Of the Pretty Stranger who Killed the King
MBOTU was a very famous king of Old Town, Calabar. He was frequently at war, and
was always successful, as he was a most skilful leader. All the prisoners he
took were made slaves.
He therefore became very rich, but, on the other hand, he had many enemies. The
people of Itu in particular were very angry with him and wanted to kill him, but
they were not strong enough to beat Mbotu in a pitched battle, so they had to
resort to 'craft.
The Itu people had an old woman who was a witch and could turn herself into
whatever she pleased, and when she offered to kill Mbotu, the people were very
glad, and promised her plenty of money and cloth if she succeeded in ridding
them of their worst enemy.
The witch then turned herself into a young and pretty girl, and having armed
herself with a very sharp knife, which she concealed in her bosom, she went to
Old Town, Calabar, to seek the king.
It happened that when she arrived there was a big play being held in the town,
and all the people from the surrounding country had come in to dance and feast.
Oyaikan, the witch, went to the play, and walked about so that every one could
Directly she appeared the people all marvelled at her beauty, and said that she
was as beautiful as the setting sun when all the sky was red. Word was quickly
brought to King Mbotu, who, it was well known, was fond of pretty girls, and he
sent for her at once, all the people agreeing that she was quite worthy of being
the king's wife.
When she appeared before him he fancied her so much, that he told her he would
marry her that very day. Oyaikan was very pleased at this, as she had never
expected to get her opportunity so quickly. She therefore prepared a dainty meal
for the king, into which she placed a strong medicine to make the king sleep,
and then went down to the river to wash.
When she had finished it was getting dark, so she went to the king's compound,
carrying her dish on her head, and was at once shown in to the king, who
embraced her affectionately.
She then offered him the food, which she said, quite truly, she had prepared
with her own hands. The king ate the whole dish, and immediately began to feel
very sleepy, as the medicine was strong and took effect quickly.
They retired to the king's chamber, and the king went to sleep at once. About
midnight, when all the town was quiet, Oyaikan drew her knife from her bosom and
cut the king's head off.
She put the head in a bag and went out very softly, shutting and barring the
door behind her. Then she walked through the town without any one observing her,
and went straight to Itu, where she placed King Mbotu's head before her own
When the people heard that the witch had been successful and that their enemy
was dead, there was great rejoicing, and the king of Itu at once made up his
mind to attack Old Town, Calabar.
He therefore got his fighting men together and took them in canoes by the creeks
to Old Town, taking care that no one carried word to Calabar that he was coming.
The morning following the murder of Mbotu his people were rather surprised that
he did not appear at his usual time, so his head wife knocked at his door. Not
receiving any answer she called the household together, and they broke open the
door. When they entered the room they found the king lying dead on his bed
covered in blood, but his head was missing.
At this a great shout went up, and the whole town mourned. Although they missed
the pretty stranger, they never connected her in their minds with the death of
their king, and were quite unsuspicious of any danger, and were unprepared for
In the middle of the mourning, while they were all dancing, crying, and drinking
palm wine, the king of Itu with all his soldiers attacked Old Town, taking them
quite by surprise, and as their leader was dead, the Calabar people were very
soon defeated, and many killed and taken prisoners.
MORAL.--Never marry a stranger, no matter how pretty she may be.