Kaya was the most beautiful girl in the village. All the boys courted her, each bringing her small gifts. There were so many invitations from her suitors that she never had a moment’s freedom.
Rich in virtue too, Kaya was the pride of her parents. But she liked only one young man: the son of the village chief and a great warrior.
All the women in the village tried to seduce him, but he refused to marry. Every evening, the beautiful Kaya, dressed in a beautiful pagne, went to sing at the door of the man she liked. Her hair braided with coloured pearls and her bracelets beautiful, she tried by all means to attract his attention.
Unfortunately, nothing happened. In desperation, the young woman decided to stop worrying about her appearance and instead make herself loved for the beauty of her soul. So, she went to the village fetishist and explained her problem.
Saddened by Kaya’s tale, he threw a handful of herbs into a pot, added the ashes of the dead and, uttering the ritual phrases, handed the girl a steaming bowl of the mixture. She took a sip and suddenly her features became swollen and distorted, her hair fell out in clumps, her mouth twisted into a horrible grimace and she began to stammer.
After the magic session, the young woman recovered and returned to her village. When she arrived there, unrecognizable, she was thought to be a poor, ugly beggar. No one dared to chase her away, but no one spoke to her or brought her food. From that moment on, her life became sad and monotonous.
Whatever kind gestures the poor girl made, no one would approach her. Children teased her and threw stones at her; dogs bit her; men laughed at her appearance and none of them dreamed of courting her. Without ceasing to wonder if she had gone too far in making herself ugly, the girl began to waste away. A cloth merchant who had come to the village saw her and was immediately touched by her melancholy and goodness. He took care of her for a few days and eventually fell in love with her.
He then asked her to be his wife, assuring her that he thought she was the most beautiful girl in the village. Overwhelmed with happiness, Kaya realized that she was finally loved for who she was. And she accepted the man’s offer with all her heart. On their wedding day, everyone attended the ceremony with the intention of mocking the bride.
But as soon as the marriage was sanctioned, a purple cloud rose up around her, restoring her to her original beauty. The husband, concerned only with his companion’s soul, took no notice of the metamorphosis. Instead, a great murmur of surprise spread through the room. And all the young men, unable to forgive themselves for having mocked the most beautiful girl in the village, wrung their hands in anger at not being there in the place of the happy groom.
Since then, many men have married less beautiful girls in the hope of waking up to a beautiful creature the day after the wedding. (Folktale from Fon People, Benin) – (123rf)