The Magic Millet
Illustrated by Seminega Félix. Kigali, Rwanda: Editions Bakame, 2004. 24 p. Ages 3-8.
Publisher: Editions Bakame
This folktale is about Nkusi, a young orphan who lives with his grandmother. When the grandmother is about to die, she calls her grandson and shows him the only inheritance she can leave him – a small millet stalk that had grown in their compound. She promises him that the millet stalk will bring him either a cow or a bride.
As Nkusi was puzzling over his situation after his grandmother’s death, a chicken came and ate his millet. He said to the chicken: “How dare you eat my millet, left to me by Mukaka, who promised that if it doesn’t bring me a cow, it will bring me a bride. You must pay.” The chicken gave him an egg. Nkusi took the egg and left home to seek his fortune. He came upon a slippery road, and he fell down and broke his egg. He said to the road: “How dare you break my egg, given to me by the chicken that ate my millet, the millet left to me by Mukaka, who promised that if it doesn’t bring me a cow it will bring me a bride.” The slippery road gave Nkusi a ball of mud, and Nkusi continued on his way. The young man successively encounters a river, blacksmiths, hairdressers, cowherders, and, finally, some people on their way to get a bride. Each time, he loses what he had received previously and gets something new from the encounter. Nkusi keeps repeating his grandmother’s legacy and everything that had happened before. In the end, he returns to his grandmother’s house with not only a bride but many cows as well.
This cumulative tale has been popular with many generations of Rwandans. It is about overcoming a seemingly desperate situation by taking advantage of each opportunity, perseverance, and belief in one’s destiny. Children enjoy this uplifting tale as they learn to repeat and participate in the litany of added details along with the storyteller. This folktale has been translated into French under the title Le mil chanceux.