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How to Read a Folktale

6. Ibonamasiboniamanoro. He of the Clear and Captivating Glance

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There Is No Child

1The Prince of the East, it is said,
was moved to pay a visit to his grandfather Sky Father.
With him he took his children:
Gray Eyed Man
Young Man Worth Six
Manly Princess
and his subjects, Many Cares and Many Close Ones.
Also from The Kingdom of Many and The Valley of Many Trees
he took along ten bulls and ten cows with their young.

2The Prince of the North too was moved.
He took with him To Be Powerful and Powerful’s Father.

3The Prince of the West too was moved.
He took Smith of Silver Gods and To Be Powerful
and his eight daughters.

4The Prince of the South too was moved.
He took Well Shaped Man and Cat With Big Mane
and his eight daughters.
They wanted to visit Sky Father. They were his grandchildren.
Their grandfather Sky Father, to welcome them
picked from his herds oxen
named Big One No Turning Aside and Big Wader.
Reunited with his grandsons, grandfather Sky Father said,
“I am pleased.
No swine or curs will inherit my land.”
Sky Father was happy
he produced festivities
he fired a cannon and a gun
then he fed them.

5Then came The Prince of the Center, the Great King-Maker,
and his wife
Rasoa [Beautiful-Rich].
Even the sky was stirred
and the earth trembled where they passed
with their subjects The Clan of a Thousand Warriors
and The Clan Gathering a Hundred Warriors.
Grass dried up
herb stalks intertangled
and the earth rumbled at the passing of the clan Too Many to Call.
The Prince of the Center too wanted to visit Sky Father
being eldest of his grandchildren.

6When the Prince of the Center arrived in his presence
Sky Father said, “I am pleased, dear boy
that you both came to call on me.
For the four who came before you
I had the guns and cannons fire a hail of bullets.
The meal of welcome which I gave them was all fruitful things
because they have many children.
But you I will treat differently.
I will order the guns and cannons fired
I will have them loaded with one single stone
and I will have them fired into the ground.”
Then he sent for cattle as the welcoming gift and said,
“Take Glutton take High Voiced Cuckoo
take Worth a Hundred Untied take Worth a Hundred Not in the Forest,
take Restless take Major take Lazy Can’t Lift
take Needs No Help Eating take Handsome Silent
take Faraway Noise take No Follower of the Just
take Shakes Like an Eel take Oozes Bran Water
take Rattling Throat take Voice Is Wealth
take Birds Nest in his Horns take Manure on Head
and a hundred oxen and a hundred bulls.
Also take a hundred rams and a hundred ewes
a hundred fattened fowl and a hundred capons.”
Then all these animals were gathered before him.

7Sky Father now had begotten Heaven-Watcher,
who had begotten those five brothers —
Prince of the East
Prince of the West
Prince of the North
Prince of the South and Prince of the Center.
Then Sky Father said, “Bring Heaven-Watcher,”
(he was not there before)
“and I will offer the meal of welcome for my children
Prince of the Center and Rasoa.”
When Heaven-Watcher came, he called his five sons.
They approached him.
Sky Father then went out to mount his golden throne. He made a speech:
“Now I have readied the gifts of welcome for the four men
but not for Prince of the Center.
We will set two groups facing each other.
That means a hundred bulls, a hundred oxen and the rest.
I have had the guns and cannons fired with a single charge
and the discharge was lost in the earth
because there is no child to cry.

8Rasoa is barren!
Prince of the Center has fathered no child.
What I have to say to you then
Rasoa and Prince of the Center is this:
All is well
excellent is your greatness
but there is no child to cry.”

Her Quest for Conception

9Now when Rasoa heard that she was upset.
She wept
she cried out
she flooded her husband with tears down to his neck
that Prince of the Center. Then she said
“Prince, look at all the riches here
look at all the wealth
only a single calabash is denied us,
and swine and curs must inherit this kingdom and this land.”

10“I will take no second wife,” said Prince of the Center.
“Go you

11Get help from Ranakombe [Great-Snake], the diviner
get from him a childbearing charm.”
So Rasoa set out to get help from Ranakombe.
With her she took ten women
and a hundred men carrying guns, spears and muskets.
When they reached Ranakombe’s place Ranakombe said
“The ‘line for two’ is not made by my foot
The ‘line for four’ is not made by my hand.
What will happen next year I see this year
what will happen tomorrow I see today.
So I know even before you open your mouth
what brings you here grieving it is your need for a child.
How many men are with you?
How many women are with you?”
Rasoa said, “A hundred men
carrying a hundred guns, a hundred spears, and a hundred muskets
and ten women carrying ten round stones.”
“Aaayyy!” said Ranakombe.
“A formidable man will he be on earth.
In your womb a thousand men,
inside you one hundred men
ten years will you carry him, O Rasoa.
If you will agree then that is what I give you.
If you will not agree you will have no other child.
Go home, then
for he is a disaster child
disaster, that one
a calamity child.
He is thunder he is lightning
on earth he will kill his father
in the womb he will kill his mother.”

12Then Rasoa said, “Ahhh —
it is bad to have nothing even disaster.”
Ranakombe said, “So be it. If you agree, then go you to Male Rock of Thousand Corners.
There will be lightning
there will be animals
there will be deadly things.

13When you go there
have each of your women carry two cannonballs
and you carry three.
A locust you will get there as your childbearing charm.
There a thousand strong men will meet you
but those thousand strong men will flee
for that one locust will be a raging bull
thus you will pass over the Male Rock of Thousand Corners.”

14Then she set out.
When she arrived near the rock
waterspouts winds thunderbolts hail fell upon her.
So did all deadly things.
Seven times did the ten women fall
but Rasoa was the only one who did not fall.
As she approached Male Rock of Thousand Corners,
there were more deadly things.
When she came to the north of the rock,
there was the locust, on top of it.
Male Rock of Thousand Corners sank down level with the ground.
Again did her ten servant women fall crushing their hands
but only Rasoa did not fall.
The locust was bombarded with bullets
so that Rasoa could catch it
but that locust did not die.
It seemed ever more alive, to look at him.
Then Rasoa bound up her loins like a man
to catch the locust
and she did catch the locust.
It carried them up, flying.
Rasoa almost reached the sky
but she would not fall
she was sitting atop the rock.
Then it came down to earth
but did not enlarge its hole
it fell into the same place as before.
Rasoa slid into the stone
and took the locust to make a childbearing charm.

15Then each of the oldest trees in the world began to speak:
“I am the childbearing charm.”
I am the childbearing charm.”
When Rasoa had arrived among the childbearing charms
among Does Not Wither When Transplanted
and Does Not Dry When Planted
Thousand Goat Horns
Hundred in the Womb
she went into the forest to get Single Trunk.
But when she reached the top of Single Trunk
it was the locust who seized the charm.
Then did Rasoa return traversing spiderweb to spiderweb
not touching the sky
not touching the blossoms on the trees as she passed
not walking on the ground.
Then the childbearing charm
that Rasoa procured in the forest
showed itself to the prince in the village and said
“Say your prayers, for Rasoa is in battle.
Your praying should be like this:
‘Win the day! Bring forth our man!
This eel must not be confined.
No ditch water will hold him.’
Make your prayers so.” Then came Rasoa
and settled in her own village called Iliolava [Long-Standing].
Its stones smashed each other
its grass dried up.
That was a town that could withstand anything.
Hence its name, Long-Standing.

The Locust Becomes a Baby

16When Rasoa came to the village
her thousand men went to gather firewood
to roast the locust and give it to her to eat.
When the firewood had come
they lit all of it at once in one hearth
and roasted the locust there.
The locust shone fiercely there in the flames.
High did the fire blaze yet it was not cooked.

17Then she sent for Ranakombe.
But even before her messengers reached him
Ranakombe had a vision. He said
“Now then, Clever Slave Girl, what is that in the east?
The ‘line for two’ is not made by my foot
The ‘line for four’ is not made by my hand.
What will happen next year I see this year,
what will happen tomorrow I see today.”
The girl went to look and said, “See!
Seven men are coming from the east.
They hasten with their spears
they brandish muskets.”
“Ah,” said Ranakombe
“they are from Young-Woman-with-Disaster-Child.”
When the messengers reached his place, he said
“I understand the unsignified
I know the unsaid.
How many men have blown the conch?
How many men have fired muskets?
How many men have beaten drums?
How many men have gone for firewood?
How many men have fought bulls around the house?
How many men have killed bulls?”
And they said,
“None of that has been done, grandfather.”
Then said Ranakombe to them
“First, go bring together a thousand fighting bulls
a thousand muskets to shoot
a thousand conches to blow.
Seventy drummers
thrice seven bulls for slaughter
a hundred rams for slaughter.
As for me, I wait until the Friday of the new year
until the end of the month of Alahamady
a bad month for the king.
Then is the new king enthroned
decrees are executed in the capital
no one is unjustly killed.
For that child has a potent fate.
I will not take that day lightly
I will not offend the year
lest I be reproached.
Go you now back to Rasoa.”

18When the messengers returned to Rasoa
they told her his words
so that they could gather all those things
before Ranakombe arrived.
On that Friday, Ranakombe set out for Rasoa.
When he was at her door, he said
“Fire the cannon around the village.
On the east slope of the hill, put up The Only Uplifter
and The One With Many Victims [idols]
and the golden musket.”
The cannon was fired around the village.
A thousand bulls fought around the town.
There was shouting and rejoicing.
Then were killed the hundred rams
and the thrice seven bulls.
(The two idols were placed east of the village because the boy’s rival lay that way.)

19Only then did Ranakombe enter the house of Rasoa
to approach the locust.
When he stepped over her threshold
the locust broke away from the hearth
and went to the ridgepole of the house.
Fire spread before Ranakombe and the locust.
Then Ranakombe gave orders saying
“I see that child is disaster
I see that child is calamity
I see a formidable man on the earth
yet I am the one who gave him to Rasoa of Iliolava.
If you are not to come to term
go south or north
and do not throw yourself into the fire.

20But if you are to become human
to be an unstoppable animal
to be a unique ruler then
throw yourself into the fire.”
And the locust dropped into the fire and was cooked.
No one took him out.
He jumped out of the fire
and perched on the head of Rasoa
then pierced her head settled in her womb
took shape and became a child.
And when the baby was formed in Rasoa’s womb
then the ten bulls and the hundred rams were killed.
Rasoa ate them all herself.
From then on she ate no more
she allowed only wind in her mouth until her baby’s birth.
Ten years was the baby in her womb.

The Baby Chooses a Wife and Refuses Names

21When Ibonia had been three years in Rasoa’s womb
the baby demanded a wife saying
“Iampelasoamananoro, the Girl of Grace, is my wife.
See that she is not stolen by some dangerous man.”
But Rasoa said,
“You are still only a seed. How can you choose a wife?” And the baby said,
“I know I know, mama I am a seed
but I am plighting myself while still a baby
I am marrying while still a seed.
Also: I want no other woman
I give my name to no other woman
and I favor no other land or person.
If Girl of Grace dies I will not bury her in the ground
and if she lives, I will not leave her to any man.
Behold: a Nothing Man Looking for Trouble
Owner of Big Estates
Owner of Properties Spread Wide
is making trouble.
He wants to take my wife” said the baby.
So from his mother’s womb the baby said
“Call the nobles of Iliolava!
for Girl of Grace has been abducted
by a dangerous man with powerful charms.
She has been stolen by Stone Man Trouble.
Cry out!
Say, ‘She is stolen by Stone Man Trouble!
Stolen by Stone Man!
Stolen by formidable Stone Man!’
He may be trouble
but I am disaster” said the baby.
So the people of Iliolava went in pursuit of Girl of Grace
but they could not catch her.
And the baby said in his mother’s womb
“They did not catch Girl of Grace, mama.
The villagers are back.”

22Boasting Before Birth
When ten years had passed the pregnant Rasoa
happened to be among some planters.
The baby became heavy
she began to feel pains. And the baby said,
“Take me home, mama.
I am no
tako leaf floating on water
I am no sweet potato top my own opposite
I am no hog puffing myself up
I am no
tenrec [hedgehog] rolling myself up
I am no dog with dangerous tongue
I am no locust parading myself
I am no hedgehog whose prickles can’t prevent death
I am no stone that starts rolling
I am no banana one is enough of those
I am no fog covering the earth
I am no cock waking in the morning
I am no guineafowl carrying off my own young
I am no crocodile waiting at the ford.
I am an edible arum in the chink of a rock
not crushed with the foot
its leaves not eaten.
Pass over it your knees swell up
look at it sideways you lose an eye
point at it you lose fingers.
Place it on the flame a calamity
cook it a disaster.
But I am a poisonous creeper from beyond the sea
pass under it it blinds you
step over it your stomach swells up
leave it there it makes your toes drop off.
I am an enormous crocodile lying in wait at the ford.
if a pirogue strikes him he capsizes it
anyone crossing he chews his stomach.
I am a big house seen from afar.
Not even a whole crowd can take it apart
but if they do it takes revenge.
And when those from across the sea catch sight of me
I add them to my servants.
I am one dangerous lad!
I will destroy my rivals’ lands
while my lands are already mine”
said the baby in his mother’s womb.
“I excel, mama” he said.
“Fix a time for me I am not there.
at a time fixed by me I am there.
When I need something I get it
something needed from me they get nothing.
When I strike someone, any season he dies, any season
when I give someone life, any season, he lives, any season.
Easy it is to believe that I am alive
hard to believe I am dead.
Here am I me alone here are numberless united warriors
a thousand defiant men
a hundred united men.
A thousand pirogues could not invade my realm, Mama
a hundred pirogues could not capture me” he said.
Then said his mother
“You all alone? A thousand pirogues a hundred pirogues?
Ah, this one is fatal to his mother in her womb
fatal to his father on the earth.”
The baby went on,
“I do not insult those who love me
I use no bad words to those who leave me alone
but I return insult for insult
I use bad words to those who use them on me.
For when sweet words come to me
then those people are my friends
even those who live beyond the sea, indeed those who live above the sky.
My feet were not made by man
my hands were not made by man” he said.
“Mine is the earth heaven is Sky Lord’s.
He is Sky Lord above I am Sky Lord on earth.
If sweetest words come to me I speak the sweetest words
if foul words come to me I speak foul words.
Only I am the one who can fill the earth.”

His Quest for a Birthplace

23“Now go all over the world”
said the baby from his mother’s womb.
And the baby led Rasoa to a bare rock
to look for a place to give birth.
And from Rasoa’s womb the baby said
“I do not like it here, mama.
It is where kites nest and eagles are born.
Kites eat chicks are the pride of their owners
curses follow them but only make them stronger.
Eagles [
vorohamery, strong birds] I know are strong.
What they carry off —
those that escape get their due
those they catch are finished off
from their claws nothing falls.
Take me away. Let us go, mama.
I hate this place. It is a place for plunderers
strong only because they work with their claws.
They have no subjects to call up
no subjects to dispatch.
Here I can not rule.”
So they left that rock.
She kicked it it shattered.
Again the baby led his mother away.
She came to the summit of a high, high place. The baby said
“I like it here, mama.
This is where I will be born.
This is the highest of places
where many look up for help
and there are many to muster.”
Then he changed his mind, saying
“I like it here, mama
but it is a place of ghosts and spirits
and for that I do not like it.
Good and bad winds blow here together.”
Then his mother arose and left that place.
She kicked that hilltop
the earth shuddered
the rocks rolled and were crushed.
They set forth again, and the baby made his mother traverse all the forests of the earth.
Though still in her womb
he led his mother and again he said
“Oh, mama, I do not like it here.
A thousand people rule here.
The small lead the great.
There is nothing solid here.
It is a land of wild dogs
a land of lemurs
a land of wild hogs
a land of wild beasts.
Take me back, mama. I hate it here.
It is a land of the stealthy.”
And again she arose again she kicked the forest.
The trees were uprooted pulled up overturned.
They set forth again and came to water to find a birthing place.
His mother submerged in the water. Then he said
“I do not like it here, mama.
Here are many slippery creatures
I do not know how to manage them.
Here I can not rule.”
So she arose, and left the water creatures there.
She stirred up the water It dried up
The creatures in there got stirred up by the waves
and floated on the surface.
But his mother did not come out of the water just yet,
for he said,

24“I like it here, mama.
It is a bed with a soft mattress
I need not look for mattress or pillow.
And yet I do not like it, mama,
it is a big mat that cannot be rolled up,
lamba [shawl] that cannot be folded,
a pillow that cannot be carried.”
So she arose again and blew on the water
(and that, it is said, is what makes waves on the sea).
Then his mother went straight back to the village.
When she reached the village
he guided her to the ridgebeam, saying
“I like it here, mama,
because of the thousand men suspended
and the three men separated.
Here there are many to respect me many to support me.

25Yet I do not like it
because leaning on so many
prevents my ruling alone.
Most of these slaves are strong only in talk.
Impossible to exercise justice. So take me down, mama.”
Now his mother went to the south gable but he said,
“This I detest, mama.
It is for sacrificing cattle to the dead and exorcising for the living.
Take me to the north gable.”
When his mother reached the north gable, he said,
“Oh, mama, I detest this.
It is for calling on
Zanahary [creator].
If there be any good place, it is here.
In the beyond all are brothers and sisters
but on earth there is deceit,
and no loyal combat.
So take me to the east wall, mama.”
When his mother reached the east wall, he said
“Now this is a good place, mama.
Yet it is refused by those of the south
and those of the west.
It is one body lying down, supported by the many.
I see no order in this reclining sir
he is not very terrible.”
Again his mother moved. Again he said
“Carry me to the tie-beam, mama. That is the auspicious place.
It has ten thousand umbrella-carriers
a thousand porters
a hundred men united.”
And from inside his mother he added
“See where the sun is.” His mother said
“The sun is right over the house.” And the baby said,
“Now is the moment for the cat to steal, mama
now he robs the sky,
now he robs the east,
now he robs the west,
now he robs the south.
Now to add all those to my ownings, mama,” he said.
And from his mother’s womb he said
“Have four thousand guns fired in the four directions.
Have them fire a thousand shots to the sky
First toward heaven.” They were fired toward heaven.
“Now, have the guns been fired, mama?” said the baby.
“They have been fired,” said his mother. And he said
“Those men! It’s as if they’d been fighting for ten days, mama.
Now, have the shots fired to the four points.”
They were fired. And he asked
“Have they been well fired, mama?”
His mother said, “They have not been fired. Only the east one has been fired.”

26Then the baby said
“Now is accomplished the oath of fidelity with the people, mama.
The land is ours now and no shot has been fired.
This grip will last all the day.
Now will I be born, mama there is the throne you will lie on,” said the baby.
“There is the golden throne I will mount
seven meters wide fourteen meters long.”
When the baby was about to be born, he said,
“Take fire
make it blaze up in the hearth
make a sharp knife and swallow it in a banana.
For I will not come out above or below
I will come out through your stomach, mama.”

27Ibemampanjaka [Great King-Maker] said
“Is not this the thing I do not want, Rasoa?” But Rasoa said,
“What is bad is to have nothing. Even if he is trouble
this baby is the heir to the land.”
So Great King-Maker made a sharp knife
and put it in a banana
and Rasoa swallowed it.
Then the baby took the knife
and while Rasoa was still on the throne
he opened her womb and came out.
Then the baby jumped up on the golden throne.
His mother died there on that throne
and he turned her head toward the east.
On the day of his birth all living beings, whatever they were
were broken up.
Rocks split open
the ground turned over
the sky rumbled.
That is how earthquakes first appeared.

Yet Unnamed

28The servant Hated By the Hearth came to Great King-Maker and said
“Rasoa has given birth
but the mother has died on the throne.”
Great King-Maker was shaken. He said
“Call my man Not Shielded from My Call
and have him get a thousand women to bathe this baby.”
When the thousand women arrived from Iliolava
they entered the house and came forward to pick up the baby.
One came up to hold him he kicked her and broke her leg.
Another came he kicked her and put out her eye.
Some had their teeth knocked out some had their hands cut off.
And when his father came to pick him up and bathe him
he kicked him and broke his leg. His father said
“Ah, this baby means disaster means trouble.
In the womb he was fatal to his mother
on earth he is fatal to his father.”
Then the baby came off the golden throne
and jumped into the blazing fire.
To help him, they threw water on the fire
but that did not stop it instead it flared up.
Then they tried to pick the baby up
but he was slippery could not be held
and hot as the fire was, it did not bother him.
Then said Great King-Maker to Rasoa’s sister Endriavelo [Shadow Mother of the Dead],
“This will not do. Go to Ranakombe
take a thousand men with muskets and spears
and ten women to go
with you.” And she went.
Just at that moment Ranakombe said
“Is that you crying out of the fire and bothering me?
I understand the unsignified I know the unsaid.”
Then Endriavelo came to Ranakombe. Ranakombe said, “I know your errand.
The ‘line for two’ is not made by my foot,
The ‘line for four’ is not made by my hand.
Rasoa has given birth
a thousand people have been killed
a hundred people wounded.
Aahh this will not do.
Send a thousand men for firewood
and give the baby the first wood they find.
Then the fire will blaze up for that baby must have a name.”
His man left and did what Ranakombe said.

Refusing Names from Princes

29Then Ranakombe set forth and reached Iliolava.
When he reached the door the baby cried once, “Ahhh!”
then he was silent and did not speak. Ranakombe said,
“Go get four bulls from the Herd of a Thousand
and kill them at the four points of the earth
and get four thousand men from Iliolava
to fire the cannon while this baby is bathed.”
The four bulls were killed
the four thousand mouths of cannon
were fired towards the four points of the earth.
Only then did Ranakombe speak a name for the baby. He said
“Shout, men! shout, men!
Here is the name I give this boy: Male Big-Winged Kite.
Offered or not he steals in the owner’s sight
he plunders in his father’s sight
he steals in his mother’s womb
Curses aimed at him only make him stronger.
Look at him sideways like the ground where you slip and fall
He goes no distance to cut up his meat
he does it on his victim’s head.
That is one formidable man” said Ranakombe.
But the baby ran all round the house.
He did not want that name.
“Slow, that baby is,” said Ranakombe.
“I will give him the name Lord-Eagle.
A great plunderer
but he does it only in a thousand men’s sight
not in sight of the few.
Those who escape him get their due
in the end they are put to rout.
What is in his claws does not fall.
One like that is enough to swallow the earth.”
“I like that well enough, father,” said the baby.
“But that creature is a chicken thief
so after all I won’t have it.”

30“Slow, that baby is,” said Ranakombe.
“Shout, men! shout, men!” said Ranakombe,
“I will give him the name Lord Friday’s Hog.
Unprovoked he thunders
without rubbing he lights a fire
with no axe he cuts
with no spade he digs.
He descends into valleys without making a path
he crosses the hills without shoes
as if he had eight hundred piles of manioc.
He clears his path in the bush
where there are eight thousand stalks of fern.
Those he has not caught are unheard-of
those he catches are lifeless, useless.”
“Ehh, I do not want that one, father,” said the baby.
“Slow, that baby is,” said Ranakombe.
“Shout, men! shout, men!” said Ranakombe
“for I will give this baby of mine the name Prince Drenched Cuckoo.
He flies, but not high
he travels, but not far
he eats slowly
he does not touch rum.
He has a hundred small silver needles a thousand big ones
he wakes up at the conch
he swallows a bull in one gulp.
That is a formidable man on the earth.”
“I do not want that one, father,” said the baby.
“It is the sign of an abortion.”

31“Slow, that baby is,” said Ranakombe.
“Shout, men! shout, men!” said Ranakombe,
“the name I will give this baby is Prince Who Sits Like a Frog.
He is a thousand men of doom,
ten thousand men of one mind
a hundred men united.
All he does is croak yet his howls split the earth.”
“Eh, I do not want that one,” said the baby.
“He likes to stretch out.
Fearful people pass over his head,
cowards insult his wife.
I do not want that one, father,” said the baby.

32“Slow, that baby is,” said Ranakombe.
“Shout, men! shout, men!” said Ranakombe,
“the name I will give this baby is Prince Owl Terror by Night Quiet by Day.
He makes night into day and day into night.
All by himself he swallows an ox.
He needs no knife to cut it
he needs no chopping knife to slice it
“I do not want that one, father,” said the baby.

33“Slow, that baby is,” said Ranakombe.
“Shout, men! shout, men!” said Ranakombe.
“I will give this baby the name Big-Maned Cat.
He raises his head like a man
he has the loins of a formidable man
he has the feet of Big-Hunter
he kills with only his voice.
He takes what is under his axe
as if it were under his leg.
He eats no meat but he drinks blood.
That is a formidable man on the earth.
The one he kills one day dies that day
the one he kills at night dies that night.”
“I do not want that one, father,” said the baby.

34“Slow, that baby is,” said Ranakombe.
“Shout, men! shout, men!” said Ranakombe,
“I will give this baby the name Prince Giant.
He bathes and does not smell bad
swims and is clean.
Unchallenged in his village
he is master of many servants
breeder of many fattening oxen
a sugarcane with young shoots.
A hundred dogs can not swallow his fingernail clipping
ten thousand can not swallow his toenail clippings.
The tenrec lodges in the hair of his armpit
hedgehogs nest in his eyebrows
little birds lay their eggs in the hair of his nose
crows lay their eggs in the hair of his head
guineafowls give birth in the hair on his neck.
His leg can wash clothes
his leg can sharpen knives
His knees are anvils
his fists are hammers
his fingers are tongs
his calves are bellows.
He brags, ‘Put it on the fire put it on the flame
take it off take it off.’
He eats a hundred rams
he eats ten bulls at a time.
What cannot be eaten he cuts up
what cannot be cooked he puts on the fire.
He cuts without a knife
he slices without an axe.
That is a formidable man on the earth,” said Ranakombe.
“I do not want that one, father,” said the baby.

35“Slow, that baby is,” said Ranakombe.
“Shout, men! shout, men!” said Ranakombe,
“I will give this baby the name Smith of the Silver Gods.
He is a formidable man on the earth
he makes a thousand bulls fight
he eats a hundred bulls at a sitting.
He is a descendant of Rich Man
a son of Owns No Little.
He steals from another
he gathers up what is not his own.
What he takes cannot be taken back
because he is disaster man.”
“I do not want that one, father,” said the baby.

36“Slow, that baby is,” said Ranakombe.
“Shout, men! shout, men!” said Ranakombe,
“I will give this baby the name Handsome Gray-Eyed Man.
Now he is a formidable man on the earth
he takes what is not his
he steals right from the owner’s hands.
He is a descendant of chiefs
a child of Kills This Very Day.
The places he goes all is not well there
but smashed to fragments.”
“I do not want that one, father,” said the baby.

The Name for a Perfected Man

37“Slow, that baby is,” said Ranakombe.
“Shout, men! shout, men!” said Ranakombe,
“I will give this baby the name Manly Princess.
With a woman’s name he is formidable on the earth.
She is a descendant of Killer
daughter of Life Giver
descendant of Sharer
daughter of Giver
a descendant of Gold Being
daughter of Silver Being.
Hard to believe she were dead
easy to believe she is alive.
Loved by the thousand
honored by the hundred
a hundred men united
a thousand men of one mind.
Those she kills one year die the same year
those she gives life to one year live that same year.
Descendant of Rich Man daughter of Great Herds.
When she looks up the sky opens
when she looks down the earth opens.
She kicks a rock it shatters in ten pieces.
She bathes that is a rainy day
she does not bathe that is drought.”
“Ah, father, I could almost like that one,” said the baby
“but something in it I do not like.”

38“Slow, that baby is,” said Ranakombe.
“Shout, men! shout, men!” said Ranakombe
“I will give this baby the name Father of Powerful One.
Now he is a formidable man on the earth
descendant of Rich Man
son of Much Coral
grandson of Great Riches.
He makes a thousand bulls fight
eats ten rams at a sitting.
Son of Ever Generous grandson of Always Giving Away
child of Always Handing Out from the lineage of Never
Gives Little.”
“I do not want that one, father,” said the baby.
“Well!” said Ranakombe. “What name do I give this baby?
Shout, men! shout, men!” said Ranakombe,
“for the name I will give this baby
is The One of the Clear Captivating Glance [
What is there he leads
what is here he leads.
What he demands he gets
what is demanded from him no one gets.
At any time appointed he is not to be found
at a time he appoints he is there.
He can manage matters of wealth.
He looks up the sky opens
he looks down earth opens.
He points to the east it overturns
he points to the north all offspring are destroyed
he points to the west all go barren
he points to the south swarms of lice attack like chickens.
No way to fight him
no way to escape him.
He does not need two nights’ sleep
he needs just one to go into battle.
The sky trembles the earth shakes
waters dry up hills crumble
in the path of this formidable man.
He is descended from Great in Length
son of Great in Width
descended from Golden Being
son of Silver Being
child of Giver
grandchild of Scatterer.
Descended from Ordered Being
child of Cutter
grandson of Big Cattleman
a child of Many Fattened.
Descended from No Need to Breed To Have Cattle to Kill
son of No Dependent
grandson of Creditor.
Those he kills one year die that year
those he gives life to one year live that same year.
His royal power has no equal
his authority no one shares
it befits only him.
He scorns what comes from others
even from beyond the roaring sea
but he is scorned by none.
Grandson of Unique Prince son of Only Possessor
no one can be found to fight him.
He it is who pacifies the earth that formidable man.
Beasts are beasts
crocodiles are crocodiles
but he is a huge crocodile lying in wait at the ford.
A pirogue strikes him he overturns it
whoever crosses he bites his stomach.
He is a great house seen from afar.
no multitude can plunder it
but if they do it takes revenge
and when those from oversea catch sight of him
they become his servants.
Ibonia is a bull whose horns curve forward
dangerous to fight him.
What is caught on his horns is pierced
those fixed by his glance go bald
what is on his ears he shakes off
what is on his tail he switches off
what is under his hoof he tramples.
His breath changes into a waterspout
his right hand kills ten thousand
his left hand kills a thousand.
His heel flares up touching the ground.
Grass dries
earth shakes
villages burn.
His village smells of cattle
its ground smells of rum
pieces of meat in melted fat
Just one cup of Inabo’s rum makes a thousand men drunk.”
So spoke Ranakombe. He named the baby.


39Now as Ibonia was stoking the blazing fire
thunder fell on him a lightning bolt
the rocks rumbled
the earth rose and sank. And Ranakombe said
“Ibonia, what say you? This is the Tormentor Prince
He points at the sky the earth flames up
He points at what is far but not what is near
Me he torments.
Whatever he demands he gets
what is claimed from him is not taken
only he can make the earth drunk.
Those who see him in the skies he adds to his servants
those who malign him everywhere them he adds too.
‘They think they will stop me
but with one blow I will sweep them away.’
That is a formidable man on the earth” said Ranakombe.
Then Ibonia said,

40“A proud ruler am I!”
Again he leapt out of the fire.
Where he walked, the earth cracked
the wind roared,
the trees withered to their roots,
all waters dried up,
and all the people around him in the fire were starving.
He touched his father and mother
and the people who died at his birth.
They all came back to life.

Stone Man Shakes

41Just then Stone Man slumped down three times.
The sky, where Sky-Lord is, whirled
the earth shook
the day of the sacred bath lost its power
storms raged all winter
the springtime was too hot.
That was a formidable man.
For himself he made things hard
for others he made things easy
but he had come into his own.
All the waters of Middle-River began to dry up.
All things in the house of Stone Man began to crumble.
Three times was Stone Man thrown into the air
before he found his feet.
Rainstorms pelted down.

42Then said the Prince with Big Ears [father of Stone Man]:
“Here is my royal oration. Here is what I have to say to you, people of Middle-River.
Planters do your planting
set out all your growing things
your plants growing in water
your crops in the earth.
It is the new season.”

43“Ah!” said Stone Man.
“Father seems to have knowledge but he does not know
he seems to have memory but he does not remember.
The ‘line for two’ is not made by my foot
The ‘line for four’ is not made by my hand.
If you think I am one who knows I do know
if you think I am one who remembers I do remember.
This is not the growing season
for what will happen next year I see this year
and what will happen tomorrow I see today.
This, then, is the royal oration I give you people of Middle-River.
This now is no life giving thunder
this is no time to plant.
This is a deadly time” said Stone Man.
“So those who have animals fattened, kill them
those who have thin animals, trade them.
That man’s charms come from his bath.
That baby is bathing in hot coals.
No sacrificing cattle, no sacrificing chickens!
He doesn’t bathe in water others have used
but in hot coals from the west.
And his dogs Arched-Back and Long-Paw,
with them he whips bulls
and cuts the throats of chickens”
said Stone Man.
He knew about the baby from Iliolava (he did not see the baby born, for Ibonia was born at Iliolava).
“Stone Man’s nose is swollen with anger.
This Betsiboka [river] is so high
it can never be crossed without a pirogue.
Two pigs run here and there on the ground
the oxen are heavy as iron
the cows have shining coats
the calves are filling out
the bulls are huge
the leaves are thick on the trees
the tsipolitra [herbs] are tangling
the grass is drying up.
But I am a broadshouldered prince
and my charms too are potent.
Someone wishes the death of this kingdom
yet the Prince of Big Ears will destroy him.
No rival of mine can be the death of this kingdom” said Stone Man.
“When I was about to act, I was stopped by Father.
I can detect the far off
I can detect the near.
Water creatures are fearful of Stone Man;
no warming in the sun for them
and the top of the village is no place for plundering
for fear of Stone Man.”

He Refuses More Names

44Now Ranakombe spoke mighty words to Ibonia who was turning
“To strengthen this baby, I add to his names
the name Loin-Girder.
What a heavy one, that child.
I will call him Girds His Loins Like Father of Male Big Maned Cat
Big Man Who Attacks Him Will Have Broken Loins
and Swollen Chest.
At the end of the game he has the same number of pieces as at the start
and his loins are girded like someone exhausted.
He is a tough one.”

45“O, I do not want that name, father” said Ibonia.
“That means girding oneself like a thief
hastening to turn one’s back
preparing to flee.
That is not facing one’s enemy, but acting like a coward.
They scratch everything they meet
They dash into caves to hide.
That is running away, father” said Ibonia.
“What a heavy one, that child!” said Ranakombe.
“I will call him Girds His Loins Like Male Big-Winged Kite.
Gently he takes his prey
carries it off
leaves nothing but the smell.
He girds himself like a man
who is not embarrassed in front of women
who seizes his prey not with hands but with claws.
He is a proud one on the earth.”

46“O, I do not want that one, father” said Ibonia.
“That means girding oneself like a man with clipped wings.
He grasps his food with foul back paws.”
“What a heavy one, that child!” said Ranakombe.
“I will call him Girds His Loins Like Prince Drenched Cuckoo.
He flies, but not high
he goes, but not far
he eats, but slowly.
He makes rum without a still
he has a thousand thrones
and a hundred silver needles.
He has eight thousand to fan him.
Fatted oxen surrender to him without a rope
bulls fall of themselves
he swallows them without butchering them.
He awakes to the conch and falls asleep to beating drums.
It is he who awakes the day to be day
and knows night will be night.”

47“O, I do not want that one, father” said Ibonia.
“That means girding oneself like a coward.
He sets out but never goes far
he walks but dares not go alone
he stops for breath behind every tree.”
“What a heavy one, that child!” said Ranakombe.
“I will call you Girds His Loins Like Smith of the Silver Gods.
He sports with his loincloth like a man playing on the edge of a cliff
his chest is the mirror of his stomach
his sides are like clear water
like rocks with water flowing over them
his loins are like silver links
his calves are like posts sanded smooth.
He is a thousand men in accord
a hundred men united.
When he girds himself, it’s like many men marching
a thousand fighters and a hundred weavers.
But Ibonia’s loincloth is not spoiled by unskilled girls
only strong women can take hold of it,” said Ranakombe
trying to fasten Ibonia’s loincloth.

48“O, I do not want that one, father” said Ibonia.
“Oh, that baby is one heavy one,” said Ranakombe.
“I will call you Girds His Loins Like Handsome Gray-Eyed Man.
His tongue challenges the wind
his body is like ice.
It takes a hundred men to bestride his loincloth.
Earth has no animal so dangerous” said Ranakombe.
“O, I do not want that one, father” said Ibonia.
“He cannot smite to death
he can be hacked down by anyone
then he can hardly get up.
Dangerous men he can’t injure
He throws stones behind him
he kills by cheating,
he does not throw stones like a man.
So I won’t have that one” said Ibonia.

49“Oh, that baby is one heavy one,” said Ranakombe.
“But I will call you Girds His Loins Like Prince Friday’s Hog.
One end of his loincloth is frayed.
Fenced in, he roots his way out
his sides are fat
he kicks the grass
The end of his loincloth bounces
his eyes butt like horns,
his ankles make their own path
the very end of his loincloth wounds like a pile of stones.
He is stubborn
he is indomitable
he is the slicer
he is the cutter
His belly is inflated
he is the prince of steam
he is a deceiver
What he does not catch nobody knows
what he does catch is swollen
he causes a great wound
as bad as a first wife with no recompense.
Those he does not catch he disdains
for he has made them jump
those he has touched with his foreigner’s scissors
and those he has not caught
will rue the day” said Ranakombe.
“He is a formidable man on the earth, my boy” said Ranakombe.
“Girding yourself like him is terrible, my boy.”

50“I do not want that one, father,” said Ibonia.
“That’s how a landless man girds himself.
Such a king cannot rule
the people cannot respect him
he cannot succeed his father
he cannot keep his own heritage.

51He has no abode
he hunts in the night of sleep time
and waits till day to sleep.
With no ricefield inherited, he has to depend on thievery instead
His provisions for a journey are bitter herbs.”

52“Oh, that baby is one heavy one” said Ranakombe.
“But I will call him Girds His Loins Like Manly Princess.
The rear end of his loincloth drags on the ground
the front end he plays with.
It wraps him in silver
wraps his loins in gold.
He girds himself to dance all night
and is girded for eight months.
He governs the path of the sun
working with one hand, then the other
day doesn’t have to break for him
nor sun to set without returning.

53A thousand men sing his praises
ten thousand men serve him
No bad man will meet him
lazy men do not joke with him.
The earth he has trodden is ruined and good for nothing.
His eyes are fierce
his forehead like the new moon
his teeth smoothly planed posts
his calves two meteors fallen to earth
his feet spades pulled out of the ground
graceful is his pace.
Rasoa is the one he holds dear
too bad for those he doesn’t.”
That was the end of the duel of words between Ibonia and Ranakombe.
Ranakombe went back to his own village, and Ibonia stayed with his parents.


54There were four women, slaves of Great King-Maker, who had given birth at the same time as Rasoa. All four of the slave women’s children were boys. So Great King-Maker gave them to Ibonia, and the slave boys grew up with Ibonia and played with him. When the five boys were grown, they went to play with the other children in the fields. That was where boys would throw clods of dung at each other. They split up into two teams — but Ibonia would not do that. He said, “All of you be one team, the five of us be the other.” All the other boys said, “You can’t do that, there’s too few of you.” (There were a good many children at Iliolava.) But Ibonia would not listen; he said, “Just go over there to that side. We will be the other team.” Then they started throwing the manure. The boys Ibonia hit fell to the ground, and the ones he did not hit were dizzy and reeling. So the five slaves beat all the other boys.

55That evening the boys went back to the village and said to their parents, “We fought with Ibonia with cowpats. It was just him and his four slaves on one team and all of us boys from Iliolava on the other team, but all of us could not win.” And their parents said, “That’s how weak you are. Five boys beating all the boys in Iliolava?”

56Another day, Ibonia played again with the boys in the fields, throwing mud at each other. The same five were one team, and the other boys did not win. That evening they went to their parents and said, “We got beaten by those five slaves.” And their parents said, “It’s as if you didn’t get enough to eat, if five people can beat you.” So the boys said, “Then you go to the fields when Inabo [Ibonia] goes to the fields.” Then one day Ibonia went to the fields with the boys, and they were throwing clods of earth, but the boys did not win. And the adults who had come there to watch were surprised to see the clouds of dust Ibonia threw up.

57Later, they were throwing rocks, and again Ibonia was the winner. Still later, all the young men of Iliolava played there in the field with Ibonia and his five slaves. They did arm-wrestling and boxing. Later they did jumping. Some tried hard and did two lengths, some did two and a half lengths, some did three. Finally Ibonia too tried, and he jumped over a hill that was three days’ march away. When the young men reached the village, they went to the villagers and said, “We did jumping with Ibonia. He went last. He jumped over that hill over there, and jumped over some others too, and we do not know how far he has gone.” People were surprised to hear that, and said, “Bad news for us if the king’s son is lost or dead.” But when his parents heard about it, they did not worry. They knew their son. And when three days passed, Ibonia showed up. (He came all the way back on foot, and did not jump.)

58Once Ibonia was grown up, he did not play in the fields with boys any more. He changed the names of the slaves with him, as they were all grown up too. His favorite he called Goodlooking; another he called Handsome Lad Doesn’t Work, another Seldom Goes to the Fields, and another Likes Rice Water.

  • 23 Fanorona is the Malagasy board game, historically symbolizing strategy on the battlefield.

59Ibonia sat playing fanorona at the gate with his mother’s sister.23 It was spring. And Ibonia said,

“O Other-Mother!
The days are hurrying toward spring
the workers are tilling the fields
I long for my betrothed.”

60Other-Mother said, “Hush, child. You’re only a boy; you have palms like a woman.

Stone Man is a meteor
Stone Man is a thunderbolt.”
“Oh, Other-Mother,” said Ibonia,
“I am tender with you, yes, but may others know how tough I am.
A big building seen from afar am I a whole crowd cannot crack it but if they do, it takes revenge.”
Then Goodlooking said,
“Make your own way, cousin make your own way, cousin.
You are a child of the moon a grandchild of the sun high in the sky.
You are a child of one who not in mockery is named Prince for you are a son of Prince Alone a grandson of Him Whose Memory Withers Not.
Blessed and shining may you be in Iliolava.”
“Yes,” said Ibonia.
“I stand up the sky breaks
I bend my head the earth breaks
I lean over the eastern forest burns
I kick the earth in Iliolava it dissolves in mud.”

61And Ibonia made the earth shake with his foot. It trembled and shook as far away as Many-Palms, where Stone Man lived. Things there fell off the shelves. Then Stone Man said,

“I do not see how this land of Many Palms will finish.
It is to be conquered by a man with powerful charms.
So those who have animals fattened kill them those with thin animals trade them.”

62His father, Prince of Big Ears, said to him, “That is only your fear. How can this land be conquered by one man with powerful charms?”

“Ah,” said Stone Man,
“Father seems to have knowledge but does not know, he seems to have memory but does not remember.” Stone Man left off and said no more. He went off by himself, heavy-hearted.

63Now Ibonia, in Iliolava, passed through the entry gate and went back to his house.

He Arms Himself

64Another day, Ibonia and his mother’s sister were playing fanorona in the house, and Ibonia said to her,

“I became betrothed when just conceived
I was married as a baby.
And if Girl of Grace dies
I will not leave her on the earth if she lives, I give her to no man.”

65And Other-Mother said, “Hush, child. She is not the only wife for you.” But Goodlooking then said,

“Make your own way, cousin
make your own way, cousin.
Blessed are you, Ibonia rich in goods rich in property without sin without fault an arum Iliolava loves to taste.
You will braid Many-Palms like a head of hair.”
“I am a big man,” said Ibonia.
“The name I will give this spear which I will carry to fight Stone Man will be Spear Many Trust
Spear Many Can Wield
Forged on Sunday
Bearded on Monday
Digs In Earth With Tenrecs,
Submerges in Water With Eels.
He is an edible arum in a rock cleft not dug for the roots not plucked for the leaves if the wind does not behead it it will not be pulled up.”
Then he said,
“Yes, I am a big man.
The name of my axe will be
Male Iron Sparing No Shrub
Struck By Pirogue Not Turning
Delicious As Unique Lemon Grass
Does Not Chatter With Birds
Does Not Think With His Knees
Peerless Life Protector Against Death.”
Then he said,
“Yes, I am a big man.
The name of this knife of mine will be
Needs No Sambia [blade] To Cut
Needs No Axe To Slice
Grandson of the Long Streams
Needs Not Breed to Have Animals to Slaughter.”
Then he said,
“Yes, I am a big man.
The name I will give this ox of mine will be
Born of Wild Silver
Smoking Firebrand
Firebrand of Perfumed Fire.
At command he goes in a circle chewing, he is quiet drinking, he ‘takes all the pieces’ lying down, he casts a big shadow eating, he swallows in one gulp trampling, he beautifies the land.
He is victorious.
From him the people draw their strength.”

He Is Tested

66Now Ibonia went to Ranakombe’s house. When he got there, Ranakombe was warming himself in the sun. Ranakombe said, “Now, what man is burning me?

Is it Male Cat With Big Nape?
Is it Manly Princess?
Is it Big Chameleon? — the one who butchers what he will not cook and cuts what is not eaten?
Is it the Prince Who Does Not Mix With Others?”
But Ibonia said nothing. Ranakombe said,
“This is Prince Beau-Regard, Prince Who Torments that slim peaceable man who needs war to fatten him.
If he makes war today he is like a clod of earth but if he does not fight he is as thin as a comb.
Pride swells him up submission emaciates him.”
Ibonia said, “Ah there, Other-Mother!”
“Where will you go now, Ibonia?” said Ranakombe. Ibonia said,
“It’s not that misfortune has struck me, Ranakombe but here is what casts me down: my marriage.
My wife
Iampelasoamananoro [Girl of Grace] has been stolen by that scourge that disaster.
I am going to bring her back.
I became betrothed when just conceived
I was married as a baby.
Dead I will not leave her in the earth alive I give her to no man.”
Then Ranakombe answered, in prophecies as usual:
“Go you to that forest in the east lead a plain red ox
go into the forest.
If swine bar your way do not go on
but if kestrels bar your way then go on.
You will hear all the trees in the forest speaking. They will say
‘I am Single Trunk
I am Enough To Fill The Earth
I am Red Leafless.’ But you answer them
‘No, you are not. You are an impostor.’
When you have reached Red Leafless
— they make talismans out of it — there will be a waterspout but it will not speak. So you speak, and say
‘If you are Single Trunk
Enough To Fill The Earth
Red Leafless then stop the wind
and take down this ox without a rope
and light the fire to roast the ox.
Then stretch out into a chain and hang on me if you are of any use.’
When that is done,” said Ranakombe
“and when all you have ordered is accomplished then go to the water’s edge.
As the sun is setting
dive into the water with your talismans.
If till daylight you can stay under water without coming up
then you will get Girl of Grace [
Iampelasoamananoro] as your wife.
But if you cannot pass this test, then do not go
for you will not get her
and Stone Man will kill you.”
So Ibonia set out, leading the ox with a plain red hide.
When he reached the mouth of the forest, he said
“If what I mean to do be not good for me
may a hog go at me
but if it be only good for me
may a kestrelhawk rush upon me.”
And just then a kestrelhawk came in his way.
When he entered the forest the trees spoke.
One said, “I am Red Leafless”
another said, “I am Enough To Fill The Earth”
another one said, “I am Single Trunk.” And Ibonia said,
“No, you are not. You are an impostor.”
And when Ibonia reached Red Leafless
wind began to blow
trees began to twist. Ibonia spoke, saying
“If you are Single Trunk and Enough To Fill The Earth and Red Leafless then stop the wind take down this ox without a rope and light a fire to roast the ox.
Then stretch out into a chain and hang on me.
And if this journey is benign and auspicious for me then I order you to stuff the ox with the leaves left over from your stretching.”
And the leaves left over from the stretching filled the ox’s belly.
He also said
“If all is benign and auspicious for me
may the leaves return where they were.”
And the charms accomplished everything Ibonia commanded

67Then Ibonia went to the water’s edge and waited for the sun to go down. As the sun was going down, he too went down into the water, with his talismans. He managed to stay there until daybreak before he came up. Then he went back to Iliolava.

68When he heard that, Great King-Maker said to Rasoa, “That son of yours, Rasoa! If I go out there, I will kill that son of yours.” But Rasoa said, “Now really, Great King-Maker! He was not born from me alone, he was born of both of us. If you [can] kill him, it brings no curse.”

69Great King-Maker went out and said, “Come together, Iliolava!” The people assembled. Great King-Maker ordered them to gather stones and pelt Ibonia. But they could not get anywhere near Ibonia. When they did, he would stab them with his spear. The people stoned him but did not hit him, though they threw stones that would make a tatao [mound]. (It’s said that that was how the tatao cult began.) Then the people and Great King-Maker went back in; they never hit him.

70Rasoa then came out into the public square, shaking her head, and went up to the entry gate, acting haughty and proud. She said, “What is all this, Ibonia?

Are you wicked?
Are you cowardly?
Are you acting like Blunderer’s bull?
shout at him he does not roar prod him he does not fight butcher him his meat is not tender
Or like a cow whose milk is unfit to drink?
What to do?
As if we were fighting rams: shout at them they do not pull leave them alone they break their heads.
I will not have it, you
Ingolimby [Dullard]!
If Ibonia is truly strong isn’t there a big crocodile there to the north killing off cattle and the people passing by?
If Ibonia is really a man, go there and fight it.”
Ibonia came out of the earth, saying, “I am proud!
With you I am gentle but with others I am tough.
I am the kite’s claws the eagle’s talons
what I’m not offered I take
what I’m offered I took already
what I grab does not escape.”

71Then he called Goodlooking, Handsome Lad Doesn’t Work, Seldom Goes to the Fields, and Likes Rice Water, and said, “Braid me a rope. I will fight that crocodile to the north.”

72He went to the water’s edge, tied the rope under his arms, and declared

“If you see blood upstream pull me out, because I have been killed by the crocodile;
if you see blood downstream then pull, because I have killed the crocodile.”

73Then he dived into the water and the crocodile snatched him. They fought there about three rice-cooking-times. Then he killed the crocodile. They saw the blood downstream. His four men were glad. They quickly pulled the rope to give the signal. Then they pulled Ibonia out, and the crocodile too. Then the four of them said,

“Powerful is our father
powerful is our father.
Ibonia is a thunderbolt, our lord is a meteor, he is not a human being.”

74The villagers were glad that the crocodile was dead. It had been devouring everything that passed by.

75Then Ibonia and his slaves returned and again placed themselves at the entry gate. They played the same game with the villagers, stabbing people’s bundles just as before. Then Great King-Maker said to Rasoa, “That baby of yours, Rasoa! If I go out there, I will kill that baby.” And Rasoa answered as she did before. So Great King-Maker called for spears and ordered them to be thrown at Ibonia. But again they could not hit him, because he turned the spears away with his magic wand, kiabaly; he was not touched. When they had done that, Great King-Maker and the rest came wearily back.

76Then Rasoa came out again and acted the same as before, saying, “Truly, Ibonia, you are either wicked or cowardly. If you are really strong, then go and fight Savage Bull. He is the strongest animal. Go out and fight him, if you are so strong.”

Ibonia said, “I am made by power.
With you I am gentle, but with others I am tough.
As for Savage Bull
under his hoofs I will not be trampled
under his thighs I will not be kicked on his lower jaw I will not be chewed even on the point of his horns I
I will not be gored.
Firstborn am I upon the earth.”

77Then he came out, called his four slaves, and set out for the place where Savage Bull was. When they reached there, he ordered the slaves to call Savage Bull. They said, “How do we call him?” Ibonia said, “Call like this:

‘Aay, Savage Bull!
Aay, Savage Bull!
Get over here!
The one to fight you has come!’”

78The slaves called him like that. When Savage Bull heard the call, he came near. His breath raised whirlwinds as he looked round to fight Ibonia. When he came to where Ibonia was, Ibonia touched his forehead with the kilangaly [wand]; he did not gore him. Then he bit Ibonia, but he did not bite down. He had to swallow him whole. Ibonia came out at his tail end. Then Savage Bull trampled him, but did not make mud of him. Again he swallowed Ibonia, who tore out Savage Bull’s vital organs, and he died. Then Ibonia took his horns back to Iliolava.

79Then Ibonia again placed himself at the entry gate, and he stabbed people’s bundles as he had done before. The people again told Great King-Maker about it; he sent out Rasoa as before, and she too did just as she had done. Then Great King-Maker called for guns and had them fired at Ibonia, but they did not hit him.

Rasoa came out then and said, “If you are so strong, Ibonia go out to Big Chameleon Man
he butchers what is not to be eaten
he chops up what is not to cook.” Ibonia said,
“I am made by power
I am Enough to Fill the Earth.
A lily on the water am I set afire, I do not burn burned, I do not burn up.
A nettle on high ground am I killed, I do not die burned, I do not burn up.
Though cursed to death
I am just beginning to live.
What I fix in place does not move.”

80He led his four servants to where Big Chameleon Man was. They found him catching wild cattle. He said to his servant Goodlooking, “Call out, Goodlooking, and say, ‘Who is this who is hunting Ibonia’s cattle?’” Goodlooking repeated Ibonia’s words in a great shout. When Big Chameleon Man heard that, he said to his fellows, “Be quiet, you lot!” Ibonia said again,

81“Call again. He is listening.” Then Goodlooking called again, “Do not hunt the cattle of Ibonia, I say!”

  • 24 Wild cattle are said to be owned by Rasoalao (Ra-shoo-a-la-oh), the mythical wife of the giant Rape (...)

82Big Chameleon Man answered, “The cattle of Rasoalao have no owner.24

83The strongest man is their owner.”

84Ibonia called back, “Rasoalao does not own them, Ibonia does. But what does Big Chameleon Man want of me, that he comes quarreling?”

85Big Chameleon Man said, “No. Ibonia does not own them, Rasoalao does. But if Ibonia wants to fight with me, let him come out and fight.

Maybe Ibonia does not know Big Chameleon Man, who butchers what can’t be eaten, and chops up what can’t be cooked.” Ibonia answered,
“I am Enough to Fill the Earth.
I am a teal on the water set afire, I do not burn burned, I do not burn up.
I am a nettle on high ground killed, I do not die burned, I do not burn up.
Though cursed to death
I am just beginning to live.
What I fix in place does not move.”

86The two men then shot at each other, but neither was wounded, only their clothes were torn. Then they fought with spears, but neither was wounded. Then they did arm wrestling, each one beat the other to the ground. When Big Chameleon Man hit Ibonia, he pushed him in up to his knees. Ibonia got up and hit Big Chameleon Man; he went in up to his armpits. Then Big Chameleon Man said, “Very well, Ibonia. Count me among your servants.” So he was beaten.

87Then Ibonia again placed himself at the entry gate and did the same thing, stabbing people’s bundles as he had done before. Again the people told Great King-Maker and Rasoa about it, as they had done before. And Great King-Maker said to Rasoa, “That baby of yours, Rasoa! He has not changed. But if I go out there — well, I have waited till now, but this time I will kill him.” Rasoa said, “Do as you must, Great King-Maker. If now he is killed by you his father, it brings no curse. He is ‘a crocodile baby, swallowed by its mother, devoured by the belly that carried him.’”

88Great King-Maker went out again and called the people of Iliolava. When the people had assembled, he said, “Fire the cannon at him.” They fired the cannon, but did not hit him. When the smoke of the cannon cleared away, they saw Ibonia — not dead, not wounded, but alive. After that the gunners got tired, and with Great King-Maker they went back in.

89Then Rasoa again came out into the public square and went up to the entry gate, acting haughty and proud. She said

  • 25 Whether Imozy (Mr. Clumsy) is a proverbial name or not, her indirect slam at Ibonia is cast in perf (...)

“Ibonia, you are bad, you are cowardly.
You act like Imozy’s bull shout at him, he does not roar prod him, he does not fight butcher him, his meat is not tender.

90Ibonia, if you are so strong, go to where Manly Princess is. She is a strong one.” Ibonia said,

“I am made by power.
With you I am gentle, but with others I am tough.”

91And then he went to where Manly Princess was. Again he took his four slaves with him, and five bulls and some provisions. When they reached the village of Manly Princess, no one was there. When they saw no one there and an empty village, Ibonia said to his servants, “Where are these people gone, men? All the furnishings of the houses are still here, but the people are not.” Then he said to one of his servants, “Stay here, my man, kill an ox, have it ready when we come back. We’ll go find out where the villagers have gone.”

92As the slave was cooking and roasting the meat, it gave off a charred smell. Then a large animal came out of the water into the village. It meant to eat the one slave left there and the meal he had prepared. It was this animal that had eaten the people of the village and every living thing it found. But Ibonia was far away. When the slave saw the animal, he fled. The animal was the size of a mountain. The slave peeped through a hole at the animal, and there he was, eating the meat. He was frightened and wondered what he would say to Ibonia. He said to himself, “If I tell Ibonia about this, he will fight the animal and kill it. But if I don’t tell him, then he will not leave me alone until I tell him where the meat is gone. Well, I won’t tell him. He will do what he will do.”

93When Ibonia came, he said, “Bring on the food.” And the slave said, “I left it. I had to run after the cattle. I did not see what ate it.” Ibonia was angry and said, “Now I see what my father told me: ‘They cannot take care of you, Ibonia; take more people with you.’”

94Next day he left another slave there. He again ordered him to kill an ox, but that animal ate it up like the other one. He had all four men take turns; then only one ox was left. Ibonia said, “Go you and look for those people. I will be the one to stay.” The servants left, but they did not go far. They just peeped through, saying, “We’ll be in trouble if the son dies. That animal is the one that has eaten the people of this place.”

95Ibonia killed the ox, cooked some of it on the fire, and roasted the rest. When the animal smelled the smell of char, it came up and said,

“Bring out what is cooked cook what is raw.
I am here, the one it was made for.”

96Ibonia was startled, looked around, and jumped when he saw the animal. Then he said to his talismans,

  • 26 Contrast Ibonia’s victory over the dilemma with the guineafowl who in a Merina tale falls and break (...)

“What to do, O Resolute?
O Enough to Fill the Earth?
O All Raw?
If I go forward, I will be conquered by this creature.
If I go back, I will be disgraced before my father.”

97The talismans trembled. He put the skewer on the fire. The animal got jumpy. It said, “Draw back! In one gulp I have swallowed thousands upon thousands of people and thousands upon thousands of cattle, and you, all alone, are blocking me?” Ibonia went on heating the skewer. When the animal was about to swallow him, he threw the iron into its mouth. The animal roared, the iron made a great noise in its mouth. It would not come out. The animal died. Then Ibonia unstitched its belly, and there were all the people and living things the animal had swallowed. They were all still alive, not one dead, but every one of them was thin; all thin. And Ibonia brought all those people and living things back to life, and they were all alive.

98Then Manly Princess and her people said, “We were dead and now are living. Ibonia, from now on I am your child, and I obey you. From now on, you are lord and ruler of this land.” But Ibonia refused, saying, “Be your own lord and ruler. I must still rescue Girl of Grace. But I tell you just this: go to another place. That monster may have friends.” And the people did go to another place.

He Refuses Other Wives

99When Ibonia came back, he did not place himself at the entry gate of Iliolava. His father and mother were glad of that. Ibonia said,

“The baby is not mad the season is no empty boast.
Now it is spring people are digging the fields.
But Ibonia is longing for Girl of Grace.” Rasoa said,
“O Ibonia, you have hands like a baby’s hands like a woman’s.
You will not be able to stand the blows of Stone Man.
Stone Man is a thunderbolt, a meteor.
His fingers are horns
he uses his fists like hammers
his head he uses as an anvil.” But Ibonia answered,
“I became betrothed when just conceived
I was married when still a baby.
If Girl of Grace dies
I will not leave her in the earth, if she lives
I give her to no man.
I will give her to no one. She is my wife.”

  • 27 “Although Ibonia is his father’s murderer (one does not know exactly how), his affection

100Then Rasoa replied, “Enough, Ibonia. If you are really in search of a wife, there is the daughter of the Prince of the West. She is noble.” He said yes.27

They sent for that girl, and she came. Then said Ibonia,
“Send that girl back.
She has bushy eyebrows.
She is one of those who cast the evil eye at their husbands as [soon as] they set up house.
Still — she is beautiful among the beautiful, good among the good so give her money give her precious stones.”

101Then they brought him the daughter of the Prince of the South. When she came, Ibonia said,

“She is beautiful among the beautiful good among the good.
Yet she has one small fault — her feet are cracked.
She is a carrier of ulcerous disease
she will bring sand into the bed.
With those long nails she will never be a basket-weaver.
So send the girl back, but give her money give her precious stones.”

102Then Andriantsifamaho [Lord Not to Be Mixed With], who was Ibonia’s mother’s brother, heard about this. He lived in Imanambaho. He said to his slave, “Zealous One, go to Iliolava and say to Great King-Maker, Rasoa, and Ibonia,

‘If it is a wife you want, Ibonia, your uncle’s daughter is noble, she is a queen.
Her mirror is a golden mirror; her hairbrush is silver.
When she goes, she is like a dance of warriors
when she comes, she is like a line of dancers.’”

103When Ibonia heard that, he answered, “This is my message to you, O messenger from Andriantsifamaho; tell him this:

‘I will pull you out of bed
I will knock you on the hearthstones
I will throw you down by the door
I will toss you in the ditch.’

104Say that. If my uncle accepts that, then I will not fight. My wife can belong to Stone Man, and the daughter of Andriantsifamaho will be my wife. Also tell him,

‘I will set his house afire, his village too but he will take nothing with him.
I will behead his children and hang their heads at the entry gate.
Kestrelhawks will perch there lemurs will feed on them.’

105If Uncle accepts that, I will not fight. My wife can belong to Stone Man, and the daughter of Lord-Not-To-Be-Mixed-With will be my wife.”

When Andriantsifamaho heard that, he was angry. He said,
“Let him go after whoever he wants
let him fight as much as he wants. A son-in-law of mine should be champion.”
Then Ibonia said to Rasoa,
“A man who goes in quest of a wife can be killed. Let me go rescue Girl of Grace.
Plant this banana-tree now, and water it often.
If it withers, I am sick,
if it dies, I too am dead,
if it is green, then I too am healthy.
I will go leaping over the hills.
Where I hit the ground it dissolves in mud.
Where I kick the rocks they roll like mountain torrents.”

The Disguised Flayer

106Then he set out, leaping, and he reached the Mananivo river [Many Palms]. The crocodile there said to him, “Are you so tired of living, or worn out with sighing, that you come here? Yesterday a hundred cattle and a thousand men tried to cross here and could not. And you alone want to cross here?”

107And Ibonia said, “I am going to cross.” He jumped in. The crocodile caught him; he hit the crocodile with the back of his hand. Then the crocodile said, “Very well, get on my back.” Ibonia got up on the crocodile’s back, and when they had gone some way, the crocodile said, “My part ends here, Ibonia. The rest is up to the shark.” Ibonia left him.

108The shark came along and said, “You will not cross here. Yesterday a hundred cattle and a thousand men tried to cross here and could not. And you alone want to cross here?” And Ibonia said, “To cross, yes.” The shark came to seize him, but quickly he jumped on to the shark’s back and broke his bones. The shark said, “Very well, get on my back.” And all the water creatures did the same, so that Ibonia did cross the Mananivo ford.

109Ibonia did not go directly into the village. Instead he went to look for Old Man, who was the keeper of Stone Man’s fields. There was a well in the field, with a big rock; Ibonia climbed up on it. Old Man came to draw water. Looking into the water in the well, Old Man saw Ibonia’s face in the water, but did not see his body up on the rock. Then Old Man said, “I look so fine. Should I be drawing water?” Then, it is said, Old Man broke the water jug and left, going back to his house. There he took a mirror and looked in it. But what he saw was different, not what he saw in the water.

110Old Man went back to the well and looked around. He saw Ibonia up on the rock and said, “You are looking for trouble. What are you doing here, my lord? Stone Man does not like good people. He is envious and kills them all, the good people who come to Mananivo.”

111“Yes, father, but you and I can talk like family,” said Ibonia. “How many wives has Stone Man?”

Old Man said, “There is Not Untouched by the Shrimp
No Prisoner of Day
Silver Stripe
Forged One
Fern Shoot and Girl of Grace [Iampelasoamananoro].”
Ibonia said, “Which one is Stone Man’s favorite?”

112Old Man said, “He likes each and every one, but it is Girl of Grace he loves best.”

113So Ibonia said, “When you go to visit the prince, Old Man, what do you carry with you?”

114Old Man answered, “What should I take, grandchild, but ripe bananas, seeds for herbs, herbs, citrus plants, and other little things?”

115Ibonia said, “What is the first place you go when you get there?”

116Old Man said, “To the east of the open space, to the house of Handsome-Gray-Eyed-Man.”

117Ibonia said, “Which house does he sleep in at night, Old Man?”

118Old Man answered, “East of the open space, at Girl of Grace’s house. He goes there to sleep because he gets sweet food and choice dishes.”

119Ibonia said, “Old Man, let us go like kinsmen to your house and prepare some food.”

120Old Man said, “Come along.” And like a son [following Ibonia] he started for Old Man’s house. Ibonia said, “You go first, Old Man.” And Old Man went first, while Ibonia watched his way of walking. When he caught on to Old Man’s walk, he seized Old Man by the hair (it is said), he struck him down, he threw away his bones and flesh, and he took his skin to dress in.

An Old Man Becomes Stone Man’s Rival

121Then Ibonia picked some ripe fruits in the fields, to take to Mananivo village and to offer to Handsome Gray-Eyed Man, Stone Man’s father, and to Stone Man. He set out carrying the fruits and herbs on his shoulders, disguised as Old Man. Stone Man’s talismans shook and said, “Your rival is coming. He cares for nothing.” Then Ibonia came and entered the royal compound. The young princesses and Handsome were surprised. Handsome said, “Here comes a slave from old days.” He put down the things he had brought, to the south of the hearth. The young princesses bickered over the fruits.

122That evening, Handsome said, “Where are you going to sleep, Old Man?” Old Man said, “In the house where I always sleep, of course, with the dear child Girl of Grace. The plate I eat from is there, the spoon I eat with is there, the mat I lie on is there.” So he went to Girl of Grace’s house.

123When the rice was cooked, it was put in front of him, in his usual dish. The dish cracked; the spoon broke. Girl of Grace was angry at her servants, and said, “What do you have against Old Man, that you broke his plate and spilled his rice?” Then Girl of Grace put her own dish of rice in front of him. When Old Man was about to lie down, they unrolled the sleeping mat he always used. It shredded into small pieces. Again Girl of Grace was angry, and said, “Your hands are too rough. Mats do not shred for no reason. You are doing him harm.” She ordered another mat brought for him.

124Morning to night, Stone Man’s talismans kept saying, “Your rival is coming. He cares for nothing. Your rival is coming. He cares for nothing.”

125Next morning, Handsome and Stone Man were playing fanorona. Old Man came up and said, “I used to play that with your grandfather. Let me do it now; I used to, but not any more.” He stood beside Handsome. He looked at the board and then said, “I see it now, my lord, and I will ‘kill’ [checkmate].” Stone Man said, “Do it then. Let’s see if you ‘kill’ me.” And when he advanced his pieces, he “killed” Stone Man. They divided the pieces again, and Stone Man got killed three times, four times. Then Stone Man became angry and said, “Aah, father, this is not Old Man. If it is, how does he know how to play fanorona? His job is weeding the fields. Let me shoot him with my gun, father,” he said. “This is a different Old Man.”

126Handsome said, “Now look! Am I going to let the slaves of my ancestors be massacred? Wait until Friday. Thursday is still my day. I will not allow any slave of my ancestors to be shot with a gun. That man played fanorona with my grandfather and my father. Now he is teaching you something, and as soon as he ‘kills’ you you want to kill him! If you want to play the fool, my son, you will really be doing that if you kill the slaves of my ancestors.” Stone Man could not overcome the stubbornness of Handsome. He left and went back to his house.

  • 28 A game in which a star made of wood is thrown back and forth (Decary Moeurs et coutumes 170).

127The next day, Stone Man was playing with the young men in Many-Palms. They played cross-sticks.28 The boys gathered into two teams. When one team attacked Stone Man, he caught all the crosses they threw. When it was Stone Man’s turn to throw, the ground where the crosses passed over caught fire, and none of them could be caught. Old Man, who was looking on at Handsome’s side, said, “Allow me to ‘let go of my soul’ [prepare for death], Handsome. I cannot look on at these boys’ games any longer.” But Handsome stopped him, saying, “Don’t do it. Stone Man will kill you. Maybe you did not see: when you beat him at fanorona, he almost murdered you.” Old Man said, “What is it to you if I am killed by my own son? Let me go and do it, to ‘let go of my soul’.”

128Old Man strode over there and said, “Let me play with you, boys. I’ve watched your game, I am ready to prepare for death. This takes me back to what we used to do back then.” And Stone Man said, “Let him do it, this disgusting fellow, so I can kill him.” Old Man did not go to Stone Man’s team; he went to the other team. And it was him that Stone Man aimed at with his cross-stick. Stone Man said,

“This cross-stick, this is me, Stone Man.
It touches only the top of the forehead,
it does not go out except through the heart.
What it hits it kills,
what it does not hit it makes dizzy.”

129He threw his cross-stick at Old Man; it started a fire as it went by. But Old Man easily caught the cross-stick which Stone Man threw and held on to it. Then it was Old Man’s turn to throw, and he said,

“This cross-stick, this is me, Old Man.
If Stone Man does not catch it, he will be dizzy.
If he does catch it, he will be carried into the air and his body will be bruised.”

130Then Old Man threw the cross-stick. Stone Man just caught it, but it knocked him down and his knees, elbows and sides got bruised. Then Stone Man tried again, but Old Man made an easy catch. Everyone was surprised. Then the cross-stick players divided up. Stone Man was angry again, because people were talking about Old Man winning, saying, “Stone Man could not beat Old Man.” Stone Man said to his father, “Enough, father. I will kill that Old Man, because that is not Old Man, it is someone else. If it were Old Man, could he beat me? What is he but an old man?” But Handsome did not agree to that.

131The next day, Stone Man again called the boys of Many-Palms, and ordered them to drive in the strongest oxen, to soften the fields. “Today we will do our planting,” he said. When the strong oxen were in, they did the softening. Old Man followed Handsome to watch the tramplers. Then the boys took the oxen by the horns; some of them Stone Man slapped, and those ones got flayed. So the oxen charged, galloping into the ricefields. Old Man said to Handsome, “Prince, I’ll go along and soften the fields.” Handsome tried to stop him, but he was not willing and went down anyway to trample. “I cannot stand it any longer, Prince, watching Prince’s boys grabbing the oxen,” said Old Man. And when Stone Man saw that Old Man had gone down there, he said, “This time I’m going to kill that wildcat.” When Old Man was right in the middle of the ricefield, Stone Man turned his oxen around to face him. He slapped them, and they galloped up on Old Man to tread him down. But Old Man seized the cows and used them to club the oxen, and the oxen died. And he clubbed the bulls with the oxen, and the bulls died. And he clubbed the young oxen with the bulls, and the young oxen died too. Then Stone Man became angry, as before, because many of his cattle were dead. Again he wanted to kill Old Man, but Handsome did not allow him to. And the tramplers went back to the village.

132Now Old Man transformed himself into a papango [yellow-billed kite], to go after Stone Man’s talismans — the ones named Unseen Body, Continuous Murmur, and Great Burning Fire. But he did not find them. Then he transformed into a cat; still he could not find them. And he transformed into several other things; still he did not find those talismans belonging to Stone Man. At last, to find Stone Man’s talismans he transformed into wind. Then he did find Stone Man’s talismans. He polluted them and destroyed them so as to put an end to their power.

133Now, they say, trouble came upon Stone Man. He called the people of Many-Palms saying,

“Those who own lean animals trade them
those who own fat animals destroy them for no one knows how this land of Many Palms will end.
The land will be conquered by a man whose talismans are powerful but who himself is a man of power.”

Victory: “Dead, I Do Not Leave You on Earth; Living, I Give You to No Man”

134When night came, Old Man went to his sleeping house, but Stone Man did not go to sleep there, because that was his day for a different wife. When the people in that house were fast asleep, Ibonia lit the fire. Then he took off the skin of Old Man, which he had been wearing. Girl of Grace started up, looked at the people in the house, and saw Ibonia. She said, “Ohh! Who are you? Why are you murdering yourself? — for you will surely die here, you will not live. Stone Man is a disaster man, a calamity man, a thorn it’s better not to touch.” Ibonia answered,

“I am Ibonia!
The law of marriage lasts till death.
I pledged myself to you when I was just conceived
I married you as a baby.
If you die
I will not put you in the ground if you live
I give you to no man.”

135Girl of Grace said, “Yes, Ibonia, so be it. May the morning not be the end of both our lives!” Then Ibonia played the valiha [stringed instrument]. The village people heard him, and in the morning they said, “That’s someone else, someone else; that’s not Old Man.”

136Then Stone Man, angry, tried to open the house but he could not. He set fire to the house but it would not burn. He tried to cut the cornerstones, but his ax bounced off and only got chipped. He dug the ground, but his spade was no use and it broke.

Then from outside the house he called:
“How will you steal my wife here in Many-Palms if you stay in the house and do not come out to fight?”
Ibonia, inside the house, answered, “That Stone Man,
he is big but he is cream
he is fat but he is milk.
He will not resist Ibonia’s blows.
I the stranger rule the road
Stone Man the owner retreats.
I, Ibonia, the stranger am the one to sleep in this bed
Stone Man, the owner, is the one to sleep on the ground.”
Stone Man answered:
“Ibonia has hands like a woman’s but I gird myself like Big With Many Amulets
I spend my time in secret.
I am stronger than those from long ago but Ibonia is a runt
he cannot resist my blows.”
Ibonia answered,
“As I climb a hill
I get stronger and stronger as I come down the other side
I do not limp.
Where I walk turns into mud
what I hit does not get away.
I am no banana-tree with a cluster on its top
I am no sugarcane with big young leaves
I am not rainwater that lasts all night
I am no mist covering the earth
I am no swallowing crocodile lying at the ford
I am no crocodile to bite those in the water.
I am descended from the great a child of those great in future and the great of old.
I stand up and the sky breaks
I stoop and the earth breaks
I lean over and the eastern forest burns
I kick the earth of Many Palms it dissolves in mud
I am strongest of all.”
Stone Man, outside the house, said,
“I am one a thousand pirogues cannot stop.
Those who ford, I chew up their loins,
those who cross I kill by thousands.
Why then does Ibonia stay in the house and not come out to fight?”

137Then Ibonia had Girl of Grace dress in all her finery inside the house, before he would go out. When she finished adorning herself, they came out. Ibonia said,

“When I swallow, there is much blood
when I butcher, there are many guts.
Cattle I drive can go the distance what Stone Man drives, no distance.
The living belong to Ibonia
the dead to Stone Man.”

138To Girl of Grace he said, “You stand at the window, and I will stand at the door.” Girl of Grace said, “If I do not come out with you, I am dead.” But Ibonia said, “As long as I am not dead, you are not dead.”

139Girl of Grace then went to the window, and Ibonia went to the door. They opened both together. Stone Man rushed upon Girl of Grace to stab her, but his spear deflected and stuck in the ground. Ibonia said,

“How will Stone Man be reputed a grown man
when he fights with women?
I am a man like him. Come out onto the ground for the match.” The two men went out to the ground.

140First they shot guns and threw spears; neither died. Next they beat each other on the dry ground. Ibonia got hit by Stone Man; he went in up to his knees. But he got free, and then he hit Stone Man, who sank in up to his thighs. Then Stone Man got free, and he hit Ibonia, who went in up to his armpits. “Aaay,” said Ibonia to his talismans, “Completely Raw, Single Trunk, Leafless Red! Why did you not shame me in Iliolava, not confound me then, if you were going to let me fall here on the battlefield?” Then Ibonia used Stone Man like a sledgehammer; he sank in so deep that he disappeared. Ibonia filled in the hole.

Return of the Royal Couple

141Then Ibonia said to Handsome and the people of Many-Palms, “Who will be your chief, the dead or the living?” Handsome said, “For us it is the living. Certainly the dead are no friends.” That, they say, was the birth of the expression Tsy maty ny namana, ‘There is no society with the dead.’ So Ibonia said, “Be the ruler in your kingdom. I am returning to Iliolava, and I am taking Girl of Grace with me.” And Ibonia started back to Iliolava; that was his country.

142The banana tree Ibonia planted outside the house of Lady Beautiful-Rich was growing well. His mother drew hope from that and was glad: Her son was living, not dead at all.

143When Ibonia and his wife were going to cross the Many-Palms river, Ibonia struck the water with his wand, saying,

“This water!
The top is not to sink
the bottom not to rise.
That water in the middle is to separate, so Ibonia and his wife can cross.”

144Sand appeared, the waters separated. He and his wife went on the sand as if it were dry land. They reached Iliolava safe and sound. His mother and father and the people there were glad and made a great feast.

Ibonia Prescribes Laws and Bids Farewell

145Ibonia and Girl of Grace stayed married about ten years. About three years before his death, he declared his will to his father and mother, his wife and children, and all the people in and around Iliolava. He said,

“This I declare to you: soon I am to return to the ‘place of lying down.’
Close at hand is the day when Ibonia will be removed and Inabo [another of his names] will go the way of all those whose doors face west [the dead].
That is a fate that disheartens one’s manhood. For to the earth we return.
Inabo is not of those who are buried to rot he is of those who are planted to grow dead by day, alive by night.
Inabo’s return is coming.
These then are the orders I leave you.
First of things is marriage.
If you are a prince
if you are a ruler
if you are a governor
if you are a spokesman
do not untie the bonds of marriage!
The marriage tie is binding even unto death.
Do not divide it.”
(This admonition, it is said, gave marriage the importance it has.)
“Second: listen. I shall change my name for one’s name on earth does not go back to heaven.
Before the lord of heaven all things are new.
My grandfather is holy.
These will be my names:
Now listen, all of you.
When there is thunder
when the skies weep
when the rain falls
lament, O Beautiful-Rich,
for that will be your son,
(That, it is said, was the first time it was said, “It is a bad day for old women,” when it thunders.)

146And when the three years had passed — Ibonia had said, “I will die when three years have passed” — then he died.


23 Fanorona is the Malagasy board game, historically symbolizing strategy on the battlefield.

24 Wild cattle are said to be owned by Rasoalao (Ra-shoo-a-la-oh), the mythical wife of the giant Rapeto.

25 Whether Imozy (Mr. Clumsy) is a proverbial name or not, her indirect slam at Ibonia is cast in perfect proverbial rhythm, like many other epithets in the poem.

26 Contrast Ibonia’s victory over the dilemma with the guineafowl who in a Merina tale falls and breaks a wing in the forest, originating the proverbial saying, “Guineafowl in the middle of the forest: go forward, he can’t; go back, wing broken; stay there, longs for his relatives” (Dahle 298).

27 “Although Ibonia is his father’s murderer (one does not know exactly how), his affection

28 A game in which a star made of wood is thrown back and forth (Decary Moeurs et coutumes 170).


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