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Of Myths And Fairytales - Literature - Nairaland

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Of Myths And Fairytales by chenkov(m): 12:32am On Oct 19, 2018
What is a myth?

It is a commonly-held but false belief or common misconception; a fictitious or imaginary person or thing; a popular conception about a real person or event which exaggerates or idealizes reality.

Growing up, many of us would have been used to some fables and movies that centres around some myths people held in awe and fear.
Sometimes we found ourselves believing them because we had no proof to the contrary or couldn't muster the courage to test them out in order to demystify them.

An event played out during my secondary school days.

I walked into the classroom one morning in October 2001. Then I was in SS 1 and it was our 3rd week of a new academic session.

I saw my classmates huddled round a guy from another class and were listening with rapt attention at the story he was sharing with them.
At first I thought, he was narrating a movie he saw as was the custom among guys.
It is either they are narrating a new movie or discussing English premiership matches.

It was first lesson period and the subject teacher was yet to show up in class.

The Boy was actually speaking in Yoruba language.
The part that caught my attention was where he mentioned 30 pastors lost their lives in a battle against mermaid spirit(mammy water).
I became interested in the story.

I quickly moved close to them and was asking the story teller which movie it happened.
This attracted scornful looks and remarks from his listeners who were angry at such rude interruption.

Seeing that no one was willing to bring me up to speed.
I kept quiet and followed the rest of the story.

I later asked one of the listeners who told me the full gist.

Here is what the story was all about:
There was a pond about 50metres away from our class room block surrounded by thick vegetation of tall grasses and trees.

The pond was a large one (because of heavy rainfall it overflowed its banks). The story goes that the mermaid spirit(mythical) expanded the pond to accommodate all her children and was so vicious that She swallows up anyone who dare move close to the pond.
She was said to have killed 30 out of 32 pastors that went to cast her out of the pond.
This myth later spread over the whole school that even new students knew the mammy water pond.
This spread fear among students so much so that they discuss it in hush tones in order not to provoke the mammy water.

I pondered over this story for some weeks. One part of me was still in doubt but because I had no proof to the contrary I just left the matter hanging and moved on.

Then one day during break time, I was strolling towards the male hostel, close to the hostel was a big almond tree. My favourite hide out where I go to read and enjoy the beauty of nature.

I saw a palmwine tapper coming out of a bush path that runs parallel to the pond.
I paused.

I had to clean my face with an handkerchief to be sure my eyes was not playing tricks on me.

Did I just saw a ghost?
Or is he one of the mammy water's children.
How did a palm wine tapper survive the mammy water and pastors perished?

I started walking slowly while I held the man in my gaze.
On getting closer, I greeted him and he responded to my greeting with smiles.
He was straddling his Rayleigh bicycle dutifully while I watched his foot steps. I noticed he left his foot prints ( in my mind I concluded he was human and not a ghost as ghosts don't leave foot prints, so I learnt).

My head started running riot trying to figure out answers to lot of questions bombarding my mind like bullets from a machine gun.
I went home that day more confused than ever.

Some weeks later, I came very late on a Monday morning and getting to the school gate, I saw heaps of cutlasses. It dawned on me.
I will have to clear the school field for over 2 lesson periods in addition to having blistered palms. I wasn't ready for that.

I turned back and tried to figure out an alternative way to sneak into school undetected.

Our school was surrounded by Bushes, so the fence did not cover the whole school compound.

I sighted 3 of my class mates from a distance and gave them a hand signal.
They understood and came to join me where I was without wasting time, they agreed with the option of sneaking in through the bush path.
I got to know about the bush through an SS 2 student when I was in JSS 3.

We began our journey. As we got to the Appian way I knew, it was overgrown with thick bushes so we couldn't take the risk for fear of dangerous reptiles.

So we kept moving until we got to an open and wide bush path. Wide enough to accommodate a vehicle, we were relieved.

Gleefully we entered the path and kept moving, thanking our stars that we have figured a way out at last.

Midway into our journey, one of us Cried out " is that not the mammy water river?"
Then I looked to my right and beheld the great pond.
I froze with fear at first, struggling to regain composure.

They were all blaming me for bringing them to death trap.
I wasn't in the mood for blame game.
I was furiously thinking of a way out.

I pleaded for calm.

We moved back a bit to scan and survey the surrounding bushes for any sign beyond the usual.

We scanned the trees and saw the birds and squirrels enjoying their habitat. There was calm everywhere.
I looked around again for the second time and saw something that looked like a Gallon hanging on a tree. I moved close and took a good look and discovered it was a palm tree.
The mahogany tree was blocking my view, reason I didn't notice it earlier. I heaved a sigh of relief.

My mind flashed back to the palmwine tapper I saw some weeks ago and then I made the connection.
It must be the wine tapper's property.

I told my guys, the coast is now clear.
I showed them the palm tree with the Gallon hanging on it.
Every frayed nerves became calm.
Nothing to be scared of anymore.

We moved on silently and entered the school through the same route I saw the wine tapper came out from.

We walked into the classroom quietly as if nothing happened.

I went to the loud mouthed guy and told him to his face that his story about mammy water river was BULL SHIT and a BIG FAT LIE.

I told him how I found out and he stared at me with disbelief calling me a liar.

I laughed at his ignorance and moved on. After all I had nothing to lose.

Fast forward to February the following year, it was dry season and the grasses had withered, the trees had shed their leaves, the forest was bare and the pond almost drying up.
We saw some men wadding through the pond to harvest all the Catfishes.

Many students gathered to take a look through the barbwire that served as barrier between the school and the pond.
It was then it became clear to all and sundry that it was a private fish pond and not a mammy water pond as generally believed.

I had the last laugh.


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