The Lost Heir
A very long time ago in a little village somewhere in the western part of the country now known as Nigeria, was a king who had three wives but no children. He needed a male heir to succeed him on the throne and he was worried. He decided to seek help from the ifa priest as he was growing old and time was short. The ifa priest came to the palace with his divinity board and cowries with which he consulted the oracle for a solution to the kings dilemma. The oracle revealed that the king would have one son but did not reveal which of the wives would bear the son. The oracle revealed that each would get pregnant after eating from a potion the priest would prepare.
The ifa priest returned with a pot of stew into which he had mixed the potion for the three wives to share. The two older wives however were often wicked to the youngest wife, so they decided to keep the pot of stew for themselves. They believed that if the youngest wife did not eat from the stew, then they could be sure that she was not bearing the only son.
When the youngest wife discovered the empty pot of stew, she started to cry for she had lost the opportunity to bear a child. In desperation, she scraped the pot with her fingers, licking every bit of leftover stew she could get.
Very soon, the two senior wives were spotting rounded bellies. And surprisingly, the third wife too started to exhibit a little bulge. All three wives were pregnant. Time passed and the two senior wives delivered their babies. They both had daughters. They now started to pay attention to the third wife, worried that she might have a son. When she was ready to give birth to her baby, the two senior wives were in attendance to help with the delivery. As soon as she gave birth, the baby boy was immediately taken away and replaced by a stone. The two senior wives quickly raised an alarm for they were shocked by what they had just delivered – a stone! The stone-mother soon became an outcast as the king sent her away from the palace and nobody in the village would have anything to do with her.
In the meantime, the baby boy had been wrapped in cotton cloth and taken into the forest where he was abandoned under a tree. A medicine man who lived deep in the forest and was out gathering herbs found him and took him home where he raised him into a fine gentleman.
Many years passed and the king died, still without a male heir. The villagers needed to appoint another king but there was no obvious candidate, so the ifa priest was called. The oracle revealed that their king lived deep in the forest and would be found in the home of a powerful medicine man. A delegate was dispatched to go and fetch the would-be king.
The would-be kings’ return to the village was welcomed by all but his origin was a mystery to everybody. The oracle had said that the boys mother resides in the village but who could it be? Every woman in the village hoped that she was the mother no matter how unlikely it seemed. The mystery of kings mother needed to be solved before the coronation took place.
The oracle advised that every woman should cook a pot of stew and bring it to the village square. The boy would taste from every pot, and from the taste he would identify his mother. Grand preparations began in every home. Every woman would cook the best pot of stew she had ever cooked in her whole life. A thousand and one ingredients and all manner of spices went into every pot, except for one pot, the one belonging to the village outcast. She lived in a little shack at the edge of the village and she had no money to buy ingredients for a pot of stew. She herself lived on fruits and vegetables that picked from her daily forages into the forest. When it was time for every woman to assemble in the market square, she placed what vegetables she could get into a pot with some water.
The aroma around the market square was overwhelming. There were miles of sizzling, delicious pots of stew. When the king-to-be arrived, everyone fell silent as he made his way from one pot to the other, tasting his way down the line. This went on for the whole day. Exhausted, he reached the last pot behind which sat an unkept woman with ragged clothing. He tasted the content of her pot and burst into song, singing and proclaiming that this was his mother.
Thus, the wicked deed of many years past was uncovered and the two wicked wives were banished from the village.