Kassa Kena Gananina was formerly the most powerful, most feared, and most beloved hero of the Mandinga people. One turn of his weapon could kill twenty antelopes. A single tear of anger in his eyes frightened both enemy arrows that all fell at his feet and begging for compassion. Kassa Kena Gananina was, in fact, “the one to whom nothing could win”. That was what they called him, both among men and between the beasts of the earth and the heavenly spirits.
Now, one night, while celebrating a carnivorous hunting day, a traveler came to the village bent over a staff so worn by the paths that it resembled a dwarf’s cane. This venerable tramp, after being sipped with water and fed a piece of meat, sat under the tree of the word and began to recount the wonders he had found throughout his wandering life in distant countries. It happened, then, to speak of a certain bird, Konoba, who lived in a mountainous forest beyond the common territories of men.
“This monster,” he said, “is so gigantic that it darkens the day when it spreads its wings.” It may, however, become as small as a woman’s fist, but then it becomes so heavy that baobabs bury themselves in the ground with their weight. You can be beautiful if you wish, hideous if you wish. It is invincible. The more powerful he is facing him, the more pleasure and ease Konoba has to beat him, because his favorite food is the very strength of his enemies.
Kassa Kena Gananina, hearing these words, frowned and lowered her head. The companions, seeing him so thoughtful, insistently challenged him to survive a fair fight against such a monster. The compliments quickly warmed the hero’s heart. He got up, went home to get the gun, and without a word went out to that mountain where the prodigious dragon lived.
He walked seven days and seven nights, striding and his head on his shoulders, not resting. At dawn on the eighth day he arrived at the last village before Konoba land. He asked where this enemy of men who wished to fight lived. An old man, trembling with fright at the name of the monster, described his path into the forest.
Kassa Kena Gananina, on this misty path, walked until noon without encountering game or hunter. Reaching a clearing, the sun suddenly disappeared and around it a great gloom. The sky was filled with a murmur similar to that which crosses the earth when its bowels move. The hero raised his forehead. Saw the bird. It was motionless at the height of a tree. The curved yellow-beaked head hung between its wings, as wide as the visible sky. The eyes were like two moons of varying colors. The claws were curved sabers.
“Powerful and handsome man, I salute you,” said the celestial dragon in a high voice. – Your strength seems to me as tasty as a fresh fruit. Ignite in you anger and wrath, that I may be satisfied with them!
Kassa Kena Gananina put her fist to her mock face, jumped onto a rock, turned her iron mass around. In the first turn leaked the left eye of the bird Konoba, in the second blinded the right eye, which cried tears of fire. Then, in a deafening roar of wings, the monster shrank and in an instant reduced itself to a black ball, which in a long hiss descended from the sky and fell so heavily that the earth shook and cracked. Kassa Kena Gananina, her head raised to the great sun, let out a shout of triumph.
He saw a feather, the last release of its evaporated wings, sway in the calm air above his head. He wanted to grab her, but she escaped and landed on the back of her neck. Then the hero bent his back, hesitated, fell to his knees, and let himself go until he buried his chin in the earth, covered by this unbearable burden. She tried to pull this very heavy feather out of her hair where it was stuck. He did not succeed and was grotesquely kneeling, grumbling and thrashing like a fox caught in the trap.
After shouting, asking for help, and finally moaning for a long time without strength, twilight came and with him an elderly woman appeared at the back of the clearing. He had a small, round-legged child on his back, but about to walk. Kassa Kena Gananina called to her, waving her hand over the grass, and in a dying voice asked him to fetch all the men from the village to help him get rid of that feather as heavy as a mound.
“What do you want,” she said, “to need sixty-five warriors from my clan to get this thing off your neck?”
He leaned in, blew, and the feather flew. Then he grabbed the Konoba bird, reduced to a ball in the cracked ground, and held it out to the child, who grabbed him and played with him, laughing, in his lithe hands. They walked away in the peace of the day that was ending.
Kassa Kena Gananina sat for a long time on the floor, completely dumbfounded and disconcerted. Then he returned to his village, where he told the adventure in the shadow of the word tree. When he said how he had been released, there was a bewildered silence in the assembly. Then a sleepy old man yawned loudly and said, rising to go to bed:
“For those who know nothing about the Konoba bird, a feather is a feather,” he mumbled. – Good night sir.
Kassa Kena Gananina kissed the hands of this sage, and from that day indulged in the infinite conquest of the most prized possession of all power: innocence. Henri Gougaud The Treasure Tree Lisbon, Gradiva, 1998 Adaptation