1. Dan Aiki’s Day Dreams –

When I was just a boy of eight

I worked just like a man,

Farming Kano’s rich black soil

With my father and our clan.


But when the sun became too hot

I’d sit beneath of a tree,

And daydream of how full of fun

A warrior’s life would be.


For surely trips to distant lands

Beat working in the field.

A man armed with a hoe’s no match

For one with sword and shield.


One day as I was sitting there

Beneath a mango tree,

The following daydream did unfold

In all its majesty.


In my dream, I walked alone

In a strange and distant land

When I saw a piece of cloth

Half-buried in the sand.


As I bent down to pick it up,

It shouted angrily:

“A curse on you and all your clan,

If you dare touch me!”



2. Dan Aiki Goes Hunting

When I turned nine, our chief stood up

And yelled for all to hear:

“Dan Aiki chased away a lion.

Let him bring home a deer!


And let him come and take this bow,

The very best I own!

And let no friend accompany him;

For he must go alone!


And let him not come back again

Till he has slain the deer,

So that our pots will fill with meat

And bring us all good cheer!”


I took our chief’s great bow, then I

Set out upon my quest.

Following the setting sun,

I headed towards the west.


The days were hot; the nights were cold.

I didn’t stop to rest;

For all my thoughts were fixed upon

The object of my quest.


I traveled many days, but I

Stopped not to drink or eat.

My only care, to kill a deer

And bring our chief its meat .



3. Dan Aiki’s Magic Charm –

Now in this modern day and age,

If a boy wants to succeed,

He must surely go to school

And learn to write and read.


But in those mystic days of yore,

Before Islamization,

The most important schooling came

Through one’s initiation.


And so it was, when I turned ten,

Our boka said to me:

It’s time you had a meeting

With the spirits of Bori.”


He led me to a distant place

On a cool and moonlit night,

And, though I heard some wild dogs bark,

I showed no signs of fright.


Snakes and lions and hyenas

Made their presence known,

As that old boka and I

Walked in the night alone.

First we passed a lion’s den,

And then a serpent’s nest;

And then a pack of fierce wild dogs.

We didn’t stop to rest.


And then we crossed a field of thorns;

And then a river bed.

And though the sharp stones pierced our feet,

We grimly trudged ahead.


Then Boka stopped and spread his mat

And softly said to me:

“Sit on this mat and face the north

Then tell me what you see!”



4. Dan Aiki Meets Duna the Sorcerer –

He said, “You talk bravely

Armed only with knife;

But if Duna should hear you,

I’d fear for your life.


For he is a tyrant

Who tramples on all.

He’s as strong as a mountain,

And thirteen feet tall.


Like pot-holes and mud-slides

He spoils the roads,

And fattens his belly

With humans and toads.”


I said, “Bring on this villain

And I’ll settle the score.

Then you my dear uncle,

Needn’t fear any more.”


He said: “Surely you jest!

No doubt you are brave;

But Duna will kill you

Or make you his slave.


He’s like washing with fire,

Just once is enough.”

I said, “That doesn’t phase me;

I’m small but I’m tough.”


He said, “His power is great

With his breath he starts fires.”

I said, “I’ll flee from the flames

With a speed that blows tires.”


He said, “Duna is ruthless.

He’ll drown you in blood.”

I said, “I’m a giant culvert.

I don’t fear a flood.”


He said, “But his flood is tremendous.

You’ll sink like a dish.”

I said: “I’ll breathe under water

Like a giant lung fish.”



5. ADA Book IV (Comic Book Version)

6. Dan Aiki Kills a Tunku

The worst misfortune I have had,

I will not lie to you,

Was that awful day I chanced upon

The tracks of a Tunku.


The Tunku is an animal,

The size of a large hare;

But his cunning and his shrewdness

With none you can compare.


His tail is white and bushy;

His pelt is reddish brown.

His nose is long and squishy

And he’s seldom far from town;


For he feeds on geese and chickens

And on smaller birds and mice.

If you leave your meat unguarded,

He’ll steal it in a trice.


The man who wants to catch him

Must be armed with magic charm;

For without special protection,

Tunku can cause great harm.



7. ADA Books 1 – 5 in a single volume

8. Animal Tails, Book I –

Now if by chance you see this tail

Or if you hear it shake,

Run far away for it belongs

To Richard the …..


The rattlesnake is poisonous

And has a painful bite.

So stay far away

From its deadly fangs,

Be it day or night.

9. Hausa Combat Literature: An Exposition, Analysis, and Interpretation of its Form, Content, and Effect (Ph.D. Dissertation)

This study presents a discussion and analysis of Hausa Combat Literature (HCL) which the author defines as “the aggregate of highly stylized linguistic behavior associated with the performance of such Hausa competitions as dambe (local boxing), shanci (wristlet fighting), and farauta (hunting).”

For purposes of presentation, the literature is divided into three categories, take-takye (drummed literature), kirari (stylized boasting), and waka (song / chant), each of which is discussed in detail in separate chapters. A fourth chapter develops a theory of HCL which attempts to account for the form, content, and effect of the literature as a whole. The discussion and analysis is supplemented by a series of appendices containing hitherto unpublished materials from each of the three HCL categories.

The study hypothesizes that Hausa Combat Literature can be viewed as a product of verbal sympathetic magic (VSM), and that its form, content, and effect derives from a VSM stratagem, here called” iconic linkage”, which establishes linguistic (phonetic, syntactic, and semantic) parallelisms between two or more propositions in order to foster credible illusions.

The argument - based on a systematic discussion and analysis of nearly 60 hours of combat literature collected by the author in northern Nigeria and on existing literature – maintains that: take-takye are largely metonymic and that they correspond to the invocation of an individual chosen to undergo a transformation; kirari is characterized by metaphor and corresponds to the actual transformation process; and waka consists largely of a juxtaposition of metonymy and metaphor resulting in “myth”, the celebration of the transformation of an individual (or entity) into a cultural abstraction.

The study concludes with the suggestion that perhaps the hitherto mysterious and unexplained effects of poetry and song upon modern man may be possibly viewed as the subliminal survival of a former belief that reality could be shaped and influenced through the practice of sympathetic magic.

10. The Lore of Madagascar (pgs. 50 – 55) The following morning at breakfast, Gabriel tells us an interesting legend which explains how Tsinjony got its name:

"According to the razana (i.e. the ancestors), the valley of rice-fields we walked through in our trip last night was once a lake formed by a river ("ony" in Malagasy) that flowed through it. One day the "fokonolona" (village council) decided that the land should be drained for a rice project and that the work would begin the following morning.

On hearing about the decision of the fokonolona, a very strong man named Ramady decided to secretly drain the lake by himself that very evening. Before daybreak, working alone, he dislodged a huge boulder and dragged it a great distance. In this manner he changed the course of the river and the valley was drained.

When the fokonolona and workers went to the lake the following morning they were shocked to see that the valley was dry."Tsinjony ("look at the river"- from tsinjo = "look at" and ony = river"), exclaimed one of the elders, the river is over there now; it has changed its course!".

The fokonolona then called another meeting to find out what had happened. Finally someone noticed a bit of mud near one of Ramady's ears and the people soon realized that it was he who had diverted the river. Fearing that one day Ramady might turn his incredible strength against them, they plotted to kill him.

One day, lying in ambush, they attacked him in mass. However, because of Ramady's strength and magical power, he would not die. His mother, upon seeing the agony of her son, revealed to the fokonolona that Ramady could only be killed by sticking a sewing needle through his head. When this was done, Ramady died and the village was once again at peace.

That morning we walk several miles with four village boys to take a photo of the boulder that Ramady was supposed to have dislodged and rolled, but alas! On arriving at the legendary spot, we only see some small rocks. The villagers destroyed the huge boulder that was once there to make roads and buildings, and a legendary remnant is lost forever.

On returning to Tsinjony, I observe a deep trench surrounding the village and wonder why anyone would go through the effort of digging it so deep and so wide. At first glance, parts of it look very much like a quarry; but Gabriel informs us that Tsinjony was famous as the site of a great battle between the Betsileo (often translated into English as "The Many Unconquerables") and the Merina. He says:

"Four Betsileo chiefs fled with their subjects to the walled city of Tsinjony which was surrounded by this deep trench you now see. The Merina, led by King Radama, tried to enter the gate, but it was impossible for the gate was tightly secured and could only be opened from the inside.

The battle raged with stones and spears (the principal weapons of the epoch) being cast in all directions. The Betsileo defenders had an advantage in that they could see (through peep-holes in the wall) what the Merina were doing, but the Merina couldn't see them.

The Merina retreated and began to plan the next phase of the battle. They decided to surround the city and cross the ditch by lowering themselves down on bushes and branches. They would then use the same branches and bushes to climb the wall.

The Betsileo defenders on seeing the Merina descend into the trench tossed a mixture of burning sand and oil on the heads of the attacking troops, many of whom were severely wounded or killed.

The Merina then retreated back to the river which was the source of water for those inside the walled city and like Ramady of the legend we just heard, diverted its waters. After two or three days, the people inside the city ran out of water and the children especially were beginning to die. The Betsileo held a meeting and decided that it was better to surrender than permit the children to die of thirst and Ramanitraomby was chosen to sue for peace.

Carrying an infant on his back, he went to see Radama. The Merina king, on seeing the child, did not deal harshly with the Betsileo ambassador, for the only crime they were guilty of was defending their land. The sole punishment exacted was that the Betsileo should construct a tomb for the dead Merina soldiers. That is why the tomb southeast of Tsinjony is called fasan-Ambaniandro ("the tomb of the Merina")."

Being that the Betsileo were one of the first groups conquered by the Merina, it seems unreasonable that their name should mean "The Many Unconquerables" as is generally accepted. In 1985 Daniel Raherisonjato suggested that their original name was Besilao which he says comes from "Be-tsa-noana" ("The many who don't go hungry"). Out of curiosity, I look up the word "lao" in the Rakibolana Malagasy (see reference in Section 41) and find it to mean "nomadic". Thus "Betsilao" would mean "The many" (be) "who are not" (tsy) "nomadic" (lao). Since the majority of the people south of the Betsileo are nomadic herders, and since the Betsileo are not, this seems to me to be the true significance of their name - that is, "Those who don't move about".

After listening to Gabriel's explanation about the trench, we explore the village and the surrounding area, admiring both the natural beauty of the area as well as the industry of the villagers ( men, women and children) who do back-breaking work in their manioc and rice fields under a blistering sun. I help uproot some of the manioc and in less than a half hour notice the painful blisters that have begun to form on my hands. I surrender to the discomfort and decide to call it a day.

On Friday morning we go to Antambiazona, a village some three miles away, to see a savika (bull riding) festival; we must walk because there is no regular transport heading that way. After two hours on the road we finally arrive. Savika is performed in a deep pit (see photo) and the spectators sit around the edges looking down. I am told not to sit too close to the edge because of possible danger; I insist that I must be close to the edge to be able to take good pictures. The next thing I know, one of the three bulls in the pit leaps out and sails over the head of the astonished spectators seated across from me. I then decide to move back from the edge with no need for additional coaxing.

In bull-riding, two or three zebu bulls are permitted to enter the pit through a connecting passageway and then the gate is closed. Groups of from seven to ten men or boys enter the pit and, after sizing up the bulls, one of the men in the group grabs the hump of one of the bulls with both arms. This daring act causes the bull to buck furiously in an effort to free itself. The man tries to hang on for five seconds or so. If he succeeds, he releases his hold and the bull is said to have been defeated. The door of the enclosure is then reopened and the bull is chased out of the pit to the cheers of spectators.

The bull can be grasped with the face of the man facing the head of the bull (in which case a companion holds the tail of the bull), or he can face the tail of the bull (see photo). To excite the bulls, water is sprinkled on them from above. If the bull is too fierce looking, he enters the pit and is allowed to leave without being challenged. Such a fierce and beautiful bull is often referred to as Maintso Kely ("Precious and Beautiful One"). When the crowd is sufficiently animated, savika related songs are sung. One such song is a rija ("a popular Betsileo rhythm") entitled Maintso Kely. One set of lyrics to this song is as follows:

E Maintso Kely re (O Precious One)!

E Maintso Kely re (O Precious One)!

Tonga havana tokoa

(Your relatives are here in great number)

Maintso Kely re (O Precious One).

The song in which some of the lines have double meanings (as indicated within braces) goes on to say:

How much is a kilo of sugar?

What I say makes you cry.

How much is a kilo of green beans?

One can't abandon your love.

A small bird knows how to sing;

His loved one never lacks pins for her hair

{or His squeezing of her never stops}.

The small bird knows how to sing;

The hairpins prevent the movement of her hair

{or His wedging movement into her never stops}.

The guava is planted in the shade of the Seva plant;

I'm tired of friendship and want marriage.

Dr. Love is there in Ambositra;

Hold your love well, lest she escape.

Carry your love on the bridge to wash clothes;

Maintso Kely knows how to attract beautiful girls.

To the North of Faizay is the village of Fandriana

{or To the North of Faizay is the bed};

Don't miss out on the good times we have had!

Saving penny by penny you get a dollar;

Tonight I will come to see you my love.

After watching the daring of the young men and listening to some of the songs, we are informed that fights sometimes occur at the end of these events at which groups of young men and boys from many villages assemble. After all, the purpose of this contest is to allow males to demonstrate their manliness and the courage in the pit occasionally manifests itself outside of the pit as well.