Marwe in the Underworld - African Campfire Stories
There was once a African girl named Marwe. She and her brother were responsible for keeping the monkeys from raiding the family bean fields.
One day they had faithfully done their duty when both of them became very thirsty. They turned their backs on the fields and went to a pool to take a drink. When they returned to the fields, the monkeys had eaten all the beans.
Marwe so feared the wrath of her parents that she drowned herself; her brother rushed home with the terrible news. Her parents were so shocked and grieved that they forgot about the bean field.
Marwe sank to the bottom of the pool until she entered the land of the dead. She first came to a house where an old woman lived with her children. The old woman identified herself as Marwe's guide in the land of the dead.
For many years Marwe lived with the old woman and helped with the chores. After a time Marwe became very homesick and began to think of her parents and brother. The old woman was able to read the girl's heart, and she knew that Marwe wished to rejoin the living. So one day the old woman asked Marwe if she preferred the hot or the cold.
Marwe didn't understand and the woman repeated the question. Finally Marwe answered that she preferred the cold, not knowing what this meant. The old woman had Marwe dip her hands into a clay jar of cold water, and when she pulled her hands out, they were covered with jewels. She put her feet and legs into the jar, pulled them out, and they too were covered with jewels. Smiling, the old woman dressed Marwe in the finest robes and sent her home.
The old woman also had the gift of prophecy, and told Marwe that she would soon marry the finest man in the world, a man named Sawoye. When Marwe arrived home in her fine robes and jewels, her family was overjoyed. They had given her up for dead long before. They marveled at her fine clothing and their newfound wealth. Word spread quickly through the countryside that there was a rich, eligible young woman in the territory, and Marwe's home was visited by hundreds of suitors. Marwe ignored all of the men, including the most handsome, except for a man named Sawoye who suffered from a terrible skin disease that made him look ugly. But, having been to the land of the dead, Marwe was able to read the hearts of men and knew that Sawoye was best.
Sawoye and Marwe were married with great feasting, and after their wedding night, when the marriage was consummated, Sawoye's skin disease disappeared, showing his face to be the most handsome of all. As Marwe had plenty of fine jewels to spare, they bought a herd of cattle.
Soon Marwe and Sawoye were the wealthiest people in the land. One might expect that they would now live in happiness, but the many suitors of Marwe were envious of Sawoye. All of their friends and neighbors changed, resenting the wealthy young couple. The hostility grew more bitter with each day until a group of neighbors attacked Sawoye and killed him. But Marwe had herself already died, and knew the secrets of the Underworld, including how to revive the dead. She took her husband's body inside their home and recited magic incantations that she had learned from the old woman in the land of the dead.
Sawoye revived, stronger than ever. When their enemies returned to divide up the wealth, Sawoye slew them all.
Marwe and Sawoye lived in prosperity and happiness for the rest of their lives, and since both had died, they met their ends without fear.