Luanda and Nandi
Luanda Magere was a great warrior of superhuman strength and a giant of a man, who could not be harmed by weapons. His skin was as hard as stone and spears, arrows, clubs and stones simply bounced off him with no effect.
The Kano people, who lived near Lake Nyanza in Africa, were surrounded by enemies who liked to fight at night, and so they had to build a stone fortress to protect themselves. But when Luanda became a young man, he began to lead them into battle against the warriors of neighbouring tribes.
Luanda never threw his spear but liked to fight close up and no one could stand up to him, warriors in their hundreds fell before his wrath. He turned the tide against his people’s enemies and gathered up their cattle as a prize. His people thought he must be a gift from God. For years his enemies despaired and spent their days thinking about how they could defeat him and win back their herds.
It was decided that they would trick Luanda into giving away the secrets of his powers by getting him to marry one of their girls. And so Nandi, the most beautiful young woman of the enemy tribes, was sent to Luanda.
Even though Luanda’s people warned him not to marry Nandi, he would not listen, as he fell hopelessly in love with her at first sight. Nandi moved into Luanda’s cottage and took care of him like any good wife would.
“Can I trust you, Nandi?” Luanda would ask her every night.
“Of course you can, my love, you can trust me with your life,” she replied every time.
Luanda wanted so much to believe his wife, caring for her as he did.
In the meantime, Nandi was reporting back to her brothers everything she saw. But time passed by and still Nandi could not find any weakness in her husband. Then she began to have doubts about betraying the man who loved her so much, until a new war broke out and Luanda killed many of her brothers, uncles and cousins, leaving their wives and daughters mourning their passing.
When the war had finished, Nandi found out that she was carrying Luanda’s baby, which softened her heart once more.
Now, although Luanda was unbeatable in battle and could not be killed, he could still fall ill. Such an occasion gave Nandi the opportunity she had been waiting for. Luanda’s leg had become infected and swollen, so that the skin needed to be cut to let the badness out. The problem was that no knife could even scratch his skin. Luanda was too weak to move and had no choice but to tell Nandi his secret.
Luanda called her to him. “Nandi, my love, you are carrying our child and I know now that I can trust you. My skin can only be opened by cutting my shadow; you must cut it in exactly the same place as the swelling is.”
Nandi did as she was bid, opening his leg and letting out the bad blood. The knowledge of her husband’s weakness left her with a great burden to carry, she was to be the mother of his child, and yet, her brothers expected her to tell them how to kill him.
The months passed in peace between the tribes and Nandi kept the terrible secret to herself, hoping that Luanda would get to see the child they had made together. She had been carrying the baby for seven months when war broke out again.
So Nandi struggled with the horrible choices war presents to people, betray her husband or her brothers. She thought about all the relatives Luanda had killed and those he was yet to lay low on the battlefield. With a heavy heart, Nandi returned to her village and told her brothers about her husband’s weakness.
On the day that Luanda collected his spears and prepared for battle, his friends warned him that Nandi had betrayed him. They pleaded with him to stay at home, saying he had fought enough battles for them - it was time they fought for him, so that he could live to see his child born.
But Luanda became angry and shouted at them, “You are mad if you think the woman who has cared for me all this time, who carries my child, would cause me harm.”
When Luanda and his comrades reached the battlefield, it was to find a vast army of enemies waiting for them. For years many of the enemy warriors had stayed away from the fighting because of Luanda, but now they had all turned out to see the hero fall.
As the battle began, some of the enemy warriors fell back before Luanda, drawing him forward with taunts. Meanwhile, others attacked his friends, pushing them back, so that Luanda ended up standing alone. Even so, his enemies still feared him greatly and acted like a pack of wild dogs nipping at the heels of a lion. Then the bravest of Nandi’s brothers sneaked behind Luanda and plunged his spear in the hero’s shadow.
Luanda froze, unable to move, as his shadow was pierced with many spears. He was defeated but could not truly die, and so his body turned completely to stone where he stood.
Nandi returned home a heroine and her people rejoiced at her husband’s passing. And so Luanda’s son was born and raised amongst his enemies.
To this day, Luanda still stands frozen on the battlefield, sorrowfully thinking about the wife he loved, but who betrayed him.
An original reworking of a traditional Jaluo folk tale from Western Kenya.