Paul Belloni Du Chaillu.

Stories of the gorilla country online

. (page 5 of 18)
Online LibraryPaul Belloni Du ChailluStories of the gorilla country → online text (page 5 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

by Fan villages.

I was too tired to rest. Besides, I was getting deep
into the interior of Africa, and was in the neighborhood
of the Fans, the most warlike tribe that inhabited the
country. So I barricaded my hut, got my ammunition
ready, saw that my guns were all right, and then lay
awake for a long time before I could go to sleep.







WE were, at last, near the Fan country. We had
passed the lastMbichos village, and 'were on our way to
the villages of the man-eaters.

I remember well the first Fan village I approached.
It stood on the summit of a high hill in the mountains.
All its inhabitants were very much excited when they
perceived we were coming toward it, through the planta-
tion path ; for the trees around the hill had been cut
down. The men were armed to the teeth as we entered
the village, and I knew not whether hundreds of spears


and poisoned arrows might not be thrown at me, and I
be killed on the spot. What dreadful spears those Can-
nibals had ; they were all barbed. Each man had sev-
eral in his hand ; and, besides, had a shield made of ele-
phant's hide, to protect himself with. Others were arm-
ed with huge knives, and horrible-looking battle-axes, or
with bows and poisoned arrows.

Wild shouts of astonishment, which, for all I knew,
were war-shouts, greeted me as I entered the village. I
must own that I felt not quite at my ease. How wild
and fierce these men looked ! They were most scantily
dressed. When they shouted they showed their teeth,
which were filed to a point, and colored black. Their
open mouths put me uncomfortably in mind of a tomb ;
for how many human creatures each of these men had
eaten !

How ugly the women looked! They were all tat-
tooed, and nearly naked. They fled with their children
into their houses as I passed through the street, in which
I saw, here and there, human bones lying about. Yes,
human bones from bodies that had been devoured by
them ! Such are my recollections of my first entrance
into a village of Cannibals.

The village was strongly fenced or palisaded, and on
the poles were several skulls of human beings and of
gorillas. There was but a single street, about two thirds
of a mile long. On each side of this were low huts,
made of the bark of trees.

I had hardly entered the village when I perceived some
bloody remains, which appeared to me to be human.
Presently we passed "a woman who was running as fast
as she could toward her hut. She bore in her hand a



piece of a human thigh, just as we would go to market
and carry thence a joint or steak.

Tins was a very large village. At last we arrived at
the palaver house. Here I was left alone with Mbene
for a little while. There was great shouting going on at
a little distance, at the back of some houses. One of
them said they had been busy dividing the body of a
dead man, and that there was not enough for all.

They nocked in presently, and soon I was surrounded
by an immense crowd. Not far from me was a fero-
cious-looking fellow. On one arm he supported a very
large shield, made of an elephant's hide, and of the
thickest part of the skin, while in his other hand he held
a prodigious war-knife, which he could have slashed
through a man in a jiffy.

Some in the crowd were armed with cross-bows, from
which are shot either iron-headed arrows, or the little
insignificant-looking, but really most deadly darts, tipped
with poison. These are made of slender, harmless reeds,
a foot long, whose sharpened ends are dipped in a deadly
vegetable poison, which these people know how to make.
These poisoned darts are so light that they would blow
away if simply laid in the groove of the bow. Hence
they use a kind of sticky gum to hold them.

The handle of the bow is ingeniously split, and by a
little peg, that acts as a trigger, the bow-string is disen-
gaged. The bow is very stiff and strong, and sends the
arrow to a great distance. As you see by the represent-
ation of a Fan bowman, they have to sit down and apply
both feet to the middle of the bow, while they pull with
all their strength on the string to bend it back.

These little poisoned arrows are much dreaded by


them, and are very carefully kept by them in little bags,
and which are made of the skin of wild animals.

Some bore on their shoulders the terrible war-axe.
One blow of this axe suffices to split a human skull. I
saw that some of these axes, as well as their spears and
other iron-work, were beautifully ornamented.

The war-knife, which hangs by their side, is a terrible
weapon. It is used in hand-to-hand conflict, and is de-
signed to be thrust through the enemy's body. There
was also another sort of huge knife used by some of
the men in the crowd before me. It was a foot long,
about eight inches wide, and is used to cut through the
shoulders of an adversary. It must do tremendous exe-

A few of the men had also a very singular pointed
axe, which is thrown from a distance. When thrown, it
strikes with the point down, and inflicts a terrible wound.
They handle it with great dexterity. The object aimed
at with this axe is the head. The point penetrates to the
brain, and kills the victim immediately.

The spears were six or seven feet long, and are ingen-
i ously adapted to inflict terrible wounds. They are thro wn
with an accuracy and a force which never ceased to aston-
ish me. The long, slender staff fairly whistles through
the air, and woe to the man who is within twenty or
thirty yards of their reach.

Most of the knives and axes were ingeniously sheathed
in covers made of snake or antelope skins, or of human
skin. These sheaths were slung round the shoulder or
neck by cords, which permit the weapon to hang at the
side, out of the wearer's way.

These Fan warriors had no armor. Their only weapon


of defense is the huge shield of elephant hide of which
I spoke to you. It is three and a half feet long, by two
and a half feet wide.

Besides their weapons, many of the men wore a small
knife, as a table-knife or jack-knife.

From this description of the men by whom I was sur-
rounded, you may judge with what amazement I looked
around me, with my guns in my hands. It was a grand
sight to see such a number of stalwart, martial, fierce-
looking fellows, fully armed and ready for any desperate
fray, gathered together.

Finer-looking savages I never saw ; and I could easily
believe them to be brave ; and the completeness of their
warlike equipments proved that fighting is a favorite
pastime with them. No wonder they are dreaded by all
their neighbors !

Here was I, at this time only a lad, alone in the midst
of them.

Presently came the king, a ferocious-looking fellow.
His body was naked. His skin in front was painted red,
and his chest, stomach, and back were tattooed in a rude
but effective manner. He was covered with charms,
and wore round his neck a necklace made with leopard's
teeth. He was fully armed. Most of the Fans wore
queues ; but the queue of Ndiayai, the king, was the big-
gest of all, and terminated in two tails, in which were
strung brass rings. His beard was plaited in several
plaits, which contained white beads. His teeth were filed
sharp to a point. He looked like a perfect glutton of
human flesh.

I looked around me in a cool, impassive manner.
Ndiayai, the king, fairly shook at the sight of me. He


had refused to come and see me, at first, from a belief
that he would die in three days after setting eyes on me.
But Mbdne' had persuaded him to come.

Ndiayai was accompanied by the queen, the ugliest
woman I ever saw, and very old. She was called Ma-
shumba. She was nearly naked, her only covering being
a strip of cloth about four inches wide, made of the soft
bark of a tree, and dyed red. Her body was tattooed in
the most fanciful manner ; her skin, from long exposure,
had become rough and knotty. She wore two enormous
iron anklets, and had in her ears a pair of copper rings
two inches in diameter. I could easily put my little fin-
gers in the holes through which the earrings passed.

The people looked at me, wondered at my hair, but
never ceased to look at my feet. They thought my boots
were my own feet. " Look at the strange being," said
they to each other ; " his feet are not of the color of his
face, and he has no toes !"

Finally the king said to Mbdne' that, when surrounded
by his people, he was not afraid of any body.

I could well believe him. When fighting they must
look perfect devils.

When night came I entered my house, and looked
about to see how I could barricade myself for the night,
for I did not fancy putting myself entirely at the mercy
of these savage Fans. Their weapons had been sufficient
to show me that they were men who were not afraid to
fight. I told Mbe'ne' to send for Ndiayai. The king
came, and I presented him a large bunch of white beads,
a looking-glass, a file, fire-steels, and some gun-flints. His
countenance beamed with joy. I never saw such 'aston-
ishment as he exhibited when I held the looking-glass be-


fore his face. At first he did not know what to make of
it, and did not want to take the glass, till Mbene told him
that he had one. He put his tongue out, and he saw it
reflected in the looking-glass. Then he shut one eye, and
made faces ; then he showed his hands before the look-
ing-glass one finger two fingers three fingers. He
became speechless, and with all I had given him, he went
away as " happy as a king ;" and " every inch a (savage)
king" he was.

Shortly afterward, Mashumba, the queen, thinking that
probably I had something for her, also came and brought
me a basketful of plantains. They were cooked. At
once the idea rushed into my mind that perhaps the very
same pot that cooked the plantains had cooked a Fan's
head in the morning, and I began to have a horrible
loathing of the flesh-pots of these people. I would not
have cooked in their pots for the world.

A little after dark, all became silent in the village. I
barred my little bit of a door as well as I could with my
chest, and, lying down on that dreadful Fan bed, I placed
my gun by my side, and tried hard, but in vain, to go to
sleep. I wondered how many times human flesh had en-
tered the hut I was in. I thought of all I had seen dur-
ing the day, which I have related to you. The faces of
those terrible warriors, and the implements of war, were
before my eyes, tholigh it was pitch dark.

Was I afraid ? Certainly not. What feeling was it
that excited me ? I can not tell you. It was certainly
not fear ; for if any one the next day had offered to take
me back where I came from, I should have declined the
offer. Probably I was agitated by the novel and horrible
that had greeted my eyes, and which exceeded all


my previous conceptions of Africa. Now and then I
thought that as these men not only killed people, but ate
them also, they might perhaps be curious to try how I

Hour after hour passed, and I could not get to sleep.
I said my bed was a dreadfully bad one. It was a frame
composed of half a dozen large round bamboos. I might
as well have tried to sleep on a pile of cannon-balls.
Finally I succeeded in going to sleep, holding my gun
tightly under my arm.

When I got up in the morning, and went out at the
back of the house, I saw a pile of ribs, leg and arm bones,
and skulls piled together. The Cannibals must have had
a grand fight not long before, and devoured all their
prisoners of war.

In what was I to wash my face ? I resolved at last
not to wash at all.




AFTER a few days the Fans began to get accustomed
to me and I to them, and we were the best friends in the

They are great hunters. One day a woman returning
from the plantations brought news that she had seen ele-
phants, and that one of the plantain-fields had been en-
tirely destroyed by them. This was an event of common
occurrence in the country; for the elephants are not
very particular, and whatever they like they take, not
caring a bit how much hunger they may occasion among
the poor natives.

When the news arrived a wild shout of joy spread
among the villagers. The grim faces of the Fans smiled,
and, in doing so, showed their ugly filed teeth. " We


are going to kill elephants," they all shouted. "We
are going to have plenty of meat to eat," shrieked the

So, in the evening, a war-dance took place ; a war-
dance of Cannibals ! It was the wildest scene I ever
saw. It was pitch-dark, and the torches threw a dim
light around us, and showed the fantastic forms of these
wild men. Eeally it was a wild scene. They were all
armed as if they were going to war. How they gesticu-
lated. What contortions they made ! What a tumult
they raised ! -How their wild shouts echoed from hill to
hill, and died away in the far distance ! They looked
like demons. Their skins were painted of different col-
ors ; and, as the dancing went on, their bodies became
warm, and shone as if they had been dipped in oil.

Suddenly a deafening shout of the whole assemblage
seemed to shake the earth. Their greatest warrior (Leop-
ard) came to dance. Leopard was, it appears, the brav-
est of them all. He had killed more people in war than,
any body else. He had given more human food to his
fellow-townsmen than many other warriors put together.
Hence they all admired and praised him ; and a song
describing his feats of arms was sung by those who sur-
rounded him. How ferocious he looked ! He was arm-
ed to the teeth. He had a spear like one of those I have
already described. A long knife hung by his side, and
the hand that held the shield carried a battle-axe also.
In dancing, he acted at times as if he were defending
himself against an attack ; at other times, as if he were
himself attacking somebody. Once or twice I thought
he really meant to throw his spear at some one. I could
hardly breathe while looking at him. He appeared ac-



tually to be a demon. Finally he stopped from sheer
exhaustion, and others took his place.

The next day the men furbished up their arms. I
myself cleaned my guns, and got ready for the chase,
so that, if I should get a chance, I might send a bullet
through an elephant.

The war-dish was cooked. It is a mixture of herbs,
and is supposed to inspire people with courage. They
nibbed their bodies with it, and then we started. There
were about five hundred men. After leaving the village
we divided into several parties. Each party was well
acquainted with the forest, and knew just where to go.
The march was conducted in perfect silence, so that we
might not alarm the elephants. After proceeding six
hours we arrived not far from the hunting-ground where
the elephants were supposed to be. The Fans built shel-
ters, and these were hardly finished when it began to
rain very hard.

The next day some Fans -went out to explore the woods,
and I joined the party. The fallen trees, the broken-
down limbs, the heavy footprints, and the trampled un-
derbrush, showed plainly that there had been many ele-
phants about. There were no regular walks, and they
had strayed at random in the forest.

When the elephants are pleased with a certain neigh-
borhood, they remain there a few days. When they
have eaten all the food they like, and nothing remains,
they go on to some other place.

The. forest here, as every where else, was full of rough,
strong climbing plants, many of which reach to the top
of the tallest trees. They are of every size ; some big-
ger than a man's thigh, while many are as large as the


ropes of which the rigging of a ship is made. These
creepers the natives twist together, and, after working
very hard, they succeed in constructing a huge fence, or
obstruction. Of course it is not sufficient to hold the
elephant ; but when he gets entangled in its meshes, it
is strong enough to check him in his flight till the hunt-
ers can have time to kill him. When an elephant is
once caught, they surround the huge beast, and put an
end to his struggles by incessant discharges of their
spears and guns.

While the others worked, I explored the forest. See-
ing that the men were careful in avoiding a certain
place, I looked down on the ground, and saw nothing.
Then, looking up, I saw an immense piece of wood sus-
pended by the wild creepers high in the air, and fixed in
it at intervals I saw several large, heavy, sharp-pointed
pieces of iron pointing downward. The rope that holds
up this contrivance is so arranged that the elephant can
not help touching it if he passes underneath. Then the
hanou (such is the name given to the trap) is loosed, and
falls with a tremendous force on his back; the iron
points pierce his body, and the piece of wood, in falling,,
generally breaks his spine.

I also saw, in different places, large, deep ditches, in-
tended as pitfalls for the elephant. When he runs away,
or roams around at night, he often falls into these pits,
and that is the end of him ; for, in f ailing, he generally
breaks his legs. Sometimes, when the natives go and
visit the pit they have made, they find nothing but the
bones of the elephants and his ivory tusks.

The fence that the natives had made must have been
several miles long, and in many places was several rows


deep ; arid now there were elephant pits beside, and the

We were, you must remember, in a mountainous coun-
try ; and I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw
plainly the footprints of this animal where I myself had
to hold to the creepers to be able to ascend.

When every thing was ready, part of the men went
silently and hid themselves upon the limbs or beside the
trunks of trees near the barrier or " tangle." Others of
us took a circuitous route in an opposite direction from
that in which we had come. After we had got miles
away from the " tangle," we formed a chain as long in
extent as the fence, and moved forward, forming a semi-
circle, with the men ten or twenty yards apart from each

Presently, all along the line the hunting horns were
sounded, wild shouts were sent up, and, making all the
noise they could, the Fans advanced in the direction of
the " tangle." The elephants were entrapped. Hearing
the noise, of course they moved away from us, breaking
down every thing before them in their flight. If they
tried to go to the right, they heard the same wild shouts ;
if they tried to go to the left, they heard the same.
There was no other way for them to go but straight
ahead ; and there, though they did not know it, were
the tangle, the pits, and the kanou. They were going
to surer death than if they had tried to break our lines ;
for then most, if not all of them, would have escaped.
We were too far from each other to hinder them.

Onward we pressed, the circle of those giving chase
becoming smaller and smaller, and the crashing of the
underbrush more distinct, as we approached the ele-


phants in their flight. The men's countenances became
excited. They got their spears in readiness ; and soon
we came in sight of the tangles. What an extraordi-
nary sight lay before me ! I could distinguish one ele-
phant, enraged, terrified, tearing at every thing with his
trunk and feet, but all in vain ! The tough creepers of
the barrier in no instance gave way before him. Spear
after spear was thrown at him. The Fans were every
where, especially up on the trees, where they were out of
the reach of the elephant. The huge animal began to
look like a gigantic porcupine, he was stuck so full of
spears. Poor infuriated beast ! I thought he was crazy.
Every spear that wounded him made him more furious !
But his struggles were in vain. He had just dropped
down when I came close to. him, and, to end his suffer-
ings, I shot him through the ear. After a few convul-
sions of limb all became quiet. He was dead.

Some of the elephants had succeeded in going through
the tangle, and were beyond reach.

Four elephants had been slain ; and I was told that a
man had been killed by one of the elephants, which
turned round and charged his assailants. This man did
not move off in time, and was trampled under foot by
the monstrous beast. Fortunately, the elephant got en-
tangled, and, in an instant, he was covered with spears,
and terribly wounded. After much loss of blood he
dropped down lifeless.

I am sure you will agree with me, after the descrip-
tion I have given of a Fan elephant hunt, that the men
of this tribe are gifted with remarkable courage and
presence of mind.

They have certain rules for hunting the elephant.


These tell yon never to approach an elephant except
from beliind ; he can not turn very fast, and you have,
therefore, time to make your escape. He generally
rushes blindly forward. Great care must also be taken
that the strong creepers, which are so fatal to the ele-
phant, do not also catch and entangle the hunters them-
selves. A man lying in wait to spear an elephant should
always choose a stout tree, in order that the infuriated
beast, should he charge at it, may not uproot it.

The next day there was a dance round the elephant,
while the fetich-man cut a piece from one of the hind
legs. This was intended for their idol. The meat was
cooked in presence of the fetich-man, and of those who
had speared the elephant. As soon as all the meat had
been cooked they danced round it, and a piece was sent
into the woods for the spirit to feed upon, if he liked.
The next day the meat was all cut up in small pieces,
then hung up and smoked.

The cooking and smoking lasted three days, and I can
assure you it is the toughest meat I ever tasted. Of
course, like the Fans, I had no other food, and for three
days I ate nothing but elephant meat. I wish I ~could
give you a notion how it tastes, but really I do not know
what to compare it with. Beef, mutton, lamb, pork,
venison, make not the slightest approach to a resem-
blance ; and as for poultry, such a comparison would be
positively aggravating !

The proboscis being one of the favorite morsels, a
large piece of it was given to me. The foot is another
part reputed to be a great dainty, and two feet were
sent me, together with a large piece of the leg for a


But the meat was so tough that I had to boil it for
twelve hours, and then I believe it was as tough as ever ;
it seemed to be full of gristle. So, the next day, I boiled
it again for twelve hours ; all my trouble, however, was
unavailing, for it was still hopelessly tough ! I may say
that the more I ate of elephant meat the more I got to
dislike it. I do not think I shall ever hanker after ele-
phant steak as long as I live. I wonder if you boys
would like it ? I wish I had some, and could induce you
to taste of it. I am inclined to think you would agree
with me, and never desire to renew your acquaintance
with it.

How glad I was when I returned to Ndiayai village ;
and no wonder, for we had rain every day in the woods.
As for the poor man who had been killed by the ele-
phant, his body was sent to another clan to be devoured,
for the Cannibals do not eat their own people.





AFTER we reached Ndiayai, I went back to my little
hut, and found every thing I had left there. I had hid-
den my powder and shot in different places, and had dug
holes in which to hide my beads.

The news had spread among the surrounding Canni-
bal villages that the spirit, as they called me, was still in
the village of Ndiayai, and the people flocked to see me.
Among those who came to see me was a chief of the
name of Oloko. He gave me the long war-knife, of
which you have seen a drawing, and explained to me
how it had several times gone right through a man.

went away for a while, and left me entirely


1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryPaul Belloni Du ChailluStories of the gorilla country → online text (page 5 of 18)