afar, the home seems like a thick bush. Very green with long trees and thorn bushes. Animals sometimes come close to the yard because of its greenery.

Upon our arrival, everyone was fascinated that we had managed to come. My brother had not finished paying the bride price, and he was shy to be among the sons-in-law who had cleared their arrears. The in-laws sent him a message that he was still their son-in-law even if he did not finish clearing his bride price. Therefore, he came, but only with me by his side.

After some greetings and short stories, the father-in-law gave us a goat for my brother. We clapped hands as a way of showing respect and appreciation. My brother comes from the royal family of Mutema Kingdom. Therefore, they honored him respectfully.

We swiftly and politely requested knives, dishes, and containers to put the meat in. We dragged down our big and fat male goat. It wrestled with us until it almost escaped; it was really big. Our in-laws were busy laughing as they watched their sons-in-law wrestling with the big goat. We tied it to a tree and cut its head off with a knife. My brother took a bowl to keep all the blood, which was gushing from the goat’s neck. In our culture, we call that blood “mutenga.” We usually cook it then mix it with other meat, and then eat it. Elders say it’s rich in calcium.

As we started to undress the goat, we observed that it had plenty of fat. My brother started to smile and said today is a great day. His saliva began to fall. That was a high state of desire for meat. We then put all the meat in a bucket. When we removed the worst products from the intestines, we saw undigested maize grains, which meant it had recently been fed. The intestines were so big. They smelled, but my brother forbade me to spit, for it would seem disrespectful.

Afterward, we were given some meat to grill over an open fire. When it was ready, we brought it to the in-laws. My in-laws had both advanced in age, their teeth were no longer strong. They rejected the meat and said they would eat it when it was cooked. Although the meat was so tender that even a newly born babe could have chewed it.

As we brought the meat to the table, people began to eat. It was mouth-watering and luscious. Fat and fleshy.

Then, my brother began to break jokes. Everyone listened to him attentively. No one could resist his jokes, even a person who had never laughed in his or her lifetime would laugh at his jokes. He told the in-laws that he once chased a lion some years ago when he was 20. He began to narrate his adventures: “I rescued my father’s bull when it was attacked by a lion. We were herding with other boys in our village of Mutikwanda close to Chipinge town. The lions had escaped from the Safari game park. The lion suddenly attacked our bull from the back, and all my friends climbed up the trees. I hit it with my catapult in the eye; then it sprinted into the thick forest. As it was in the forest, it started to roar in pain.” Everyone was shocked and respected him for his courage.

The in-laws and other family friends continued to eat the meat and some were drinking beer. As my brother continued to narrate his encounters everybody stopped eating and drinking to listen. My brother is strong, muscular, and tall. His appearance suggests that he could catch a lion with his bare hands. Some of his audience believed, and some disbelieved the narration. I was very silent and sure that he was telling lies, for I knew of his folk-telling and comedy.

The mother-in-law overheard this narration as she passed close and told my brother about the lion at the water spring. Everyone was afraid to go and fetch water at that water source. The in-laws and community were happy that the person who could chase away the notorious lion had come. Now they were done with eating.

My brother was given a teenager to accompany him. The teenager’s name was Nigel. A tall and dark-skinned boy, who took several school Olympic competitions. The teenager accompanied my brother for a short distance, for he feared the king of the jungle. Then, my brother was given an axe, bow, and arrows so that he could kill the lion. I felt a guilty sense of dishonesty when my brother left, for I knew all he narrated were lies. I remained with the in-laws at home in great discomfort.

Without further ado, the teenager returned. I now grew in fear for my brother. We were still seated on the chairs when we saw the lion running towards us chased by a man who had grown from the mud. It took me several seconds to realize the mud was my brother Manomano. We promptly ran into the house. The in-laws were afraid and began to shout to the son-in-law to leave the lion. But he kept running after it. The lion passed through the yard. Then, my brother stopped. He was breathing heavily. He fell and fainted. He had mud all over his body. People poured water on him. Tears ran down my cheeks. I thought my brother was dying. After some minutes he opened his eyes and stood up. Then, I shed tears of joy for I saw life on him.

Everyone was happy and even I was shocked at his courage. The father-in-law promised him another wife, a younger sister to his current wife. Everybody ululated and said he deserved the honorary privilege.

The following day we went back to our home. We boarded an Inter-Africa bus at around 10 am at a bus terminus close to the in-law’s yard. On our way back home, my brother explained everything to me. He said, “I survived through a close shave.” He laughed uncontrollably. He said “When I was left by the teenager in the jungle, I decided to change the direction. Unfortunately, I quickly found myself confronted with a fierce male lion, much bigger and stronger than I had predicted. The titanic lion soon began to roar. I was shocked by the rowdy sound. I began to tremble and shiver. Without further ado, I gathered the courage to confront the king of the jungle. I charged forward and tried to wrestle the animal. The lion was powerful, and with one jab of its paw, I was thrown back and wounded. I thought to bolt away from the eyes of the lion. As I ran for my life, my heart pounded in my chest and my breath came in short gasps. I turned and sprinted. But the lion chased me. As I was running, I dropped my axe in order to gain mobility. I ran for about one hundred and fifty meters. All my clothes were in tatters when I ran into the thorn bushes. I lost hope for life as the predator was getting closer with incredible speed. When I tried to jump over a muddy river, I fell into it. Fortunately, the lion did not see that, it kept on running. I got up from the river and resumed running. It was vice-versa now. The lion was ahead and I was behind. I was defiled with mud and appeared like a dangerous creature. The lion was confused and afraid. With fear, I did not see that I was chasing a lion. That was when we passed by my in-laws’ home.”

I imagined if things had happened the other way around, which would have cost him his life. I urged him not to be so talkative next time. However, because my brother had risked his life, he now had another wife. He had a big garden that suited two wives.

25 August, 2023