Many, many ages ago, in a time no one could actually pin down for you, the Soroko people of Niger had a problem. Every year, just as they were about to harvest their precious rice, the biggest, toughest hippo they’d ever seen would appear and gobble up all the crops. Compounding matters somewhat significantly was the fact that, upon the Soroko chucking spears at the hippo, one of the following things would occur:
- It would shrug off the spears.
- The spears would fall into firey pots hanging around its neck and melt.
- It would shapeshift into a crocodile, manatee, or some other creature, and get away.
So, yeah: tough hippo.
The best hunters around were no use, either. One of the top Soroko warriors, a hideous man named Fara Maka — seriously, the stories never stop talking about how ugly he was — went after the hippo with seven spears, and all melted in the fire pots. Fara Maka then enlisted the help of a neighboring huntsman with the prodigious name of Kara-Digi-Mao-Fosi-Fasi. This ally brought a hundred and twenty hunting dogs — each chained to one another and as big as a horse — and sent them after the hippo.
Upon seeing his myriad new opponents, the hippo laughed. “Do you people who live on the Niger not say that ‘The rat cannot call the cat to account’?” — and proceeded to slurp up all one hundred and twenty horse-sized dogs, one by one by one.
Oh yeah, the hippo could talk too. And it was a jerk.
Soundly defeated, Fara Maka and
Kara-Digi-Mon Kara-Digi-Mao-Fosi-Fasi returned to Fara Maka’s house, where they were met by our hero — Fara Maka’s daughter, Nana Miriam. As ugly as Fara Maka was, Nana Miriam was beautiful. She’d learned magic from her father, and had long since surpassed him in this regard — although he didn’t yet know it. When she saw the two despondent hunters at a loss for what to do, she decided to confront the hippo herself.
This decision led to no small amount of flipping out from her male cohorts. Her dad admitted she was strong and wise, but, fearing he’d lose her, begged her not to go.
Kara-Zor-El Kara-Digi-Mao-Fosi-Fasi was less kind. “You are but a female,” he said. “Listen to your father… this is too dangerous a thing for a mere girl.”
Nana Miriam was not about to listen to
Kara-Digi-Mao-Tse-Tung Kara-Digi-Mao-Fosi-Fasi. She grabbed a spear in one hand, a juju bag in the other, and went off looking for this “Nile horse” (as they often called hippos).
After some requisite small talk (hippo: “You can’t kill me!” Nana Miriam: “we shall see!”) they started throwing down. The hippo began by creating a giant wall of fire all around itself. Nana Miriam pulled out some magic powder and flung it on the inferno, turning its flames to water. The hippo then let out a magical shout, and a great iron wall formed between the two of them. Nana Miriam grabbed a magic hammer from her bag and broke through the wall.
By now somewhat terrified, the hippo transformed itself into a river and began fleeing towards the larger Niger river, so that it could hide. Nana Miriam flung a lotion at the river-hippo, causing its watery mass to dry up and for it to retake its rotund animal form.
It’s at this point that Fara Maka and
Kara-Digi-Bob-Fosse Kara-Digi-Mao-Fosi-Fasi appeared, to watch Nana Miriam kill the beast. Distracted by their sudden arrival, the hippo charged at Fara Maka. Nana Miriam, seeing that there was a small chance that her father might be the one to defeat the hippo instead of her, leaped in front of the charging creature. Thereupon she grabbed its leg, swung it around over her head, and hurled it off into the distance.
The stories say she tossed the hippo far enough to circle the earth three times.
Nana Miriam was not yet done with killing hippos, though. For her next trick, she told all the villagers to leave their hunting equipment at home and get ready to take in a huge quantity of food. In a dictionary-definition case of overkill, she then flung a magical egg into the Niger river, causing every single hippo in it to die. The scale of this mass murder was staggering — the river was actually clogged in some places from the sheer number of hippo corpses. But hey, the Soroko folk had plenty to eat…!
Soon thereafter, she found there was one hippo that had survived the slaughter — a pregnant female. As Nana Miriam readied another egg to complete her genocidal work, Fara Maka jumped out in front of her, urging her to leave the hippo be. He reasoned that if Nana Miriam killed every single hippo, the Soroko would not have anything left to eat in the future. Seeing that he was right, Nana Miriam let the (very grateful!) hippo live, and, according to tradition, the hippos Adam-and-Eved their way into the (apparently massively inbred) population numbers they can boast today.
- Plenty of callbacks here: the broken-open iron wall is at left; Kara-Digi-Mao-Night-Shyamalan is to screen right, with his pack of hunting dogs; Fara Maka, covered in scars and possible leprosy, is watching the hippo sail off into the wild blue yonder.
- The dogs are based on Azawakhs – African hunting dogs. I’d initially drawn a totally different type of dog, and actually delayed posting this up so I could get the right dog in there. I knew someone would email me about it.
- Nana Miriam is dressed in purple because it’s not a color that occurs a ton in nature, and she had lots of supernatural powers. Her pose is one part princess twirl, one part discus toss.
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Next Time on Rejected Princesses
Some women are princesses by birth. Some marry into it. This one took a less appetizing, frankly tangy path to her tiara: toppling a dynasty to start a new one.