A woman in a small 18th African Century village feels the wrath of her people for eloping with her lover
The Unpaid Dowry is a twenty-four `chapter historical fiction designed for your adult audience. I grew up in the village surrounded by forests and grasslands in Cameroon. The story reflects the day-to-day lives of the villagers in the Kom kingdom today, a society, set up in the 17th Century. The kom people, a Bantu tribe (with the majority now living in Southern Africa) emigrated from Sudan and Ethiopia more than nine centuries ago. The story was inspired by my visits to my grandfather’s compound that died at the age of 108. He had six wives and fifty-five children.
Nangeh, a desperate princess from a war-prone tribe elopes with her 14-year old lover (Ful), to his tribe where he is a prince, defying the marital custom of paying a dowry. When angry messengers return and tell her father Ful’s family has refused to pay her dowry, the king meets with top advisers to discuss measures, without ruling out a military assault. However, the King faces tough opposition from some of his councilors. Left alone, he contemplates suicide in this 98,000-word (338 pages) adventurous novel. The princess herself must fight psychological and emotional battles against the women in Ful’s tribe who consider her a second-class citizen given her ‘marital status’.
Ful stirred on his bamboo bed and peeped through an opening on the thatched mud wall of his hut. It was still dark outside, and no host would be expecting a special guest this early, but he thought he had just heard a cockcrow on his veranda. He rolled over again to his other side and tried to sleep.
“I must not be late”, he thought.
He rolled up, sat at the bottom of the bed, stretched out his arms, yawned lazily.
“Uwali!” he cursed in Kom, pushing his drowsy fourteen-year-old frame toward the bamboo door. He looked through a small round hole carved to help the ﬁnger open the bamboo door, sauntered back toward his bed and slumped into it. The cock crowed again.
“Two cock crows? I must be crazy to still be sitting here.”
He made a ﬁre, grabbed a gourd full of water, dragged himself back to the door, and stepped out to bathe in the gaping rooﬂess cubicle thatched with dry raffia-palm leaves, dried mud and wisteria stalks. When he went back inside the cubicle, the ﬂoor laden with moss, muddy clay soil and slippery stones emitted a caustic rebellious odor. He did not hold his breath to avoid inhaling the stench. This was not the time to be dainty. He undressed and sprinkled water all over his muscular frame, rubbed a roots-made sponge against a soap bar made of ground cocoyam and liquid from a fresh plant, and scrubbed off sweat, dried animal blood and other ﬁlth in different nooks of his tough, black skin. Then, he poured on more water to rinse off the scum, rushed into the hut where he quickly dried his body.
Ful peered in a dark corner behind his bed. An assortment of animal and reptile skin dalas, pants, sandals made of rubber, goatskin handbags and a spear thrust aground, spread all across a bed behind the ﬁreplace. He picked out the python skin dala, a new leopard skin bag, and new shoes made of bamboo that he had never used, and wore them. He fas¬tened a necklace made of ﬁve crocodile teeth around his neck, wrapped a sheepskin bangle around the left wrist and to the right another sculpted from mahogany. From his waist to his knees was a striped skirt made of leopard skin and, on both ankles, he wore bangles made of lion skin and teeth.
He gulped down breakfast - cold, unsliced, bland plantain porridge, grabbed his sword, lit a soot-laden oil lamp, and left the lonely security of his three-month old home.
Was this visit to the King’s palace going to be different?