JOROMI (A YORUBA FOLKTALE)

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A long, long time ago, when the world was young, there lived a boy named Joromi and his sister, Efun.
They were special children. Joromi was a mighty wrestler whose back had never touched the ground. He was famous for this and went from city to city, travelling the world to challenge people to wrestling matches. His prowess was such that he went around the whole world and wrestled with all kinds of men, big and small, fat and thin, and Joromi remained unbeaten.

Efun meanwhile, was a witch. A good one. She excelled at making herbal concoctions to cure everything from the common cold to a broken heart. Apart from her excellent gift of healing, Efun was also a shapeshifter, with the ability to morph into any kind of animal she wanted to. She often used these skills to protect her brother in his travels and wrestling matches.

One day, Joromi took a tally and found out that he had wrestled and defeated every mortal worth battling on earth. He had even successfully wrestled great animals to the ground and won. What else was left, but to take his wrestling to the spirit realm? After all, he couldn’t be the greatest wrestler to ever exist if there remained someone better than him.

With this mindset, Joromi packed his things and prepared for a journey to the spirit realm. Efun, his sister tried all she could to dissuade him from this fool’s errand. The spirit realm housed many terrible things, ancient gods and spirits both malevolent and benevolent.
Going there to challenge what existed to a wrestling match was a sure way to ensure a quick death for oneself.

But Joromi had made up his mind, and would not be dissuaded. Finally, with a heavy heart, Efun gave him directions to a palm tree in the dark forest, whose trunk was connected to the spirit realm. It would serve as a bridge to take him to and fro. As Joromi left the house whistling, Efun decided to follow him, to at least see what would befall her brother. So she morphed into a housefly and sat on his belongings, and together they left, but Joromi was unaware of his sister’s presence.

Joromi made it to the tree sometime after dark and climbed up the palm tree, quick as any monkey even as Efun sat on his luggage and observed, plotting what spells would come in handy to ensure her brother’s victory.

When he got to the spirit realm, Joromi was quite tired so he put his load down, made a pillow of it and slept. Efun watched over him, still in the form of a housefly.
The next morning, when he woke up, he was surrounded by strange creatures. There was a man with one leg, from his middle. There was a chicken, as big as a house, with tusks staring at him. These were but two of the many creatures that had gathered to see this strange sight. A mortal man in the land of the spirits!

Joromi wasted no time in declaring his intention. The spirits conferred among themselves and returned. The one-legged man-creature was their spokesperson. He told Joromi to take his rest and eat. They would bring forth the best wrestlers of the spirit realm. If he was able to defeat them, all well and good. But if he was not, he would die and be eaten. Fearless Joromi agreed with these terms and prepared himself for the greatest wrestling match of his entire life.

Shortly, seven creatures appeared. The first was in the form of a man. He was the weakest of the seven. The next was also in the form of a man, but he had two heads, four arms and four legs.
The third had three heads, with six arms and six legs, and on and on they went till the last and greatest of them all, who had seven heads, with fourteen arms and fourteen legs.

A circle was prepared for them, a very rough patch of land with shards and broken bottles everywhere.

Joromi faced his first opponent and quickly threw him to the floor. The judge checked him, declared him dead and drew him out of the ring. And he faced his next opponent.

Joromi wrestled all day and all night for three days, defeating and killing all his opponents before he was faced with his last and final challenger, the seven headed man-creature.
Quickly, they met in combat. The battle was long and intense, and the combatants fought non-stop for another three days until finally, Joromi’s prodigious strength failed him and he was lifted high into the air.
GBAM! He was slammed to the earth and finally, Joromi died.

The seven headed man-creature then left the circle, plucked some leaves and squeezed them dripping the juice on the lips of his fellow wrestlers. They came back to life. Then he issued instructions and they went about preparing ingredients for a feast, to be had that evening, with Joromi as the main course. As soon as the spirits were distracted with their chores, Efun who had remained a housefly all this while and seen all that had happened, flew over to the discarded leaves. There she took on human form and gathering the leaves, hurried to where her brother’s corpse lay unmoving.
She squeezed and squeezed and managed to get only a few drops on Joromi’s lips. But they were enough.
Joromi sneezed and woke up, and Efun, grabbing her brother’s hand, made good their escape. They almost made it when a sharp eyed spirit being saw them and raised the alarm. Instantly, every spirit ran after them to catch them. Now they could have two for the feast!

Joromi and Efun ran as hard as they could and got out of the land of the spirits to the top of the palm tree. They were hurrying down when a spirit lashed his whip as a last resort to capture the fleeing mortals, as the spirits could not at that time, travel the distance between both worlds. The whip cut straight across Joromi’s back but failed to find a purchase and brother and sister slipped away successfully.

However, since then, man always has a line down his back.

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